His father is killed by his uncle, who is made King - marries his mother who appears un-phased by her husband's death and all those close to him, including the one woman he loves appears to be plotting against him. Forced into a situation where almost no one is to be trusted and haunted by ghosts of his father, what started as prolonged mourning festers into deep depression, manifested in behaviours of madness. The most tragic of great tragic hero's, Shakespeare's Hamlet is a character so damaged by his family's situation that it seals his own doom. In a sense, from the outset, you know he is going to die. It's the process leading up to it which becomes so engrossing.
The most famous soliloquy that Shakespeare wrote is of Hamlet's most internal conflicts verbalized in what I believe to be one of the most beautiful monologues created in history. To be, or not to be? Hamlet ponders the meaning of life, the concept of an afterlife - whether there will be anything to "greet" you on the other side, if so, will it be worse than what one experiences in waking life? He ponders his own personal defects of being too afraid and inept to take his own life....or whether this is a product of his father's memory which haunts him daily. He ponders his great revenge - whether he is capable of killing the man whom murdered his father and whether it will put an end to all his suffering. Or is it worth ending it all completely - both murderer and victim? It's a complex monologue which weaves and wields words into such an intricate way that it requires examination and analysis to understand it, but upon understanding, it becomes one of the most profound speeches one will ever hear.
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
The reality is, Hamlet at the age of thirty experiences a meltdown of epic proportions, which one could almost liken to the maturity level of someone half his age. The issue is not that Hamlet is immature or lacking in emotional intelligence. On the contrary, the issue lies in the notion of what happens to a Prince when he is so enamoured by the image of his father (the King) that the event of his death at the hands of his own brother completely shatters the very foundations of his perceptions and beliefs of his father's infallibility. Hamlet is a son so reliant on a father figure that when it is taken away renders him completely unable to function. It's the notion that someone who is seen to be so Godly is suddenly made mortal by death. Hamlet's struggle lies in his incapacity to accept that his father is unable to supersede death. The presence of his ghost, I believe is not to be taken literally - Hamlet believes he is seeing his father's ghost and whilst this apparition's existence is confirmed by those close to him, it is rather a confirmation that Hamlet is haunted by his father's memory and the memory of his father's overbearing, powerful presence. When you miss someone so very much and to an extreme, you are haunted by their image - their memory every day and that is what Hamlet experiences. Ultimately, his only solution becomes that of revenge by killing his Uncle and it becomes his only release from torment.