Shakespeare Hamlet Essay
Hamlet, By William Shakespeare
Shakespeare writes in a way that is difficult to understand for anyone that speaks the modern language. His story Hamlet is understood through the emotions felt by his characters. Hamlet is the main character who is conflicted with revenge and conspiring friendships. Hamlet returns home from Germany for his father’s funeral only to find far more troubling things. Hamlet is a conflicted character but that doesn’t stop him from knowing what he wants. Revenge is the main cause of his confliction but
In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the character Hamlet must deal with both external and internal conflict. Hamlet encounters many struggles and has trouble finding a way to deal with them. With so many corrupt people in his life, Hamlet feels as if there is no one that he can trust and begins to isolate himself from others. A result from this isolation leads Hamlet to become melancholy. Hamlet struggles with suicidal thoughts, wants to kill King Claudius, and is distraught over his mother’s
Within Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, the churning tides of and hate are very prominent, but, as the character’s personalities collide and develop, revenge is the key that unlocks their unprecedented doom. There are different styles of writing in this piece that represents revenge. From the start of the play (the epilogue) there were signs of different styles of writing. Looking more closely to the text, Hamlet would address the royalty in the poetic form while addressing to people under him
During the course of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, the character of young Hamlet exemplifies an often puzzling and ambivalent persona. During the play, Hamlet is often contradicting of himself. By role-playing, or self-fashioning, Hamlet is able to balance his virtues in order to stay true to himself. This is demonstrated by his decisions to act upon something, as well as his inactions to not act upon something. The obscurity of Hamlet’s mannerisms are displayed within two conflicting personas: one that
unnatural murder. Murder! Murder most foul, as in the best it is; But this most foul, strange and unnatural.” (Hamlet, 1.5 25-28) In Act 1, Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Ghost, which can be either interpreted as Hamlet’s late father or a figment of Hamlet’s imagination, commands the young Hamlet to take revenge for the death of the former King of Denmark. In this iconic scene, young Hamlet takes heed of the Ghost’s words and it sets forward in motion the plot for revenge. Throughout Shakespeare’s
Hamlet : William Shakespeare 's Hamlet
Omar Sancho Professor Christopher Cook English 201-0810 Hamlet Paper 23 May 2016 Hamlet Character Analysis “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”(Act 2, Scene 2, 239-251) Hamlet by William Shakespeare is one of the most famous plays written that conveys a multitude theme. But most predominant is the presence of Hamlet 's obsession with philosophy of life, throughout the play Hamlet philosophy reviles his point of view love, loyalty, the importance of family and friends
Hamlet was composed by William Shakespeare, first performed in July 1602 and first published in printed form in 1603. An inherent tension between confrontation and resolution is revealed through Hamlet’s characterisation within Shakespeare’s play. It is evident that there is a significant level of internal confliction that contributes to the amount of tension. Conflicted emotions, in relation to Hamlet’s morals and beliefs, cause a distinct increase in tension, yet recognition of ones human nature
Hamlet By William Shakespeare 's Hamlet
William Shakespeare 's, Hamlet, written in the seventeenth century and first performed in 1602, is still a complex and intriguing play that encompasses many Jungian archetypes in relation to the setting and characters. This play was approximately four centuries old before Shakespeare reworked it for the stage. Hamlet is based on events involving the death of the King of Denmark according to the Norse legends. This paper deals with a small portion of the entirety of the events in Hamlet. Scholars
first reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet it may seem like Hamlet took much longer that it should have for him to take action against his uncle. To the readers it is as if Hamlet already has all of the information he really needs to defend his actions but he does not. Hamlet passes up on some perfect opportunities to avenge his father, but why? Hamlet’s delay is perfectly justified; if he had gotten his revenge too soon it would not have been a true tragedy. First off, Hamlet knew he needed more proof of
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
To be, or not to be, or maybe just to pretend to be – Hamlet - make up your mind already! Before discussing Hamlet’s hamartia, please let me say that Hamlet is one of my all-time favorite plays. Yes, it is tragic. Yes, they all fall in the end. But, good lord, what action! So, what is this shortcoming the unfortunate Hamlet possesses that brings about his undeserved end? Before discussing the frailty of this tragic hero, let us examine the word, hamartia, used by Aristotle in “The Poetics”. Hamartia
insane? William Shakespeare 's play Hamlet is about a complex protagonist, Hamlet, who plays the role of a tragic hero. He encounters several misfortunes from experiencing his beloved father’s death, witnessing his mother 's incestuous remarriage to his uncle, and seeing his father’s ghost. Due to all of this, Hamlet falls into a deep depression. Hamlet begins his journey by seeking revenge against Claudius after discovering that his noble father was murdered by his own uncle. Hamlet is a character
William Shakespeare, author of Hamlet, was a well-known author in the 1500s and is still popular today. He was born on April 24, 1564 in London, England. Although there were no birth records at that time, it shows he was baptized one year prior to that, which leads us to believe his birthday was in 1564 because children were normally baptized a year after their birth. Shakespeare’s writing style was very different than others at that time. He used many metaphors and rhetorical phrases, and most of
Hamlets Soliloquys Drama literature is told through a story of dialogue about a character who experiences conflict through out the play. These kind of plays are often performed on the stage of a theatre. One of the most famous screenwriters of the 16th through the early 17th century was William Shakespeare, and his work continues to live on in the 21st century. The longest play Shakespeare had ever written was Hamlet, which is about a young prince who grieves over the death of his father and seeks
A character so complex, enticing and fascinating, his name is Hamlet. We are all Hamlet, and that, is the argument. Hamlet is an enigmatic character with many flaws. These flaws are the ones that prove similarities between us and him. A play so popular and significant is due to its huge relevance to us as a society. In the play Hamlet, William Shakespeare uses Hamlet’s character and metaphor to demonstrate that when one is left alone to their thoughts, these thoughts overtake reason. Consequently
see the flaws in their idols. The play Hamlet centers on protagonist Hamlet as he questions whether to take revenge against his uncle for killing his father or leave him alive. Written by William Shakespeare in the early 17th century, Hamlet addresses motifs of indecisiveness, insanity, as well as death and suicide. Furthermore, the majority of these motifs are left up to interpretation. Throughout the play, the family, friends, and acquaintances of Hamlet insist that he has lost his mind drowning
Hamlet, a play written by William Shakespeare, is all about revenge. All is not well in Denmark where a king is murdered and his son is out to avenge him. The only two females in the play, Gertrude and Ophelia, are completely overlooked. The two have little role in the story and are only present when talking to one of the men. Gertrude lost her first husband and quickly remarried to his brother, Claudius. Her son, Hamlet, greatly despises her for it. Ophelia believes that she and Hamlet are in love
Shakespearian play, Hamlet, this is certainly the case. By experiencing a large portion of the drama through Hamlet’s opinions and voice, the audience has little choice than to see other characters as Hamlet sees them. While giving a consistent flow and viewpoint to the whole play, this singular interpretation of characters leads to a bias that is hard for the text itself and other characters to overcome. By investigating the idea that this bias causes a misinterpretation of Hamlet itself, the play’s
The play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, takes place in a time where the impossible was a part of the lives of everyday people. Occurrences that people in the modern time would believe unbelievable. Yet, with just a quill and parchment Shakespeare’s is able to connect the past and present by weaving a plot with skill that is still unparalleled to this day. The play Hamlet this exceeds this expectation by revealing depth of Hamlets, the protagonists, character personality through the use
always been a contemplative topic. In Hamlet, the main character Hamlet thinks to himself about suicide. Hamlet was written by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet between 1599 and 1602. William Shakespeare is one of the greatest playwrights in history. Hamlet is about Prince Hamlet of Denmark who is trying to find out about the death of his father after his father 's ‘ghost’ comes to him telling him it was his uncle who had killed him. While Hamlet contemplates suicide he gives his famous
Hamlet is one of the most enigmatic characters in literary history, and for decades many people have asked many questions about who he is, what his motives were, and what he thought of the situation he was in. Hamlet has many different viewpoints and is much more complex than your average character. So for a character like this to be so complex, there must be a point. But what did Shakespeare intend for us to see once we saw through the shroud of complexity? There could be any number of possibilities
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Shakespeare: Hamlet Essay
The play Hamlet depicts a tragedy written by the author in the period between 1599 and 1601 (Shmoop 1). The story of the play is about the prince Hamlet whose father was the king of Denmark. The king was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle Claudius who also married Hamlet’s mother Gertrude. The play is centered on Hamlet’s anxiety and indecision on how to avenge his father’s death.
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Following his father’s death news emerges of a ghost that roams the castles battlements that looks a lot like the dead king. Hamlet hurries to meet the ghost and receives news that his father was murdered by Claudius who poisoned him while he was sleeping (Shmoop 3). The ghost orders young Hamlet to remember him through seeking revenge for his untimely death. In response to this, Hamlet devises a plan to act like a madman while scheming to avenge his father’s death.
With the intention of ascertaining whether the ghost is telling the truth, Hamlet decides to make a play in which a king is murdered in the exact fashion his father was killed. As he continues with the preparations he often plays the madman throwing wild accusations to all women. He even suggests committing suicide in a speech to further convince his audience of his insanity (Shmoop 3). Upon watching the play his uncle admits guilt for the crime and Hamlet decides to kill him to avenge his father’s death (Shmoop 5).
The scene that is the subject of this report refers to a scene in the play that takes place at the graveyard following the death of Ophelia (Shmoop 23). In this scene the author depicts Hamlet’s observations on life from the perspective of the grave. In light of the events that unfold at the graveyard Hamlet encounters the skull of a childhood accomplice and is forced to stare death in the face as he reminisces on his childhood.
It may even be argued that events that surround the scene play a significant role in the actions that preceded it and those that will follow. In this report an analysis will be presented of this scene and how it was affected by previous actions and how it affects scenes that follow in the play.
As it has been mentioned the scene in the graveyard is the result of the death of Ophelia. In earlier scenes of the play we are introduced to Ophelia who is a sister to a young lord known as Laertes (Shmoop 7). The images in this scene indicate a strong relationship to what preceded due to the fact that the young lady’s death was the result of an accident that resulting from hamlet’s plot in the play. It has been established that the murder of her father that prompted her suicide was an accident as hamlet intended to murder King Claudius.
It appears that Ophelia’s adamant position following her brother’s censure and father’s advice may have prompted her hasty decision to take her own life (Shmoop 7). This point is based on evidence of her father’s address following his intervention on a discussion between Ophelia and her brother.
It is therefore possible to assume that her disappointment overwhelmed her given that both her loved ones had warned her about hamlet. Her eventual suicide that leads to the scene at the grave suggests she possibly held herself responsible for the death of her father and was tormented by guilt.
This supposed guilt appears to emanate from the scene when Hamlet begins his plan to act mad and bursts into Ophelia’s room startling her in his disheveled state (Shmoop 9). In the confusion Hamlet grabs Ophelia by the wrist and appears to express frustration over love for her. In this scene it is suggested that the young lady was taken by feelings of love suggested by hamlet.
It is evident given that both the father and daughter are both convinced by this display and appear to reconsider their judgment (Shmoop 9). The graveyard scene further draws reminders to the bond between Ophelia and her father given her repeated assurances of her fidelity. The eventual suicide draws us to conclude on the bond between the two that the death of her father so seriously affected.
At this point it is wise to note the accident that leads to the scene in the grave is the result of a failed murder attempt as hamlet finds the King deep in prayer. (Miller & Shakespeare 8). Hamlet is then forced to reconsider his plan and makes a hasty decision to hold on a while before completing his mission.
Following the reconsideration the King instructs his wife to meet hamlet. It was during the meeting that accidentally hamlet stabs Polonius and prompts Ophelia’s death (Miller & Shakespeare 8). Based on the events in this scene it is clear to see the significant role they play in the drama as a series of events unfold soon after. Without the events depicted in this accident scene it is unlikely the graveyard scene would have been included in the play.
The graveyard scene also has a major impact on the events that follow in the play as is seen in the delivery of the news of Polonius death by Gertrude. In the events immediately after receiving news of her father’s death and Hamlets departure Ophelia goes insane and commits suicide. The news of Ophelia’s death is presented to Laertes by Gertrude as an accident but it later emerges that it appears to have been a suicide (Shmoop 23).
It may be suggested that these attempts to shroud the news further aggravate the situation. Already angry her brother promises to revenge the murder and a match to facilitate the murder of hamlet is arranged (Miller & Shakespeare 8). This anger and plans for revenge are all made to appear useless in the graveyard scene which depicts how valueless life becomes after death. Hamlet is shown a head of an old acquaintance and realizes how little value life has after death.
The question of life after death becomes evident as Hamlets sees the gravediggers throw up two skulls as they dig and ponders on the lives of these men. He is astounded by the fact that a man’s life and work come to the exact same thing upon conclusion, nothing (Shmoop 23). It would appear that Hamlet in fact questions the purpose behind his quest given the nature of treatment the dead receive. However, the anger that precedes this scene has already set in motion events that hamlet can no longer avoid.
It would appear the author is throwing a question to the viewer and the scene acts as evidence of the futility of life pursuits. This appears to be depicted when hamlet collects a skull handed to him by the grave digger and is informed the skull belonged to a childhood friend of his father. He remembers the good times he had with him as a child and is astounded by the events that surround death (Shmoop 23).
As already mentioned the anger that precedes the scene plays a major role in the events that follow as Hamlet and Horatio happen upon the grief stricken Laertes and a fight almost ensues (Miller & Shakespeare 8). With Laertes seeking revenge hamlet is left in a position where he must fight to save his own life and avenge his father’s death (Miller & Shakespeare 8).
This is a position that occurs only as a result of the events just before the graveyard scene. In this duel that now must follow both Hamlet and Laertes are mortally wounded. In the process, Hamlet’s mother also dies after mistakenly drinking from a poisoned cup meant for Hamlet (Miller & Shakespeare 8). These deaths all appear the result of events that precede the graveyard scene. In addition to that Hamlet manages to murder King Claudius and avenge his father’s death.
The grave yard scene for this reason appears to play a pivotal role in the play. This is based on the fact that the entire beginning of the play has scenes that direct us toward the scene at the grave and the death of Ophelia.
At the same time the entire play after the graveyard scene is the result of the events that must come to be based on the anger and betrayal that are caused prior to Ophelia’s death. However, it is worth noting that despite these events Hamlet manages to name a successor and is buried with dignity. This can also be related to the grave yard scene given that a decent burial was among the things Hamlet sought when he began to plot revenge.
Miller, Joanne K. and William Shakespeare. Hamlet . Printed in the USA, Research & Education Association, 2002. Print.
Shmoop. Hamlet . Printed in the USA, Shmoop University Inc., 2010. Print.
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Free Shakespeare Hamlet Essays and Papers
Hamlet by Shakespeare
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Hamlet is a play written by Shakespeare William. It is one of the most criticized literature works and most reviewed plays in the world today. The protagonist in the play is Hamlet. Shakespeare uses his characters very well to represent specific areas of human nature. In Hamlet, Shakespeare creates vivid and in-depth view of his characters that they clearly represent some area of the human nature. Shakespeare uses Hamlet and Ophelia to represent the theme of madness in the play. Ophelia was really
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
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The expression “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is never taken literally in the modern day, as it only exaggerates the idea of payback or karma, but this saying took a whole new meaning in the famous tragic-revenge play of Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare in 1601.What is so appealing about this masterpiece, to audiences of many decades, is the fact that revenge plays a rather large role throughout the play, motivating not only characters but developing an extensive plot. Revenge is
In the play ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare, Claudius kills his brother (King Hamlet, former king of Denmark) by murdering him in order to take his position. Cladius’s brother is the father of Hamlet (Prince of Denmark). Cladius is the villain of the play; he is extremely evil-minded. Although a lot of the time he does not show it. This comes under a very important theme of Shakespeare’s plays: appearance and reality. In every play of Shakespeare, there is always a character
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
mourning for a lost loved one? In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlets mother, Gertrude, mourned the passing of her husband for less than two months. She then decided to marry King Hamlet's brother, Claudius. Hamlets mother's new marriage is what bothers him the most. Hamlet believes Claudius will never live up to the legacy left by his father as the King of Denmark. The social context that is being revealed to the reader through Hamlets soliloquy describes three character traits he possesses:
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self-loathing? Hamlet by Shakespeare is considered to one the most tragic plays ever written. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, has one of the worst mothers. She knowingly marries her husband’s murderer, Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. In one of the most convoluted plots in literature, Hamlet is on a mission to avenge his father’s murder, punish Gertrude, and rid himself of Ophelia, whom he has driven to madness. In the end, Hamlet’s intense need for revenge is his ultimate downfall. Even though Hamlet seems to be
Hamlet by WIlliam Shakespeare
William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet in numerous ways. Throughout the play, Hamlet’s struggle to follow his moral values and beliefs is evident. Hamlet can be viewed as a strong character with good intentions but had fallen vulnerable for his need to avenge his father’s death, King Hamlet. Seeking vengeance for king Hamlets death is viewed as dishonorable under the eyes of God but shows that Hamlet is as susceptible to sin as any other character in the play. Therefore, Hamlets character is caught between
Hamlet Introduction Hamlet is one of the most popular plays of Shakespeare. It has been filmed in a variety of ways. When filming Shakespeare’s plays there is some autonomy acquired by the producers that are taken for either artistic benefit or to keep it shorter. These liberties are up to the director’s interpretation of Hamlet. The director’s interpretations make each Hamlet production different. In the Mel Gibson production they add a lot to the dialogue especially in the beginning. The film begins
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Hamlet by Williams Shakespeare
allowing him to irresponsibly sign his soul to the devil. At the start of the play Faustus hadn’t taken into account the consequences his actions would bring, because of his narcissistic nature to reach and occupy the same position as God. Ike Shakespeare, Marlowe uses words like “tormented”, “eternal joys”, “deprived” and “everlasting bliss” to create a huge contrast emphasising the intensity of Mephistopheles’s suffering. This is achieved by comparing it to the privilege he once had to be in the
In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, although Hamlet is the prince of Denmark, he has little control over the situation of his mother country. His father is dead and his mother marries his uncle, Claudius, who succeeds his father. When Hamlet is still in grief, the ghost of his father comes to tell him that he was killed by Claudius. Young Hamlet, being called to take vengeance, is confined to the land of Denmark and fails to act. Throughout the play, Hamlet feels increasingly trapped by the confinement
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Hamlet by William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest play ever written. It is considered great because of the character, Hamlet, who is trying to get revenge on his father’s untimely death by his Uncle who stole the crown. Hamlet is a character who is hard to interpret; a mysterious person. He is probably the only character of William’s that has more human qualities than any other characters that we created by him. He feigns madness and moments later gives one of the most insightful critiques on
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individual character has their own way to fight for the power they seek. Hamlet, Claudius, and King Hamlet are the ones who seek it the most in the play. Hamlet wants and feels the need to avenge his father, Claudius fights to keep the thrown away from Hamlet and to keep the truth from spilling out, and King Hamlet seeks out his sons help to take vengeance on his brother Claudius for his death. Although Claudius and King Hamlet do not become mad with power the fight for power make them corrupt and
Hamlet And Shakespeare Comparison
accomplished so far during the Shakespeare report are learning about Shakespeare and his life, reading three fantastic Shakespeare plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet), learning about each protagonist and antagonist from the plays, comparing and contrasting each theme to one another, and discussing the roles of fate and destiny. I am writing this letter to compare and contrast each of the three plays to one another. Throughout all three of the Shakespeare plays, the character I relate
Hamlet In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, two of the character's fathers are brutishly murdered. The first executed character is King Hamlet who is supposed to be reprisal by his son prince Hamlet. The subsequent murder is Polonius who is supposed to be revenged by his son Laertes. Both Prince Hamlet and Laertes go to take revenge for the death of fathers; on the other hand they will each use diverse methods to achieve their deeds. Hamlet and Laertes share a diverse but profound adore
Shakespeare - Hamlet
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“Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged;/ His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy.” In the William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Hamlet struggles internally throughout. After his father, Hamlet, is killed by his uncle, Claudius, Hamlet looks to seek revenge. Claudius is now king, and married to young Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude and now holds power over the kingdom. In his plot to kill Claudius to avenge his father, Hamlet takes on insanity as part of the act. While pretending his insanity, he mistakenly
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Compare and contrast: hamlet and the lion king.
The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it. Hamlet, is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. Set in Denmark, the play dramatises the revenge Prince Hamlet is called to wreak upon his uncle, Claudius, by the ghost of Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet. The Lion King is a Disney feature based on a young lion Simba the heir of his father the king Mufasa. Simba’s wicked uncle, Scar, plots […]
Death and Suicide in Hamlet
Lucius Annaeus Seneca once said, Death is the wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all. In Hamlet, Prince Hamlet struggles to cope with his father’s death and his mother’s rash decision to marry his uncle, King’s Hamlet brother, Claudius, less than a month after his father’s death. After an unexpected visit from his father’s ghost, Hamlet discovers that his uncle murdered his father. This new information sets Hamlet on a path of revenge that is […]
Revenge is the Overarching Theme of the Play Hamlet
Revenge is a strange idea. It has been around since the dawn of time. An Eye for an eye, right? If someone hits you, you hit them back harder. In the play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare, Revenge is the overarching theme of the play. It shows what revenge can do to a person. Hamlet views revenge as a good deed: something that he must complete to avenge his dad. Revenge is binary, meaning it isn’t only the act of revenge, there […]
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When Hamlet is asking questions, he is not asking questions for himself but for man in general. How does Hamlet depict the world through his own problems? What kind of light does it cast on the world/society at large? The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet, a play by William Shakespeare, tells the tale of the youthful Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, who seeks retribution for his dad’s murder by his uncle, Claudius, the newly appointed King of Denmark. In this play, it’s […]
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To say that Hamlet bears no resemblance nor relevance to everyday people’s lives would be an uninformed statement. When further examined, the intuition into our current society that Hamlet provides becomes abundantly clear. For example, the many themes and motifs present in Shakespeare’s Hamlet parallel issues that are relevant in our current society. Themes such as revenge, deception, mental health, etc. Firstly, the theme of revenge appears to be the most notable theme that reflects heavily in both Hamlet and […]
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Reasons why Hamlet is not Insane
Though it may seem that Hamlet looks insane sometimes but in reality Hamlet is not insane. Hamlet is trying to seek the revenge that his father wants him to get. The insanity the people think they see in Hamlet, is what Hamlet sees himself as quandaring on what to do. Seeking revenge is hard for Hamlet to do, in the since he is going to end up killing his mother’s lover, but on the other hand his father’s killer. Hamlet […]
The Female Identities in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Gender discrimination is based on human prejudice or discrimination against the sexes. This kind of discrimination has been going on for many centuries, and Shakespeare’s era is no exception. Sex discrimination may affect anyone, but it mainly affects women and girls, such as Gertrude and Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Sexism is fully embodied in this play. In this play, Women are inferior to men in their statements, and women’s voices are easily ignored. This shows that Shakespeare is anti-female. In […]
Fortinbras Orders a Military Funeral for Hamlet
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is a play written by the English writer William Shakespeare who was known for writing plays that specifically demonstrates the complete range of human emotions and conflict. The tragedy of Hamlet explores the themes of vengeance and human emotion, making it one of the most famous tragedies written in history. The tragedy was written in the early modern period around the years 1600 and 1602. This period in time represented an era of […]
Shakespeare’s Hamlet Character Analysis
Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most extended and probably the most famous English language play ever written. In the script, the character Hamlet is the protagonist. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, is the queen of Denmark. His uncle, Claudius recently killed his father, King Hamlet and married Gertrude. Hamlet’s actions depict him to have a lot of contradictions, reckless but cautious. Shakespeare captures the human characteristics perfectly with the character of Hamlet with an inconsistency of emotions such that no one knows what he […]
William Shakespeare is one of the world’s most renowned writers still to date. He is the writer of 37 plays and 154 sonnets. One his most well-known plays is Hamlet, a tragedy filled with drama, revenge, madness, and death. The main character of the play, Hamlet, is the subject of whether he is actually mad or not. His indeed madness can be traced back to the tragic events that have occurred to him such as the death of his father […]
Essay about Hamlet’s Psychoanalysis
Often in literary works there are what can be gained by applying a psychoanalytic lens to the text. This holds true in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet in which it is exemplified. Particularly, Shakespeare has moulded the very unique Hamletian psychology, fully revealing Hamlet’s individual fallacy and conflict. Psychoanalysis and the five stages of grief work mutually to reinforce, the protagonist, Hamlet’s inaction of revenge throughout the play. The former one focuses on id, ego and superego; the latter one roots in […]
Soliloquy of Hamlet
To be or not to be is one of the famous phrases from the opening of Hamlet’s soliloquy in the nunnery scene in Williams Shakespeare’s popular play, Hamlet. In the context of this tragic play, act III scene I, To be means to live and not to be means to die. It means whether to exist in a world to deal with pain and heartache and ponder in a state of being versus in state of not being or to […]
Shakespeare’s Madness Within Hamlet and King Lear
How do you know if a person has gone mad? How do you know if a person is telling the truth? What about intention? Nowadays, we have psychologists, therapists and all kinds of doctors that help to diagnose mental illness. We are now aware of the different types of “craziness” that a person can be. What about hundreds of years ago? Just like today, some people were truly madmen, but of course, anyone has the ability to pretend to be […]
Women in the Shakespearean Era
Introduction Why is the fate of women taken carelessly by some actors and actresses? During the Shakespearean era, the role of women in most works was played by men and boys. This was because in the mediaeval world stage acting by women was considered disgraceful. William Shakespeare era considered acting to be a masculine profession rather than feminine. Most acting groups’ recruited boys and men often compared to women. This take of women was mostly during the British time which […]
Hamlet is a Political Tragedy
The country is in the political disturbance. The King who everyone loved is dead. The political system is currently headed by Claudius. The country is in the hands of a man who is untrustworthy, unfair and a murderer. Claudius has killed his own brother. How can he be trusted? There’s no balance in the political system. There is no balance in the political system. In Act 1, Scene 2 this is obvious. Even Claudius concedes that the country is disorganized […]
Search for Reality in Hamlet
Through the application of reason, humans can come to understand all facets of the universe and their role within it. This belief held during the Elizabethan era defined humanity’s place in society, the world, and the hierarchy of creatures on earth and in the heavens, for man alone possessed the ability to reason. In the Great Chain of Being, humans bridged the earthly with the celestial by embodying a mixture of mind and body. In his play Hamlet, Shakespeare uses […]
Hamlet Extract Analysis
Jake Bourdages Michael Krause AP Literature November 26th, 2018 Hamlet Extract Analysis Introduction: It is the very beginning of the play at act 1, scene 2, and Claudius, with Gertrude by his side, has just been crowned the new king of Denmark. Claudius’s first action as the king is to give his inaugural speech, in which he tells the kingdom that rather than mourning the old king everyone should be celebrating the new marriage between himself and Gertrude. After his […]
Hamlet Essay Week Seven
By Hamlet wanting revenge can show that Hamlet is seeking to retaliate to Claudius’s actions and doing an action that he believes to be rightful and fitting towards Claudius, he wants to take action himself to show Claudius of his mistakes, because up until Claudius was praying, it seemed like he did not have an remorse for the action that he had done, so Hamlet was just attempting to avenge his father; Thus it can seem like due to his […]
Elements of Comedy in the Play Hamlet
Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s’ most famous plays, for it revolves around external and internal conflicts or struggles within the main character, Hamlet, which makes it unique from a typical revenge story. Although the genre of the play is a tragedy it contains various elements of comedy throughout the darkest moments of the play. At the start of the play guardsmen at the royal palace have seen a ghost which seems to be former King Hamlet, and convinces noblemen Horatio […]
Shakespeare’s Characterization of Hamlet
In the revenge tragedy, Hamlet, Shakespeare characterizes Hamlet as a man with a heightened power of observation, while exploring the unique ways in which his keen eye can interpret the events that occur throughout the play. Hamlet is not an abstract thinker, but he is merely gifted with a greater sense of reality due to his ability to observe and articulate his thoughts and observances. Hamlet’s ability to penetrate to the very core of things through his greater power of […]
King Claudius and Hamlet
Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark, the son of Queen Gertrude and late King Hamlet and nephew of King Claudius. In the story Hamlet many people are stuck between if he is actually insane or if he is faking his insanity. Some people really do believe he is and some people believe he is absolutely not. The story is very dramatic and a lot goes on. Hamlet has had to deal with a lot throughout the play. The main problems […]
About Feminism in Hamlet
Ophelia agrees to take Laertes’s advice. She agrees to take his advice because she knows nothing else than to listen a man. She is dependent on men and continues to do whatever they tell her. She saids “this is a good lesson keep, As a watchman to my heart.” (1.3.51) She sees it as he is looking out for her, which he is but it reality he is demanding her to stay away from Hamlet to keep her purity. Laertes […]
Hamlet’s Insanity the Masterpiece to Great Shakespearean Entertainment
Mental or psychological influence in any literary work can heighten and alter the mood and tone. Some literary works can alter the course of the storyline as is done in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Hamlet’s mental state, along with major character influence, has the ability to allow a wide range of unexpected plot twists and a touch of suspense. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet’s revenge demonstrates the extent of one’s mental capacity can be found amusing and […]
Hamlet’s Psychoanalytic Analysis
Hamlet stands out as the most popular William Shakespeare’s tragedies. The play is categorized as drama, literature, and philosophy and the world admits its artistic stature. Besides the poetic language used in the play, the appeal of the play lies in Hamlet’s character. He is obliged to avenge the death of his father and in the process; Hamlet has to face duty, ethics and morality problems. Hamlet has to deal with issues that have been daunting human beings for centuries. […]
Hamlet Research Paper
In the play, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the author uses various literary devices to convey many themes and sentiments to the reader, via his characters’ actions. The play’s focal character – Hamlet – is one that transforms throughout the play quite drastically, yet it can be argued that it was all part of a greater plan. As Hamlet returns to the castle to hear news that his father is dead, it brings a grand amount of grief and sadness to […]
Shakespeare: Obedience and Powerless in Women
In Hamlet and Othello, Shakespeare criticizes the feminine issues that were present in his time, bringing awareness to the standard roles and ideal expectations of women by characterizing them in a space of being obedient and powerless. As women are portrayed as having ideal feminine values such as chastity and passiveness, the frailty of women is also brought to the surface. On the other hand, Shakespeare also seems to be suggesting that internal destruction is generated in the sense that […]
Oedipus Vs Hamlet
In Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, when Thebes is struck with the aid of a plague, the human beings ask King Oedipus to supply them from its horrors. Creon, the brother of Jocasta, Oedipus’s queen, returns from the oracle of Apollo and discloses that the plague is punishment for the homicide of King Laius, Oedipus’s instant predecessor, to whom Jocasta was once married. Creon further discloses that the residents of Thebes need to find out and punish the murderer before the […]
Destructive Love is an Emotional Process
“Destructive love is an emotional process of tearing down the love and affection between 2 people in a relationship. The idea of knowing the difference between having a disagreement that is trying to clear up something in comparison to a disagreement that is destructive toxicity can come. The theme of destructive love between different relationships in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Shakespeare’s Hamlet Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess results in the characters having […]
Patriarchy and the Shakespearean Woman
William Shakespeare writes during a time when patriarchy was prevalent. Shakespeare includes these personas and attitudes within his plays to illustrate how these ideals played out. He works also to create female characters that hold their male counterparts accountable. In this paper, there will be a review of patriarchal patterns within A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Henry IV, Macbeth, and King Lear but additionally how the female characters counteract the hegemonic masculinity. Because patriarchal patterns were prevalent in the time […]
“In two of William Shakespeare’s plays: Hamlet and King Lear, the two characters who are considered villainous with great political ambitions are Claudius, King of Denmark and Edmund, the bastard son of Earl of Gloucester. These two men are resentful, manipulative, and want to ensure they obtain power; nevertheless, Shakespeare provides the audience with an understanding yet unsympathetic perception of their plot to pursue the title and land. Even though these characters are a part of two different tragedies, Shakespeare […]
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Essay on Hamlet Prince Hamlet’s indecisiveness in the tragic play creates terror and destruction in the city of Denmark. After the king’s death, the city falls into chaos. With his father’s death and his mother’s recent marriage to his uncle, Hamlet is unsure of how to deal with his emotions and begins to feel as if he has no purpose. He encounters his father’s ghost who reveals that Claudius, who is now the king, played a role in his father’s death. It is then that Hamlet is given a purpose. In The Tragedy of Hamlet, William Shakespeare emphasizes Hamlet’s fear of action and how he attempts to overcome this weakness by putting up a facade to avenge his father’s death. One of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes comes from Hamlet’s soliloquy, “To be, or not to be, that is the question”(3.1.63). In this part of the play, Hamlet contemplates his existence, taking in consideration the unknown of the afterlife. He remembers that committing suicide is an action that is forbidden by God and therefore, he does not do it. Hamlet is not a man of action like Ophelia’s brother, Laertes. He thinks about his actions and doesn’t take risks that will hurt him. The soliloquy is only the beginning of Hamlet’s indecisiveness. Throughout the play, Shakespeare highlights the importance of Hamlet’s fear of death. He knows the consequences of what could happen if he ends his life or the life of Claudius without any proof that he killed the king, so he chooses to wait. This event is just another excuse to fuel his doubt. Hamlet is known as a huge over-thinker, and he believes he is a coward as he says, “Conscience does make cowards of us all, thus determination is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought” (3.1.90-92). Conscience is the inner voice that awakens and tells him to think twice about his actions. Hamlet lets his doubts, and fear of death control his thoughts. He is afraid of what lies beyond in the afterlife and this keeps him from killing Claudius. The only way that Hamlet can harm Claudius is if he catches him in a sinful act. He wants to confirm that what the ghost is saying about his father’s murder is true. But instead of confronting Claudius, Hamlet procrastinates and decides to beat around the bush. He instructs the actors in a play to act out a murder scene in front of Claudius to make him feel guilty and confess. His plan fails, and he then believes that the next step in overcoming this trepidation is to pretend to go mad. At first the characters think that he behaves that way because he is deeply in love with Ophelia, however, that is not the case. Hamlet wants them to believe he has lost it so that they won’t suspect his plan to expose Claudius. One day, he catches Claudius praying and finds this as another chance to put off and excuse the murder of his uncle. Due to Hamlet’s thinking but never acting self, the situation in Denmark worsens. Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, along with Laertes, Ophelia and Polonius, get caught up in the mess that Hamlet creates. Hamlet’s inaction has a price far greater than the cost of committing one mistake which could’ve been killing Claudius right away. Because he denies his emotions and lets fear take over, many of the main characters including his mother, face a tragic death in the end. In the final scene, Hamlet realizes that it is good to think before one acts, but thinking or waiting too long will cause one to hurt more people in the process. He pays his procrastination and puts behind his months of analyzing with his own life, all too late.
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Essay On Shakespeare's View Of Hamlet
Family in hamlet essay.
He is Hamlet’s love interest’s brother who implicates Hamlet’s success through conflict. Hamlet sparks the rivalry between the two families by killing some of the family members. By executing Laertes father and Polonius, this causes Polonius’ son, Laertes, to seek vengeance for his father. Consequently, Hamlet’s family goes against him and his love, Ophelia, kills herself. This demonstrates that family ties, even if not blood related, have serious impacts on Hamlet’s life which causes misery to overwhelm his life; this misery prohibits his success. During Ophelia’s funeral, the drama between Hamlet and Laertes magnifies which causes more hate between their families. Laertes provokes Hamlet into fighting him by Ophelia’s grave, with their families there to witness, by saying “[t]he devil take thy soul” (V, i, 243). Following this mishap, Laertes is informed by Claudius of a strategy to end Hamlet’s life in the near future. This immoral conflict being conducted in a place that already is commemorating death displays that they are inclined to cause more people to die. This plot to kill Hamlet is not beneficial to Hamlet’s success and only weakens his personal plot to kill Claudius. Then, Laertes chooses to become a participant in the killing of Hamlet. As aforementioned, this plan for death is a success, but causes many other deaths along with Hamlet to fail.
Hamlet Movie Vs Play Essay
Hamlet is a powerful story of love, life, revenge, and death. The themes within the play are written to live on for eternity. It is difficult to fully and accurately represent a play as great as this one. The movie that we watched in class did not wholly represent the wonders and the magnitude of the themes within Shakespeare’s work.
Analysis Of Man Vs. Self In Shakespeare's Hamlet
A decision is the thought process of choosing between two or more outcomes that may or may not have a great impact. When thoroughly pondered, living life is fundamentally based on making the best decisions. Whether or not they are great or small decision making is critical. Often times, it is the smallest decisions one can make that impact the even bigger decisions later to come. Starting from the time people wake up in the morning, the will be surrounded by the most basic decisions until they go to sleep that night. Decisions such as whether or not they will wake up and go to work or choose to stay in bed all day. They also must make the decision to brush their teeth and decide what they are going to eat for breakfast. Of course not every
Moral Ambiguity In Hamlet
To be or not to be morally ambiguous is to have the lack of coherence in making moral life decisions. In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, the main character Hamlet goes through a great transformation. Hamlet seeks revenge toward Claudius who he believes killed his father for the throne. In many of Shakespeare’s play there is always a hero and a villain, but in Hamlet, Hamlet plays a pivotal role because he can be viewed as both the hero and the villain. Hamlet is seen as a morally ambiguous character due to the decisions he makes throughout the plot of the novel that ends up leading him to his demise. In this paper, the audience will understand how Hamlet’s moral ambiguity is significant to Shakespeare’s play as a whole.
Summary Of Simon Godwin's Hamlet
There is something refreshing and new in the Hamlet play that is directed by Simon Godwin. In this play the text has not been radically altered but it is clear from the beginning of the play that something is different. The one noticeable new thing in the play directed by Simon Godwin is the opening image of Hamlet getting a degree at the University. Additionally, it is the dilemma that awaits him at home weather to confront the familiar murder, a ghost of his father or to revenge. The production by Simon does more in the definition of the Claudius’s regime who was known to be a military tyrant and from the production it is difficult to know if he was a western puppet or a dangerous despot. Additionally, another noticeable and difference as
The Affects Of Hamlet's Perspective On Life
Throughout the play Hamlet, it is discovered that Hamlet goes through many ordeals in such a short period of time and these ordeals altered his perspective on life. In the play, we learn what Hamlet’s perspective is, how his perspective is formed, and how it affects the meaning of the play.
Zeffirelli And Branagh's Hamlet Analysis
Within the classic Shakespeare play of Hamlet, many overarching themes can be found. However, when one looks more closely, they can see that the idea of revenge has huge impacts on the plot. When watching the movie adaptations, one directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1990 and the other by Kenneth Branagh in 1996, some discrepancies can be seen throughout the story. The way the directors depicted certains scenes has changed the way the views see the ideal of revenge. By analyzing the depictions of Hamlet’s personality throughout all three versions of Hamlet, the audience realizes the importances of revenge in the plot.
Values And Beliefs In Shakespeare's Hamlet
Values and beliefs are defining principles of the way in which we view a person, action or relationship. Often, we are encouraged to think again about these values and beliefs, after being exposed to challenging and insightful events, people, or material. William Shakespeare's tragedy, “Hamlet,” written in the Elizabethan era, encourages us to think about our values and beliefs surrounding revenge, love and loyalty. After examination of these concepts, the reader develops new insights into their values and beliefs, and come to fully support the statement that “ the most significant texts encourage us to think again about our values and beliefs.”
Nature Of Cruelty In Hamlet
The personality of such characters as Hamlet from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is much remarked upon. However, it is even more meaningful to analyze changes in Hamlet’s character throughout the play. As Hamlet becomes more driven in his revenge, his actions lose morality and gain consequences. In fact, Shakespeare uses the relationship between a character’s cruelty and the meaning in the pain they cause to comment on the cyclically destructive nature of cruelty.
Foils In Hamlet
Hamlet, a Shakespeare play, is a classic tale featuring revenge, ambition, tragedy, and deceit. The main character, Prince Hamlet, son of King Hamlet who was recently murdered is contemplating whether or not to avenge his father's death and kill Claudius who is now king and also his uncle and the murderer. The whole play evokes a terrible tragic end in which everyone is slain. Foil characters are used to constantly compare the actions of Hamlet and the possible actions of other characters if they were put in his situation. This helps makes Hamlet's character more three-dimensional and makes it more appealing to the audience. With this, the audience can even compare themselves to Hamlet, helping the play to be universal. Foil characters add
Literary Analysis: Hamlet
In a nutshell, a tragedy is a form of drama established on human suffering, generally concerns the downfall of the protagonist and ending on a despondent tone. “Hamlet” is more specifically classified as a “Shakespearean tragedy”; in which key differences consist of the chorus being replaced by comedic scenes, the play having several subplots and the protagonist facing a tragic death. Additionally “Hamlet” can be categorized as a revenge tragedy, as partly the plot is about a quest for vengeance.
Desire For Revenge In Hamlet
The story of a young man by the name of Hamlet has been told since it was first written in the early 1600s. The timeless classic tells the tale of Prince Hamlet, who discovers that his mother had wed his uncle, two months prior to his father’s passing. He visits the throne in Denmark because he is disgusted at the act of incest, where the ghost of his deceased father confronts him, insisting that he was murdered by Claudius, the new king. Hamlet is enraged, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of proving the crime so that he can obtain revenge against Claudius (Crowther). Despite the myriad of themes that circulate throughout the Shakespearean play, many do not realize one hidden yet extensive theme: actions and their consequences. Complexities
Prince Hamlet Character Analysis
Williams Shakespeare is recognized as the greatest English writer. One of his best works ever written is “Hamlet”, which is the most complex, confusing, and frequently performed play. The extreme complexity of the main character – prince Hamlet in this play contributes to its popularity until today. “Hamlet is supposedly the most quoted figure in Western culture after Jesus, maybe the most charismatic too” (Bloom 384). In the most famous revenge tragedy, his biggest weakness that he procrastinates completing his revenge for his father’s death by killing the murderer. However, he is still a virtuous hero who possesses admirable great courage and intelligence. In addition, his melancholy and madness increase the complexity level of his character.
Essay On Hamlet As A Tragic Hero
A tragic hero is a multifaceted, admirable character with a tragic flaw that turns his life from glory into suffering. Hamlet is an example. ‘Born’ personality, shifting mentality, and inevitable fate leads to its tragedy which eventually triggers audience’s pity. Unlike other tragedies where tragic heros discover the truths by their own actions at the end of the story, realizing that the reversal was brought by their own actions. Hamlet begins differently by knowing the truth from things happening to him. The play’s turning point happens on a dark night at Elsinore Castle in Denmark, where the ghost of King Hamlet reveals to prince Hamlet that he has been murdered by his brother, Claudius, for the inheritance of the royal throne. With Hamlet’s
Analysis Of Arnold Kettle's From Hamlet To Lear
Shakespeare’s Hamlet takes the audience on a journey of a prince who is caught between two spheres of a society in which he attempts to discard the expected norms of a prince to converge to his new ideas on the type of man he wants to live as. The Renaissance was a period in the 16th century that challenged ideals that were limited and outdated. Hamlet is a humanist figure who lives according to the humanist ideals and this leads him to questioning the society and his role as a prince in the 16th century. During the play we see how Hamlet is in constant conflict with the morality of exacting revenge and his new learning and education. It is against this backdrop that I will discuss the argument of Arnold Kettle’s “From Hamlet to Lear” in relation the extracts I have analysed. The points I will look at are Hamlet’s encounter with his father’s ghost and how it brings him back to his educational reform, how hamlet is not accepting of anything but questions the customs of society and how hamlet reflects on the nobility of man and contemplates what it means to him as an individual. I will also discuss how the analysis of the extracts agrees with Kettle’s argument.
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Essays on Hamlet
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How Hamlet is Faking Insanity: Appearance Vs Reality in Shakespeare's Play
The representation of madness in shakespeare's text, hamlet, the tragic story of hamlet, reality and appearance: a comparison of hamlet and the revenger"s tragedy, the patriarchal power and female norms in hamlet, misogyny and female representation in hamlet, "act": the theme of "acting" in hamlet, the question of hamlet's madness, analysis of ophelia's story through the context of gender and madness, death and revenge in hamlet, a play by william shakespeare, existentialism as a part of hamlet, revenge and its consequences in hamlet, claudius as the master of manipulation in hamlet, the important theme of madness in hamlet by william shakespeare, trickery and deception in hamlet by william shakespeare, the role of grief in shakespeare’s hamlet, reflection on the act 2 of shakespeare’s hamlet, hamlet by william shakespeare: the impact of parents on their children, the relationship between hamlet and horatio, revenge and justice in william shakespeare’s hamlet, justice and revenge in shakespeare's hamlet, hamlet's intelligence is the factor of his procrastination nature, the dishonesty of the ghost in hamlet, king lear and hamlet: freudian interpretation of the two plays, hamlet's procrastination: a study on his unwillingness to act, shakespeare's use of machiavellian politics in hamlet, roots of hamlet's procrastination and intensity, the theme of revenge in shakesphere's book hamlet, representation of catharsis in hamlet by william shakespeare, feeling stressed about your essay.
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1603, William Shakespeare
Play; Shakespearean tragedy
Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius
The play Hamlet is the most cited work in the English language and is often included in the lists of the world's greatest literature.
"Frailty, thy name is woman!" "Brevity' is the soul of wit" "To be, or not to be, that is the question" "I must be cruel to be kind" "Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me, it is a prison."
1. Wright, G. T. (1981). Hendiadys and Hamlet. PMLA, 96(2), 168-193. (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/pmla/article/abs/hendiadys-and-hamlet/B61A80FAB6569984AB68096FE483D4FB) 2. Leverenz, D. (1978). The woman in Hamlet: An interpersonal view. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 4(2), 291-308. (https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/493608?journalCode=signs) 3. Lesser, Z., & Stallybrass, P. (2008). The first literary Hamlet and the commonplacing of professional plays. Shakespeare Quarterly, 59(4), 371-420. (https://academic.oup.com/sq/article-abstract/59/4/371/5064575) 4. De Grazia, M. (2001). Hamlet before its Time. MLQ: Modern Language Quarterly, 62(4), 355-375. (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/22909) 5. Calderwood, J. L. (1983). To be and not to be. Negation and Metadrama in Hamlet. In To Be and Not to Be. Negation and Metadrama in Hamlet. Columbia University Press. (https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.7312/cald94400/html) 6. Kastan, D. S. (1987). " His semblable is his mirror":" Hamlet" and the Imitation of Revenge. Shakespeare Studies, 19, 111. (https://www.proquest.com/openview/394df477873b27246b71f83d3939c672/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1819311) 7. Neill, M. (1983). Remembrance and Revenge: Hamlet, Macbeth and The Tempest. Jonson and Shakespeare, 35-56. (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-06183-9_3) 8. Gates, S. (2008). Assembling the Ophelia fragments: gender, genre, and revenge in Hamlet. Explorations in Renaissance Culture, 34(2), 229-248. (https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA208534875&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00982474&p=AONE&sw=w&userGroupName=anon%7Eebb234db)
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Jeffrey R. Wilson
Essays on hamlet.
Written as the author taught Hamlet every semester for a decade, these lightning essays ask big conceptual questions about the play with the urgency of a Shakespeare lover, and answer them with the rigor of a Shakespeare scholar. In doing so, Hamlet becomes a lens for life today, generating insights on everything from xenophobia, American fraternities, and religious fundamentalism to structural misogyny, suicide contagion, and toxic love.
Prioritizing close reading over historical context, these explorations are highly textual and highly theoretical, often philosophical, ethical, social, and political. Readers see King Hamlet as a pre-modern villain, King Claudius as a modern villain, and Prince Hamlet as a post-modern villain. Hamlet’s feigned madness becomes a window into failed insanity defenses in legal trials. He knows he’s being watched in “To be or not to be”: the soliloquy is a satire of philosophy. Horatio emerges as Shakespeare’s authorial avatar for meta-theatrical commentary, Fortinbras as the hero of the play. Fate becomes a viable concept for modern life, and honor a source of tragedy. The metaphor of music in the play makes Ophelia Hamlet’s instrument. Shakespeare, like the modern corporation, stands against sexism, yet perpetuates it unknowingly. We hear his thoughts on single parenting, sending children off to college, and the working class, plus his advice on acting and writing, and his claims to be the next Homer or Virgil. In the context of four centuries of Hamlet hate, we hear how the text draws audiences in, how it became so famous, and why it continues to captivate audiences.
At a time when the humanities are said to be in crisis, these essays are concrete examples of the mind-altering power of literature and literary studies, unravelling the ongoing implications of the English language’s most significant artistic object of the past millennium.
Why is Hamlet the most famous English artwork of the past millennium? Is it a sexist text? Why does Hamlet speak in prose? Why must he die? Does Hamlet depict revenge, or justice? How did the death of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, transform into a story about a son dealing with the death of a father? Did Shakespeare know Aristotle’s theory of tragedy? How did our literary icon, Shakespeare, see his literary icons, Homer and Virgil? Why is there so much comedy in Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy? Why is love a force of evil in the play? Did Shakespeare believe there’s a divinity that shapes our ends? How did he define virtue? What did he think about psychology? politics? philosophy? What was Shakespeare’s image of himself as an author? What can he, arguably the greatest writer of all time, teach us about our own writing? What was his theory of literature? Why do people like Hamlet ? How do the Hamlet haters of today compare to those of yesteryears? Is it dangerous for our children to read a play that’s all about suicide?
These are some of the questions asked in this book, a collection of essays on Shakespeare’s Hamlet stemming from my time teaching the play every semester in my Why Shakespeare? course at Harvard University. During this time, I saw a series of bright young minds from wildly diverse backgrounds find their footing in Hamlet, and it taught me a lot about how Shakespeare’s tragedy works, and why it remains with us in the modern world. Beyond ghosts, revenge, and tragedy, Hamlet is a play about being in college, being in love, gender, misogyny, friendship, theater, philosophy, theology, injustice, loss, comedy, depression, death, self-doubt, mental illness, white privilege, overbearing parents, existential angst, international politics, the classics, the afterlife, and the meaning of it all.
These essays grow from the central paradox of the play: it helps us understand the world we live in, yet we don't really understand the text itself very well. For all the attention given to Hamlet , there’s no consensus on the big questions—how it works, why it grips people so fiercely, what it’s about. These essays pose first-order questions about what happens in Hamlet and why, mobilizing answers for reflections on life, making the essays both highly textual and highly theoretical.
Each semester that I taught the play, I would write a new essay about Hamlet . They were meant to be models for students, the sort of essay that undergrads read and write – more rigorous than the puff pieces in the popular press, but riskier than the scholarship in most academic journals. While I later added scholarly outerwear, these pieces all began just like the essays I was assigning to students – as short close readings with a reader and a text and a desire to determine meaning when faced with a puzzling question or problem.
The turn from text to context in recent scholarly books about Hamlet is quizzical since we still don’t have a strong sense of, to quote the title of John Dover Wilson’s 1935 book, What Happens in Hamlet. Is the ghost real? Is Hamlet mad, or just faking? Why does he delay? These are the kinds of questions students love to ask, but they haven’t been – can’t be – answered by reading the play in the context of its sources (recently addressed in Laurie Johnson’s The Tain of Hamlet ), its multiple texts (analyzed by Paul Menzer in The Hamlets  and Zachary Lesser in Hamlet after Q1 ), the Protestant reformation (the focus of Stephen Greenblatt’s Hamlet in Purgatory  and John E. Curran, Jr.’s Hamlet, Protestantism, and the Mourning of Contingency ), Renaissance humanism (see Rhodri Lewis, Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness ), Elizabethan political theory (see Margreta de Grazia, Hamlet without Hamlet ), the play’s reception history (see David Bevington, Murder Most Foul: Hamlet through the Ages ), its appropriation by modern philosophers (covered in Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster’s The Hamlet Doctrine  and Andrew Cutrofello’s All for Nothing: Hamlet’s Negativity ), or its recent global travels (addressed, for example, in Margaret Latvian’s Hamlet’s Arab Journey  and Dominic Dromgoole’s Hamlet Globe to Globe ).
Considering the context and afterlives of Hamlet is a worthy pursuit. I certainly consulted the above books for my essays, yet the confidence that comes from introducing context obscures the sharp panic we feel when confronting Shakespeare’s text itself. Even as the excellent recent book from Sonya Freeman Loftis, Allison Kellar, and Lisa Ulevich announces Hamlet has entered “an age of textual exhaustion,” there’s an odd tendency to avoid the text of Hamlet —to grasp for something more firm—when writing about it. There is a need to return to the text in a more immediate way to understand how Hamlet operates as a literary work, and how it can help us understand the world in which we live.
That latter goal, yes, clings nostalgically to the notion that literature can help us understand life. Questions about life send us to literature in search of answers. Those of us who love literature learn to ask and answer questions about it as we become professional literary scholars. But often our answers to the questions scholars ask of literature do not connect back up with the questions about life that sent us to literature in the first place—which are often philosophical, ethical, social, and political. Those first-order questions are diluted and avoided in the minutia of much scholarship, left unanswered. Thus, my goal was to pose questions about Hamlet with the urgency of a Shakespeare lover and to answer them with the rigor of a Shakespeare scholar.
In doing so, these essays challenge the conventional relationship between literature and theory. They pursue a kind of criticism where literature is not merely the recipient of philosophical ideas in the service of exegesis. Instead, the creative risks of literature provide exemplars to be theorized outward to help us understand on-going issues in life today. Beyond an occasion for the demonstration of existing theory, literature is a source for the creation of new theory.
Chapter One How Hamlet Works
Whether you love or hate Hamlet , you can acknowledge its massive popularity. So how does Hamlet work? How does it create audience enjoyment? Why is it so appealing, and to whom? Of all the available options, why Hamlet ? This chapter entertains three possible explanations for why the play is so popular in the modern world: the literary answer (as the English language’s best artwork about death—one of the very few universal human experiences in a modern world increasingly marked by cultural differences— Hamlet is timeless); the theatrical answer (with its mixture of tragedy and comedy, the role of Hamlet requires the best actor of each age, and the play’s popularity derives from the celebrity of its stars); and the philosophical answer (the play invites, encourages, facilitates, and sustains philosophical introspection and conversation from people who do not usually do such things, who find themselves doing those things with Hamlet , who sometimes feel embarrassed about doing those things, but who ultimately find the experience of having done them rewarding).
Chapter Two “It Started Like a Guilty Thing”: The Beginning of Hamlet and the Beginning of Modern Politics
King Hamlet is a tyrant and King Claudius a traitor but, because Shakespeare asked us to experience the events in Hamlet from the perspective of the young Prince Hamlet, we are much more inclined to detect and detest King Claudius’s political failings than King Hamlet’s. If so, then Shakespeare’s play Hamlet , so often seen as the birth of modern psychology, might also tell us a little bit about the beginnings of modern politics as well.
Chapter Three Horatio as Author: Storytelling and Stoic Tragedy
This chapter addresses Horatio’s emotionlessness in light of his role as a narrator, using this discussion to think about Shakespeare’s motives for writing tragedy in the wake of his son’s death. By rationalizing pain and suffering as tragedy, both Horatio and Shakespeare were able to avoid the self-destruction entailed in Hamlet’s emotional response to life’s hardships and injustices. Thus, the stoic Horatio, rather than the passionate Hamlet who repeatedly interrupts ‘The Mousetrap’, is the best authorial avatar for a Shakespeare who strategically wrote himself and his own voice out of his works. This argument then expands into a theory of ‘authorial catharsis’ and the suggestion that we can conceive of Shakespeare as a ‘poet of reason’ in contrast to a ‘poet of emotion’.
Chapter Four “To thine own self be true”: What Shakespeare Says about Sending Our Children Off to College
What does “To thine own self be true” actually mean? Be yourself? Don’t change who you are? Follow your own convictions? Don’t lie to yourself? This chapter argues that, if we understand meaning as intent, then “To thine own self be true” means, paradoxically, that “the self” does not exist. Or, more accurately, Shakespeare’s Hamlet implies that “the self” exists only as a rhetorical, philosophical, and psychological construct that we use to make sense of our experiences and actions in the world, not as anything real. If this is so, then this passage may offer us a way of thinking about Shakespeare as not just a playwright but also a moral philosopher, one who did his ethics in drama.
Chapter Five In Defense of Polonius
Your wife dies. You raise two children by yourself. You build a great career to provide for your family. You send your son off to college in another country, though you know he’s not ready. Now the prince wants to marry your daughter—that’s not easy to navigate. Then—get this—while you’re trying to save the queen’s life, the prince murders you. Your death destroys your kids. They die tragically. And what do you get for your efforts? Centuries of Shakespeare scholars dumping on you. If we see Polonius not through the eyes of his enemy, Prince Hamlet—the point of view Shakespeare’s play asks audiences to adopt—but in analogy to the common challenges of twenty-first-century parenting, Polonius is a single father struggling with work-life balance who sadly choses his career over his daughter’s well-being.
Chapter Six Sigma Alpha Elsinore: The Culture of Drunkenness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Claudius likes to party—a bit too much. He frequently binge drinks, is arguably an alcoholic, but not an aberration. Hamlet says Denmark is internationally known for heavy drinking. That’s what Shakespeare would have heard in the sixteenth century. By the seventeenth, English writers feared Denmark had taught their nation its drinking habits. Synthesizing criticism on alcoholism as an individual problem in Shakespeare’s texts and times with scholarship on national drinking habits in the early-modern age, this essay asks what the tragedy of alcoholism looks like when located not on the level of the individual, but on the level of a culture, as Shakespeare depicted in Hamlet. One window into these early-modern cultures of drunkenness is sociological studies of American college fraternities, especially the social-learning theories that explain how one person—one culture—teaches another its habits. For Claudius’s alcoholism is both culturally learned and culturally significant. And, as in fraternities, alcoholism in Hamlet is bound up with wealth, privilege, toxic masculinity, and tragedy. Thus, alcohol imagistically reappears in the vial of “cursed hebona,” Ophelia’s liquid death, and the poisoned cup in the final scene—moments that stand out in recent performances and adaptations with alcoholic Claudiuses and Gertrudes.
Chapter Seven Tragic Foundationalism
This chapter puts the modern philosopher Alain Badiou’s theory of foundationalism into dialogue with the early-modern playwright William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet . Doing so allows us to identify a new candidate for Hamlet’s traditionally hard-to-define hamartia – i.e., his “tragic mistake” – but it also allows us to consider the possibility of foundationalism as hamartia. Tragic foundationalism is the notion that fidelity to a single and substantive truth at the expense of an openness to evidence, reason, and change is an acute mistake which can lead to miscalculations of fact and virtue that create conflict and can end up in catastrophic destruction and the downfall of otherwise strong and noble people.
Chapter Eight “As a stranger give it welcome”: Shakespeare’s Advice for First-Year College Students
Encountering a new idea can be like meeting a strange person for the first time. Similarly, we dismiss new ideas before we get to know them. There is an answer to the problem of the human antipathy to strangeness in a somewhat strange place: a single line usually overlooked in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet . If the ghost is “wondrous strange,” Hamlet says, invoking the ancient ethics of hospitality, “Therefore as a stranger give it welcome.” In this word, strange, and the social conventions attached to it, is both the instinctual, animalistic fear and aggression toward what is new and different (the problem) and a cultivated, humane response in hospitality and curiosity (the solution). Intellectual xenia is the answer to intellectual xenophobia.
Chapter Nine Parallels in Hamlet
Hamlet is more parallely than other texts. Fortinbras, Hamlet, and Laertes have their fathers murdered, then seek revenge. Brothers King Hamlet and King Claudius mirror brothers Old Norway and Old Fortinbras. Hamlet and Ophelia both lose their fathers, go mad, but there’s a method in their madness, and become suicidal. King Hamlet and Polonius are both domineering fathers. Hamlet and Polonius are both scholars, actors, verbose, pedantic, detectives using indirection, spying upon others, “by indirections find directions out." King Hamlet and King Claudius are both kings who are killed. Claudius using Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet mirrors Polonius using Reynaldo to spy on Laertes. Reynaldo and Hamlet both pretend to be something other than what they are in order to spy on and detect foes. Young Fortinbras and Prince Hamlet both have their forward momentum “arrest[ed].” Pyrrhus and Hamlet are son seeking revenge but paused a “neutral to his will.” The main plot of Hamlet reappears in the play-within-the-play. The Act I duel between King Hamlet and Old Fortinbras echoes in the Act V duel between Hamlet and Laertes. Claudius and Hamlet are both king killers. Sheesh—why are there so many dang parallels in Hamlet ? Is there some detectable reason why the story of Hamlet would call for the literary device of parallelism?
Chapter Ten Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Why Hamlet Has Two Childhood Friends, Not Just One
Why have two of Hamlet’s childhood friends rather than just one? Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have individuated personalities? First of all, by increasing the number of friends who visit Hamlet, Shakespeare creates an atmosphere of being outnumbered, of multiple enemies encroaching upon Hamlet, of Hamlet feeling that the world is against him. Second, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not interchangeable, as commonly thought. Shakespeare gave each an individuated personality. Guildenstern is friendlier with Hamlet, and their friendship collapses, while Rosencrantz is more distant and devious—a frenemy.
Chapter Eleven Shakespeare on the Classics, Shakespeare as a Classic: A Reading of Aeneas’s Tale to Dido
Of all the stories Shakespeare might have chosen, why have Hamlet ask the players to recite Aeneas’ tale to Dido of Pyrrhus’s slaughter of Priam? In this story, which comes not from Homer’s Iliad but from Virgil’s Aeneid and had already been adapted for the Elizabethan stage in Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragedy of Dido, Pyrrhus – more commonly known as Neoptolemus, the son of the famous Greek warrior Achilles – savagely slays Priam, the king of the Trojans and the father of Paris, who killed Pyrrhus’s father, Achilles, who killed Paris’s brother, Hector, who killed Achilles’s comrade, Patroclus. Clearly, the theme of revenge at work in this story would have appealed to Shakespeare as he was writing what would become the greatest revenge tragedy of all time. Moreover, Aeneas’s tale to Dido supplied Shakespeare with all of the connections he sought to make at this crucial point in his play and his career – connections between himself and Marlowe, between the start of Hamlet and the end, between Prince Hamlet and King Claudius, between epic poetry and tragic drama, and between the classical literature Shakespeare was still reading hundreds of years later and his own potential as a classic who might (and would) be read hundreds of years into the future.
Chapter Twelve How Theater Works, according to Hamlet
According to Hamlet, people who are guilty of a crime will, when seeing that crime represented on stage, “proclaim [their] malefactions”—but that simply isn’t how theater works. Guilty people sit though shows that depict their crimes all the time without being prompted to public confession. Why did Shakespeare—a remarkably observant student of theater—write this demonstrably false theory of drama into his protagonist? And why did Shakespeare then write the plot of the play to affirm that obviously inaccurate vision of theater? For Claudius is indeed stirred to confession by the play-within-the-play. Perhaps Hamlet’s theory of people proclaiming malefactions upon seeing their crimes represented onstage is not as outlandish as it first appears. Perhaps four centuries of obsession with Hamlet is the English-speaking world proclaiming its malefactions upon seeing them represented dramatically.
Chapter Thirteen “To be, or not to be”: Shakespeare Against Philosophy
This chapter hazards a new reading of the most famous passage in Western literature: “To be, or not to be” from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet . With this line, Hamlet poses his personal struggle, a question of life and death, as a metaphysical problem, as a question of existence and nothingness. However, “To be, or not to be” is not what it seems to be. It seems to be a representation of tragic angst, yet a consideration of the context of the speech reveals that “To be, or not to be” is actually a satire of philosophy and Shakespeare’s representation of the theatricality of everyday life. In this chapter, a close reading of the context and meaning of this passage leads into an attempt to formulate a Shakespearean image of philosophy.
Chapter Fourteen Contagious Suicide in and Around Hamlet
As in society today, suicide is contagious in Hamlet , at least in the example of Ophelia, the only death by suicide in the play, because she only becomes suicidal after hearing Hamlet talk about his own suicidal thoughts in “To be, or not to be.” Just as there are media guidelines for reporting on suicide, there are better and worse ways of handling Hamlet . Careful suicide coverage can change public misperceptions and reduce suicide contagion. Is the same true for careful literary criticism and classroom discussion of suicide texts? How can teachers and literary critics reduce suicide contagion and increase help-seeking behavior?
Chapter Fifteen Is Hamlet a Sexist Text? Overt Misogyny vs. Unconscious Bias
Students and fans of Shakespeare’s Hamlet persistently ask a question scholars and critics of the play have not yet definitively answered: is it a sexist text? The author of this text has been described as everything from a male chauvinist pig to a trailblazing proto-feminist, but recent work on the science behind discrimination and prejudice offers a new, better vocabulary in the notion of unconscious bias. More pervasive and slippery than explicit bigotry, unconscious bias involves the subtle, often unintentional words and actions which indicate the presence of biases we may not be aware of, ones we may even fight against. The Shakespeare who wrote Hamlet exhibited an unconscious bias against women, I argue, even as he sought to critique the mistreatment of women in a patriarchal society. The evidence for this unconscious bias is not to be found in the misogynistic statements made by the characters in the play. It exists, instead, in the demonstrable preference Shakespeare showed for men over women when deciding where to deploy his literary talents. Thus, Shakespeare's Hamlet is a powerful literary example – one which speaks to, say, the modern corporation – showing that deliberate efforts for egalitarianism do not insulate one from the effects of structural inequalities that both stem from and create unconscious bias.
Chapter Sixteen Style and Purpose in Acting and Writing
Purpose and style are connected in academic writing. To answer the question of style ( How should we write academic papers? ) we must first answer the question of purpose ( Why do we write academic papers? ). We can answer these questions, I suggest, by turning to an unexpected style guide that’s more than 400 years old: the famous passage on “the purpose of playing” in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet . In both acting and writing, a high style often accompanies an expressive purpose attempting to impress an elite audience yet actually alienating intellectual people, while a low style and mimetic purpose effectively engage an intellectual audience.
Chapter Seventeen 13 Ways of Looking at a Ghost
Why doesn’t Gertrude see the Ghost of King Hamlet in Act III, even though Horatio, Bernardo, Francisco, Marcellus, and Prince Hamlet all saw it in Act I? It’s a bit embarrassing that Shakespeare scholars don’t have a widely agreed-upon consensus that explains this really basic question that puzzles a lot of people who read or see Hamlet .
Chapter Eighteen The Tragedy of Love in Hamlet
The word “love” appears 84 times in Shakespeare’s Hamlet . “Father” only appears 73 times, “play” 60, “think” 55, “mother” 46, “mad” 44, “soul” 40, “God" 39, “death” 38, “life” 34, “nothing” 28, “son” 26, “honor” 21, “spirit” 19, “kill” 18, “revenge” 14, and “action” 12. Love isn’t the first theme that comes to mind when we think of Hamlet , but is surprisingly prominent. But love is tragic in Hamlet . The bloody catastrophe at the end of that play is principally driven not by hatred or a longing for revenge, but by love.
Chapter Nineteen Ophelia’s Songs: Moral Agency, Manipulation, and the Metaphor of Music in Hamlet
This chapter reads Ophelia’s songs in Act IV of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the context of the meaning of music established elsewhere in the play. While the songs are usually seen as a marker of Ophelia’s madness (as a result of the death of her father) or freedom (from the constraints of patriarchy), they come – when read in light of the metaphor of music as manipulation – to symbolize her role as a pawn in Hamlet’s efforts to deceive his family. Thus, music was Shakespeare’s platform for connecting Ophelia’s story to one of the central questions in Hamlet : Do we have control over our own actions (like the musician), or are we controlled by others (like the instrument)?
Chapter Twenty A Quantitative Study of Prose and Verse in Hamlet
Why does Hamlet have so much prose? Did Shakespeare deliberately shift from verse to prose to signal something to his audiences? How would actors have handled the shifts from verse to prose? Would audiences have detected shifts from verse to prose? Is there an overarching principle that governs Shakespeare’s decision to use prose—a coherent principle that says, “If X, then use prose?”
Chapter Twenty-One The Fortunes of Fate in Hamlet : Divine Providence and Social Determinism
In Hamlet , fate is attacked from both sides: “fortune” presents a world of random happenstance, “will” a theory of efficacious human action. On this backdrop, this essay considers—irrespective of what the characters say and believe—what the structure and imagery Shakespeare wrote into Hamlet say about the possibility that some version of fate is at work in the play. I contend the world of Hamlet is governed by neither fate nor fortune, nor even the Christianized version of fate called “providence.” Yet there is a modern, secular, disenchanted form of fate at work in Hamlet—what is sometimes called “social determinism”—which calls into question the freedom of the individual will. As such, Shakespeare’s Hamlet both commented on the transformation of pagan fate into Christian providence that happened in the centuries leading up to the play, and anticipated the further transformation of fate from a theological to a sociological idea, which occurred in the centuries following Hamlet .
Chapter Twenty-Two The Working Class in Hamlet
There’s a lot for working-class folks to hate about Hamlet —not just because it’s old, dusty, difficult to understand, crammed down our throats in school, and filled with frills, tights, and those weird lace neck thingies that are just socially awkward to think about. Peak Renaissance weirdness. Claustrophobicly cloistered inside the castle of Elsinore, quaintly angsty over royal family problems, Hamlet feels like the literary epitome of elitism. “Lawless resolutes” is how the Wittenberg scholar Horatio describes the soldiers who join Fortinbras’s army in exchange “for food.” The Prince Hamlet who has never worked a day in his life denigrates Polonius as a “fishmonger”: quite the insult for a royal advisor to be called a working man. And King Claudius complains of the simplicity of "the distracted multitude.” But, in Hamlet , Shakespeare juxtaposed the nobles’ denigrations of the working class as readily available metaphors for all-things-awful with the rather valuable behavior of working-class characters themselves. When allowed to represent themselves, the working class in Hamlet are characterized as makers of things—of material goods and services like ships, graves, and plays, but also of ethical and political virtues like security, education, justice, and democracy. Meanwhile, Elsinore has a bad case of affluenza, the make-believe disease invented by an American lawyer who argued that his client's social privilege was so great that it created an obliviousness to law. While social elites rot society through the twin corrosives of political corruption and scholarly detachment, the working class keeps the machine running. They build the ships, plays, and graves society needs to function, and monitor the nuts-and-bolts of the ideals—like education and justice—that we aspire to uphold.
Chapter Twenty-Three The Honor Code at Harvard and in Hamlet
Students at Harvard College are asked, when they first join the school and several times during their years there, to affirm their awareness of and commitment to the school’s honor code. But instead of “the foundation of our community” that it is at Harvard, honor is tragic in Hamlet —a source of anxiety, blunder, and catastrophe. As this chapter shows, looking at Hamlet from our place at Harvard can bring us to see what a tangled knot honor can be, and we can start to theorize the difference between heroic and tragic honor.
Chapter Twenty-Four The Meaning of Death in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
By connecting the ways characters live their lives in Hamlet to the ways they die – on-stage or off, poisoned or stabbed, etc. – Shakespeare symbolized hamartia in catastrophe. In advancing this argument, this chapter develops two supporting ideas. First, the dissemination of tragic necessity: Shakespeare distributed the Aristotelian notion of tragic necessity – a causal relationship between a character’s hamartia (fault or error) and the catastrophe at the end of the play – from the protagonist to the other characters, such that, in Hamlet , those who are guilty must die, and those who die are guilty. Second, the spectacularity of death: there exists in Hamlet a positive correlation between the severity of a character’s hamartia (error or flaw) and the “spectacularity” of his or her death – that is, the extent to which it is presented as a visible and visceral spectacle on-stage.
Chapter Twenty-Five Tragic Excess in Hamlet
In Hamlet , Shakespeare paralleled the situations of Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras (the father of each is killed, and each then seeks revenge) to promote the virtue of moderation: Hamlet moves too slowly, Laertes too swiftly – and they both die at the end of the play – but Fortinbras represents a golden mean which marries the slowness of Hamlet with the swiftness of Laertes. As argued in this essay, Shakespeare endorsed the virtue of balance by allowing Fortinbras to be one of the very few survivors of the play. In other words, excess is tragic in Hamlet .
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