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Hamlet - A Coming of Age Tale

            Throughout our lives, we experience various events that change us forever. Once we face one of these events, our lives and personalities may be altered permanently, and we are left to wonder what would have been different had this event not happened. The play, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, is the perfect example of a "coming of age" archetype. The audience meets the main character, Hamlet, when he is a college student. Hamlet experiences multiple events that forever change his personality over the course of the play. True to the coming of age archetype, Hamlet experiences his father's death, falls in love, and is called to action, which causes Hamlet's transition into adulthood. But Hamlet resists this progression, and by prolonging his transition into adulthood actually speeds his own death. .
             In the very beginning of the play, Hamlet's father mysteriously dies, beginning Hamlet's transformation from a carefree college student into an adult. Shakespeare doesn't describe to the audience exactly what Hamlet was like while in college, but we can piece together a picture of him. Laertes describes Hamlet's attitudes toward Ophelia as "trifling", a "toy in blood" and "primy" (1.3.12-14) suggesting that Hamlet is youthful and unreliable. Ophelia remembers his earlier personality more positively, calling him "the expectancy and rose of the fair state" (3.1.155) who had the "unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth" (3.1.162). Hamlet himself says that his previous interests were "saws of books, all forms, all pressures" (1.5.100). The positive message seems to be that Hamlet is full of potential, but the audience is reminded of his youth and impetuousness. When Hamlet's father dies, he is pulled away from this youthful existence and forced into a more adult role. According to Stahl, "Death of a loved one is one of the most defining triggers of a coming of age story", and for hamlet, it incites his journey toward adult responsibility.

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