AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 6, Number3. August 2022                              Pp.2-16

“[S]ome vicious mole of nature”: Hamlet’s Erratic Behaviour and Brain Neurotransmitter Imbalance

The Language Center
Naif Arab University for Security Sciences
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


The aim of this paper is to investigate, from a neuroscientific perspective, the complex but still unravelled mystery of Hamlet’s inconsistent conduct in Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.   Adopting the ‘medical diagnosis’ method, the paper contends that such manifestations of Hamlet’s eccentric comportment as depression, social isolation, impulsiveness, sleep disorder, aversion to women, and procrastination, are all salient symptoms of low levels of dopamine, a vital brain neurotransmitter responsible for reward and motivation. The paper concludes that ‘dopamine deficiency’ in Hamlet’s brain has a devastating impact on his mood and outlook on life.  It aggravates his depression, adversely affects his disposition, focus, cognition, and motivation and subsequently deprives him of the incentive to act.  The significance of this study is that it identifies the reason for Hamlet’s hesitation, enhances understanding of the play and enriches representations of the leading role in the play on stage.  Shakespeare portrays Hamlet as severely afflicted with such an intricate neural illness (not identified in Elizabethan England then), expertly dramatizing the devastating impact on his protagonist of the acute clash between will and inability.  Hamlet’s hamartia is, consequently, not a fault of his making, not a commonplace Aristotelian tragic error of judgment, or a psychological personality flaw, but – as Hamlet intuitively prophesies – a birth defect, the result of ‘some vicious mole of nature.’

Cite as:

Alyo, M. W.J.  (2022). “[S]ome vicious mole of nature”: Hamlet’s Erratic Behaviour and Brain Neurotransmitter Imbalance. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 6 (3) 2-16.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awejtls/vol6no3.1


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Dr. Mohammad Wajih J. Alyo is currently the Language Center Director at Naif Arab University for Security Sciences and an Academic Quality Practitioner. He has both MA and Ph.D. degrees in English Renaissance Drama from the University of Warwick in the UK. He is also a certified academic skill trainer and formerly a Certified Internal Auditor of the Quality Management System at KSU. His research interests include medieval, Renaissance, Shakespearean, and Restoration drama.
ORCiD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7526-0304