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In literature, there are countless antiheroic characters. However, Anitheroism is an exceptional characteristic for authors to portray in characters, which makes this trait so unique and fascinating. In the literary dictionary, an antihero is defined as the “hero of the play or novel, but has negative attributes, which separate him or her from the classic hero. Such negative aspects may include a violent nature, use of coarse language, or self serving interests which may inadvertently depict the protagonist as a hero since the result of serving those interests may be the betterment of the society or environment. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the protagonist, Hamlet, is depicted as an antihero. Hamlet draws sympathy, as well as admiration, from the pain of losing his father along with the burden and obstacles in avenging his murder.

Act four places a special emphasis on Hamlet’s intelligence. In scene two, Hamlet is extremely insolent and behaves in an ill-mannered fashion towards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet says to them, That I can keep your counsel and not, mine own. Beside, to be demanded of a sponge, what replication should be made by the son of a king? (IV, ii, 12-14) The reference to the sponge resembles their helplessness and powerless status. Both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are easily manipulated and taken in by foolish manifestations. They are excessively obedient to the king, and in truth, do not have minds of their own. Hamlet despises Rosencrantz and Guildenstern mainly because they are servants of Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle and mortal enemy.

Another incident of Hamlet’s high intelligence is illustrated when Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, I am glad of it: a knavish sleeps in a foolish ear. (IV, ii, 24-25) This statement leaves Rosencrantz and Guildenstern more or less confused. Hamlet is evidently wiser than the two of them combined and is capable of toying with their minds. Hamlet has an excellent command of the language, and because of it, is often difficult to comprehend, instantly deriving to the conclusion that he is insane.

Hamlet demonstrates his ingenuity, this time towards Claudius, when he says, I see a cherub that sees them. But, come; for England! Farewell, dear mother. (IV, iii, 49-50) The cherub, or the angel, gives Hamlet a sense of superiority over Claudius. Having an angel at one’s side would be a definite sign of power, which is precisely what Hamlet longs to obtain from Claudius in their constant fight for supreme authority. Just when Claudius believes that he has ownership and power over Hamlet, it is really Hamlet who has the upper hand over Claudius.

There are very strong philosophical references made by Hamlet in this act regarding life and death. Hamlet tells Claudius, Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service, two dishes, but to one table: that’s the end. (IV, iii, 21-26) This statement depicts a hidden message from beneath the text; the meaning of identical value and fairness in this world. It illustrates the significant definition of equality among all men, whether one is born to be a king or a beggar, in the end, we are all the same in terms of power and status. Worms and maggots do not treat anybody differently once one is dead and decayed.

The final scene draws the greatest sympathy towards Hamlet even though he is not even in the picture. The forces of Claudius and Laertes have combined against Hamlet. Claudius states, To an exploit now ripe in my device, Under the which he shall not choose but fall, And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe; But even his mother shall unchange the practice, And call it accident. (IV, vii, 65-69)

Claudius is willing to undertake any measures necessary to eliminate Hamlet. Hamlet is described as the victim, and much like two bullies picking on a small child in the playground, Claudius, his uncle, the king, and murderer of his father, with the aid of Laertes, goes out to terminate Hamlet for good. By this time, Hamlet faces death. He is willing to sacrifice his own life in order to fix what is morally correct Claudius must pay.

The fact that Hamlet’s life is in jeopardy attributes to his “hero” status. His only fault is the desire to avenge his father’s murderer, an act considered completely honorable and even respectable by most people. Nevertheless, Hamlet’s negative attributes include his discourtesy and tactlessness towards other s, and a violent nature as shown when he kills Polonius, expressing no shame or remorse. All in all, Hamlet s array of different characteristics in the play recaptures the allotment of the classic hero, to the more becoming name of Hamlet – the antihero.


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