Hamlet's Progression

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Within philosophy, time is traditionally defined as a matter concerning reality. An individual in a given (realistic) hypothetical scenario takes on the quality of existing in a temporal state as time progresses in a linear direction through the present with regard to both the past and the future. This progression constitutes the “reality” of the temporal state; time exists objectively and without regard to the individual, carrying the individual toward a future where the events of the given present are considered the past. Using this definition, a coherent timeline of the individual can be easily established. However, modern philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Edmund Husserl have addressed time within…show more content…
In this way, the play’s progression is carried forward by the progression of time with regard to the common characters because time’s natural progression causes these characters to act. For example, the first lines of the play show a changing of the guard, an exchange between Francisco and Bernardo. During this conversation, Bernardo remarks upon the time by saying “ ‘Tis now struck twelve” (I. i. 6), calling attention to the time and indicating that it is time for a change in the guard. Francisco responds to this progression of the night by exiting in the middle of line 18 after the brief exchange. In context, this conversation at the beginning of the play seems ordinary and pointless, but the attention paid to the timeline of how reality should progress during the natural course of the night prompts both characters to act to effect what should happen. Later in the scene, Marcellus and Bernardo discuss their duties and actions in the night-watch, and Marcellus states that they will “watch the minutes of this night” (I. i. 27) with Horatio in order to assess if the ghost of King Hamlet is real. Marcellus uses this measurement of time to measure reality, and in doing so, the watchmen and Horatio act in accordance with the linear progression of time throughout the night. In these instances, action is always addressed with regard to a linear progression of time, e.g. Francisco leaves his post because it is midnight; Bernardo, Marcellus, and Horatio attempt to determine the existence of the ghost by marking the minutes of their night-watch. As Levy states in his essay on the use of time in Hamlet, this observation of the passage of time “entails the continuous approach of the future toward the present and continuous recession into the past of that which was present,” and by extension, this passage of time brings about action. John McTaggart,
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