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Hamlet Essay, Research Paper

Fit for a King

What qualities come to mind when you think of a king, or any ruler for that

matter? A ruler needs to be very trustworthy, honest, hard working, fair, just, forgiving

and intelligent. Especially where there is a king, as in the play Hamlet, by William

Shakespeare, because a king is in charge of the whole community. He has to keep in mind

all of his subjects as he makes tons of decisions every day. A king is a symbol of his land.

There cannot be a strong country without a strong king. In this play, which character

would make a better king, Claudius or Hamlet, when all of their qualities and

characteristics are examined? Hamlet would have been a better ruler because throughout

the play he demonstrated how smart he was, how he thought things out before acting,

how he questions things to find the truth and how he is a better person than Claudius.

Claudius is considered by some to be a good king, despite the means by which he

obtained the throne. He did prevent Fortinbras from coming in and taking over the

country. But you have to remember that Claudius is also a villain, a murderer, a

conspirator, and a liar. Claudius killed his own brother and married his wife just a few

weeks later. There is no way that people could or should respect a person that does

something of this nature.

The reader is also shown later in the story that Claudius is not even sorry for

killing his brother. Luckily for him, Hamlet misses the last lines of his prayer. He said

?My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven

go?(Act III, Scene 3). This shows the reader that although Claudius is saying a praying

and saying his is sorry for what he has done, he does not really mean it, therefore he is not

really sorry. A person going to church and just sitting there for an hour, not praying,


listening or singing demonstrates what Claudius is doing. Just the fact that you are there

or that you are saying a prayer is not enough, you have to mean it, otherwise it is just a

waste of your time. Claudius? life was spared, temporarily, because Hamlet did not hear

this part of his prayer.

Claudius, by the end of the play has caused more than half a dozen deaths, King

Hamlet, Hamlet, Gertrude, Laertes, Polonius, and himself just to name the main ones. It is

because of Claudius? scheming that the end of the play is so plagued by death. When you

look at this side of Claudius it makes it hard to image how he could have ever been a good

king, if in fact he was a good leader. It was Claudius? obsession for control and power

that ruined a great kingdom.

The question left to be answered however is this, would Hamlet have made a good

king? Hamlet possessed many qualities that would have made him a suitable king. First of

all, his father was the king, so he was royalty and obviously had some knowledge of what

a king needed to do. Second, he was a smart individual. We see at the beginning of the

play that he is just coming back from a university in Wittenberg. Throughout the play all

Hamlet wants to do is go back to the university. It is because of his education that he has

such a questioning attitude, which plays a huge role in the whole play.

Being a scholar, Hamlet is prone to thought rather than actions. He contemplates

every action, prepares for the reaction, and also weighs the consequences. Hamlet

questions things from the very beginning when he asks Horatio why he has come. Horatio

answers that he has come for Hamlet?s father?s funeral, but Hamlet says in reply ?I pray

thee, do not mock me, fellow-student; I think it was to see my mother?s wedding?(Act I,

Scene 2). Horatio then tells us that Hamlet is correct. This series of events shows how

Hamlet has an ability to find the truth and how he questions things to make sure they are

the truth. Even though it is just a little question, not merely as important as some of the

other stuff that occurs, it is a good example of what kind of person Hamlet really is.


There are other times in the play where he questions things that he is told. What

the ghost tells him is probably the best example and the most important one. First of all he

asks the guards a bunch of questions regarding the ghost. Was it armed? Did you see his

face? Was it pale or red? Did it stay long? These were the type of questions that Hamlet

was asking, so he could know more fully what exactly was going on and have a more

detailed idea of what had happened. Even when Hamlet talks to the ghost and finds out

that his father was murdered by the one that now holds the crown, Claudius, he questions

that to be sure that it wasn?t a trick or that the ghost wasn?t lying. Hamlet says later in the

play, ?The spirit that I have seen may be the devil; and the devil hath power to assume a

pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps out of my weakness and my melancholy, as he is very

potent with such spirits, abuses me to damn me?(Act II, Scene 2). Hamlet is basically

saying I can?t totally believe this ghost even though it may look like my father, I must find

out for myself.

This whole questioning attitude, which may seem stupid but is actually a very good

thing, leads to Hamlet having the players put on what he calls ?The Mousetrap?. Hamlet

says, ?The plays the thing wherein I?ll catch the conscience of the king?(Act II, Scene 2).

By this he means that he is going to have a play put on that is a reenactment of Claudius?

killing King Hamlet and watch for Claudius? reaction to the play. If Claudius starts

getting squirmy or uneasy, Hamlet will no for sure that Claudius did in fact kill his father.

This play also shows us another side of Hamlet?s intellect, his fairness and his

realization of his bias and want for revenge. Hamlet himself would probably take any little

movement by Claudius as a confession of guilt simply because he is angry about his

father?s death and wants revenge so very badly. Revenge causes one to act blindly

through anger, rather than through reason. It is based on the principle of an eye for an

eye, which is ultimately what Hamlet wants, to avenge his father?s death by killing

Claudius. But Hamlet is aware of his emotions and that is why he tells Horatio, ?I prithee,


when thou sees that act a-foot, even with the very comment of thy soul observe my uncle:

if his occulted guilt do not itself unkennel in one speech it is a damned ghost that we have

seen, and my imaginations are as foul as Vulcan?s stithy?(Act III, Scene 2). This is a great

example of Hamlet knowing his limitations, he has asked the just and fair minded Horatio

to help him judge. It is things like this that would have made Hamlet a good king.

Hamlet has one of the most well known soliloquies of all time. The old ?To be or

not to be? speech, but although many people know the beginning of this speech, emphasis

on the beginning because less people know the middle and the true meaning of his speech.

Hamlet goes on to ask ?Whether ?tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of

outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.

To die: to sleep; no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand

natural shocks that flesh is heir to?(Act III, Scene 1). The meaning of this speech is

whether or not he should kill himself. Again he is questioning and weighing the choices,

should he continue his struggle for revenge or end his troubles by way of committing

suicide. This part of the play shows the reader many qualities of Hamlet. It shows how he

to is human and how he is hurting, how he thinks things out instead of acting irrationally,

and how he questions things.

Besides his intellectual qualities and his questioning attitude Hamlet also shows

another characteristic that a king should have. As we return to the scene where Claudius

is praying, we see that Hamlet almost forgives him. Maybe you can?t go that far as to say

Hamlet forgives him, but rather he forgets about seeking revenge for the moment because

?now he is praying and now I?ll do?t: and so he goes to heaven: and so I am revenged.

That would be scanned; a villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same

villain send to heaven?(Act III, Scene 3). Hamlet realizes that he can?t kill Claudius at this

time because as he said, it would send him to heaven. Only Hamlet does not hear the end

of the prayer, an insight that we the reader have knowledge of. But it is good to know


that Hamlet can control his anger because a character like Laertes would have

just went ahead and killed Claudius at that time.

Hamlet also displays many other positive qualities throughout the work. One such

quality is his ability to fight. Although you may not think of this as a positive quality, you

have to remember what was going on at that time. A person of nobility should be trained

with a sword. Also there was war all around the kingdom and a king should be the type of

person that could lead his country. The fact that Hamlet was good with a sword also

showed just how well-rounded an individual he was.

This play shows the reader many of Hamlet?s good qualities and sets Claudius out

to be the bad guy from the beginning. It is obvious by looking at the above examples that

Hamlet would have made a good king, he certainly would have been better than his uncle.

Claudius is shown as a murderer and a liar. It is hard to sympathize with Claudius and his

actions. To kill your own brother, marry his wife, and take over his position as king just is

not something people generally find to be acceptable.

Hamlet on the other hand, shows how he is always thinking. He is an educated

man, who lets revenge control him, but not totally. We see how he is constantly

questioning things, looking at the choices and consequences and thinking before doing.

Hamlet is a well-rounded individual who is smart, clever, determined, tough, and

understandable. It is easy for the reader to get behind Hamlet because he is presented in a

much more positive way and the majority of readers understand the situation he has gone

through. It is understandable that he is mad and that he wants revenge. We live in that

kind of world, where forgive and forget is just that, forgotten. People seek revenge,

although maybe not to the extent of the characters in this play. In general, Hamlet

displays many qualities and characteristics that would have made him a wise, fair and good

king, maybe not the best there has ever been, but certainly better than Claudius.

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