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Hamlet Essay, Research Paper

HamletArguably the best piece of writing ever done by William Shakespeare, Hamlet the is the classic example of a tragedy. In all tragedies the hero suffers, and usually dies at the end. Othello stabs himself, Romeo and Juliet commit suicide, Brutis falls on his sword, and like them Hamlet dies by getting cut with a poison tipped sword. But that is not all that is needed to consider a play a tragedy, and sometimes a hero doesn’t even need to die. Making Not every play in which a Hero dies is considered a tragedy. There are more elements needed to label a play one. Probably the most important element is an amount of free will. In every tragedy, the characters must displays some. If every action is controlled by a hero’s destiny, then the hero’s death can’t be avoided, and in a tragedy the sad part is that it could. Hamlet’s death could have been avoided many times. Hamlet had many opportunities to kill Claudius, but did not take advantage of them. He also had the option of making his claim public, but instead he chose not too. A tragic hero doesn’t need to be good. For example, MacBeth was evil, yet he was a tragic hero, because he had free will. He also had only one flaw, and that was pride. He had many good traits such as bravery, but his one bad trait made him evil. Also a tragic hero doesn’t have to die. While in all Shakespearean tragedies, the hero dies, in others he may live but suffer “Moral Destruction”. In Oedipus Rex, the proud yet morally blind king plucks out his eyes, and has to spend his remaining days as a wandering, sightless beggar, guided at every painful step by his daughter, Antigone. A misconception about tragedies is that nothing good comes out of them, but it is actually the opposite. In Romeo and Juliet, although both die, they end the feud between the Capulets and the Montegues. Also, Romeo and Juliet can be together in heaven. In Hamlet, although Hamlet dies, it is almost for the best. How could he have any pleasure during the rest of his life, with his parents and Ophelia dead. Also, although Hamlet dies, he is able to kill Claudius and get rid of the evil ruling the throne. Every tragic play must have a tragic hero. The tragic hero must possess many good traits, as well as one flaw, which eventually leads to his downfall. A tragic hero must be brave and noble. In Othello, Othello had one fatal flaw, he was too great. Othello was too brave, too noble, and especially too proud to allow himself to be led back to Venice in chains. A tragic hero must not back down from his position. He also has to have free will, in order to stand up for what he believes in. Finally, the audience must have some sympathy for the tragic hero. In MacBeth, although MacBeth commits many murders, one almost feels sorry for him and his fate. Hamlet is the perfect example of the tragic hero. Hamlet has all the good traits needed to be a tragic hero. He is brave and daring. One example of this is that when he went to England, he was taking a big risk. If his plan didn’t work, he would have been executed He also is also loyal. His loyalty to his father, was the reason he was so angry at Claudius and his Mother. Another trait was that he was intelligent. He was able to think up the idea of faking insanity, in order to get more information about Claudius. But Hamlet like all other tragic hero’s had a flaw. He couldn’t get around to doing anything, because he couldn’t move on. He was a full grown adult, yet he still attended school in England, because he couldn’t move on. Also, it took him a long time to stop grieving about his father, because he didn’t want to move past that part of his life. And after he finally did, Hamlet couldn’t get around to killing Claudius. He kept pretending he was insane even after he was sure that Claudius killed his father. The final example of Hamlet’s inability to get around to do anything was that he was dating Ophelia for a long time, but never got around to marrying her. The audience was able to feel sympathy for Hamlet too. He had just lost his father, and his mother remarried so quickly that according to him they could have used the leftover food from the funeral in the wedding reception. Also, the audience could feel that Hamlet loved his parents and this sudden change was hurting him. In any tragedy there is a tragic hero, and he must possess certain characteristics in order to be one. He must have many good traits such as loyalty and bravery, but one bad one such as pride. Also the audience must have sympathy for the hero. A tragic hero also must have free will or his fate would be decided for him, and his death could be avoided. Finally, the audience must have sympathy for the tragic hero, or it wouldn’t seem so tragic. Hamlet is a perfect example of a tragic hero. He was brave, loyal, and intelligent, but he couldn’t move on past one thing, which led to his death. he had a choice of how he would deal with Claudius, and like other tragic hero’s made a decision. Also, the audience was able to feel sympathy for the position Hamlet was in. These attributes made Hamlet the perfect example of a tragic hero. —Hamlet identifies with an adolescent of the 1990’s more than he does with the youth of his own time. Hamlet is immature, sarcastic, and takes action during the heat of passion which is very much like the behavior of the youth in the 1990’s. Love, control over action, and the ability to overcome depression are just a few ways to prove maturity. It is obvious Hamlet loves Ophelia in his own way “. . . the celestial and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia . . .” (Hamlet. II, ii, 109- 110), but his way is not mature enough to include trust toward his lover. The trust that Hamlet should have given her was the key of his madness. This madness that Hamlet cannot trust his love with is the same madness that he loses total control over because of his immaturity; it then causes him to do things, such as kill Polonius, that a person that was mature could stop. The madness that Hamlet assumes is understandable but he can never get over the actual death of his father by still wearing black a year later, and the hasty marriage of his mother to Claudius. Compared to Horatio who is calm and cool throughout the play, and Fortinbras who collected an army to fight for his uncle’s land and honor, Hamlet’s maturity level for his time is low, especially for being a prince. Today Hamlet’s age group is more immature than during his own time so he relates to the youth of the 1990’s better than he does with the adolescents of his own time. Sarcasm, and blunt rudeness is often used by Hamlet in order to offend people that, during his time, he should not have offended. Hamlet often used the hasty marriage of his mother to offend Claudius. The first time that Hamlet offends Claudius in the company of another person is when Claudius is supposed to be helping cheer Hamlet up. “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” (Hamlet. I, ii, 65) is just as rude during Hamlet’s time as almost anything that a person could say today, it just takes a little thinking for the people of today to get what Hamlet means. The second person that Hamlet is openly rude to is Polonius. Hamlet, in front of Claudius and Gertrude, insults Polonius by calling him “. . . a fishmonger.” (Hamlet. II, ii, 174) This is not the only way that Hamlet offended Polonius. Hamlet offended Polonius by insulting his daughter. Hamlet is crude in his own day by asking Ophelia “Lady, shall I lie in your lap?” (Hamlet. III, ii, 115) What is strange about Hamlet’s ability to use his mouth is that the youth of today is able to use the same kinds of sarcasm and rudeness effectively, just as Hamlet does, but with Hamlet’s political position he should not have offended the people such as his stepfather. Being radical and acting on impulse is something that Hamlet had to use in order to get his work finished. Hamlet, having a hard time getting revenge, applied his anger from the judgment of his mother to kill who he thought was Claudius. Hamlet also needed to be on his own deathbed in order to finally get angry enough to kill Claudius. The way that Hamlet uses his anger to take action is very much like the youth today in the fact that if someone has a problem with log cutting, for example, they hold protests and take action against that problem. The second way that Hamlet is extreme is when he goes with the ghost that looks like his father even though his friends warn him that the ghost may be evil and “. . .tempt you toward the flood . . . Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff . . .” (Hamlet. I, iv, 69-70). If the prince was thinking right he would not have gone with the ghost that resembled the old “. . . King, father, royal Dane . . .” (Hamlet. I, iv, 45) Hamlet’s radical actions do not just prove that he is immature but also proves that he needs action from outside sources in order to get a reaction from himself. This is just like the youth of the 1990’s in the respect that if something is wrong, such as the cutting of an old growth forest, then they usually act against it in dramatic ways. An immature, mouthy, extremist is what adolescents of the 1990’s are compared to the youth of Hamlet’s time. The inability to love maturely, rudeness towards authority, and reacting to anger is what the youth of the 1990’s and Hamlet have in common. Hamlet would have a much easier time living during these times than his own. Hamlet’s immaturity, rudeness, and radical behavior is just like today’s youth and that is the insight that Hamlet has towards the youth of the 1990’s. —–The Elizabethan play “The Tragedy of Hamlet; Prince of Denmark”, is one of William Shakespeare’s most popular works. One of the possible reasons for this play’s popularity is the way Shakespeare uses the character Hamlet to exemplify the complex and sometime confusing workings of the human mind. “Perhaps Shakespeare truly is, as many claim, a timeless and universal artist. And what do we call such a man? Do we claim that he is simply a remarkably successful and enduring commercial playwright? Or do we call him genius?” (Internet) The approach taken by Shakespeare in Hamlet has generated countless different interpretations of meaning. However; it is through Hamlet’s struggle to confront his internal dilemma, deciding when to revenge his fathers death, that the reader becomes aware of one of the more common interpretations in Hamlet – the idea that Shakespeare is attempting to comment on the influence that one’s state of mind can have on the decisions they make in life. To assist in the interpretations of this great writer, Bradbrook begins by explaining: During the time of Elizabethan theater, plays about tragedy and revenge were very common and a regular convention seemed to be formed on what aspects should be put into a typical revenge tragedy. In all revenge tragedies first and foremost, a crime is committed and for various reasons, laws and justice cannot punish the crime so the individual who is the main character, goes through with the revenge in spite of everything. The main character then usually had a period of doubt , where he tries to decide whether or not to go through with the revenge, which usually involves tough and complex planning. Other features that were typical were the appearance of a ghost, to get the revenger to go through with the deed. The revenger also usually had a very close relationship with the audience through soliloquies and asides. The original crime that will eventually be avenged is nearly always sexual or violent or both. The crime has been committed against a family member of the revenger. The revenger places himself outside the normal moral order of things, and often becomes more isolated as the play progresses-an isolation which at its most extreme becomes madness. The revenge must be the cause of a catastrophe and the beginning of the revenge must start immediately after the crisis. After the ghost persuades the revenger to commit his deed, a hesitation first occurs and then a delay by the avenger before killing the murderer, and his actual or acted out madness. The revenge must be taken out by the revenger or his trusted accomplices. The revenger and his accomplices may also die at the moment of success or even during the course of revenge. It should not be assumed that revenge plays parallel the moral expectations of the Elizabethan audience. Church, State and the regular morals of people in that age did not accept revenge, instead they thought that revenge would simply not under any circumstances be tolerated no matter what the original deed was. It is repugnant on theological grounds, since Christian orthodoxy posits a world ordered by Divine Providence, in which revenge is a sin and a blasphemy, endangering the soul of the revenger. The revenger by taking law into his own hands was in turn completely going against the total political authority of the state. People should therefore never think that revenge was expected by Elizabethan society. Although they loved to see it in plays, it was considered sinful and it was utterly condemned. As the play unfolds, Shakespeare uses the encounters that Hamlet must face to demonstrate the effect that one’s perspective can have on the way the mind works. In his book, “Some Shakespeare Themes & An Approach to Hamlet”, L.C. Knight takes notice of Shakespeare’s use of these encounters to journey into the workings of the human mind when he writes: What we have in Hamlet is the exploration and implicit criticism of a particular state of mind or consciousness. In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses a series of encounters to reveal the complex state of the human mind, made up of reason, emotion, and attitude towards the oneself, to allow the reader to make a judgment or form an opinion about fundamental aspects of human life. (192) Shakespeare sets the stage for Hamlet’s internal dilemma in Act 1, Scene 5 of Hamlet when the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and calls upon Hamlet to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”. This can be identified as the beginning of Hamlet’s journey. It is from this point forward that he must struggle with the dilemma of whether or not to kill Claudius, and if so, when to actually do it. As the play progresses, Hamlet does not seek his revenge when the opportunity presents itself, and it is the reasoning that Hamlet uses to justify his delay that becomes paramount to the reader’s understanding of the effect that Hamlet’s mental perspective has on his situation. In order to fully understand how Hamlet’s perspective plays an important role in this play, the reader must attempt to answer the fundamental question: Why does Hamlet procrastinate in taking revenge on Claudius? Although the answer to this question is at best somewhat complicated, Mark W. Scott attempts to offer some possible explanations for Hamlet’s delay in his book, Shakespeare for Students: Critics who find the cause of Hamlet’s delay in his internal meditations typically view the prince as a man of great moral integrity who is forced to commit an act which goes against his deepest principles. On numerous occasions, the prince tries to make sense of his moral dilemma through personal meditations, which Shakespeare presents as soliloquies. Another perspective of Hamlet’s internal struggle suggests that the prince has become so disenchanted with life since his father’s death that he has neither the desire nor the will to exact revenge. (74) Mr. Scott points out morality and disenchantment, both of which belong solely to an individuals own conscious, as two potential causes of Hamlet’s procrastination, and therefore he offers support to the idea that Shakespeare is placing important emphasis on the role of individual perspective in this play. The importance that Mr. Scott’s comment places on Hamlet’s use of personal meditations to “make sense of his moral dilemma”(74), also helps to support L.C. Knight’s contention that Shakespeare is attempting to use these dilemmas to illustrate the inner workings of the human mind. Great literary works retain their popularity as a result of many different factors. One such factor which can lead to popularity of a work, current or consistent discussion of a work’s merits, can come into play when an author or playwright leaves questions unanswered in his work. In Hamlet, William Shakespeare creates such a situation. As a result of the ambiguity of clues given throughout this play, critics may argue for or against the idea that Prince Hamlet’s “antic disposition” put on as a facade to mislead the royal family pales in comparison to the disposition of Hamlet’s lunatic mind, or in other words, that Hamlet in fact truly succumbs to insanity. Evidence for this opinion can be derived from Hamlet’s erratic mood changes, careless slaughter of those not directly involved in the murder of his father, and interactions with the ghost of King Hamlet. For a man thought to be feigning insanity, Prince Hamlet seems to have very little control of his emotions. In fact, Hamlet admits this to Horatio, his confidant, when he says, “Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting That would not let me sleep” (5.2.4-5). This lack of restraint leads to Hamlet’s unpredictable mood swings throughout the play. Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia easily spawns such dramatic alterations in the prince’s attitude. For example, when Hamlet first suspects Ophelia acts only as the pawn for Polonius’s ploys, he reacts harshly, bitterly denying that he ever loved her. “You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock, but we shall relish of it. I loved you not” (3.1.117-19). This massive reversal in disposition is later contrasted by another reversal when Hamlet leaps into Ophelia’s open grave at her funeral to dispute Laertes and openly claim, “I loved Ophelia, forty thousand brothers. Could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum” (5.1.243-45). These abrupt mood changes also appear in Hamlet’s relationship with his mother. He seemed to believe in his mother’s purity and goodness, but eventually Hamlet seems to hold a great mount of contempt for Gertrude, especially when he mocks her words, and then snidely proclaims: “You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife; and – would it were not so, you are my mother” (3.4.15-16). Such mood swings as these definitely prove, if anything, that Hamlet could not keep adequate control of his emotions. This lack of discipline or sanity also leads Hamlet to shamelessly murder several people not directly related to his plot to avenge his father’s death. Hamlet kills Polonius and then flaunts this deed in the presence of the King. Hamlet also boasts to Horatio of his cunning plan which resulted in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern delivering their own execution notices to the English crown. Is it possible for a sane man to gloat over the death of another man by his own hand? Let alone the death of two colleagues? In addition to these deaths, Hamlet can be indirectly linked to the deaths of Ophelia and Gertrude. To further this idea of Hamlet’s insanity, one can observe the prince’s interaction with the ghost of his father. For example, after Hamlet’s first interaction with this ghost, he puts forth, as Horatio calls them, “wild and whirling words.” Why right, you are in the right, And so without more circumstance at all I hold it fit that we shake hands and part, You, as your business and desire shall point you, For every man hath business and desire. Such as it is, and for my own poor part, Look you, I will go pray. (1.5.127-134) Another possibility exists in relation to Act 3 Scene 4 in which Hamlet sees the ghost of his father, while Gertrude cannot see the specter. It is important to remember that in all other encounters with the ghost, Hamlet was not the only person to behold the spirit. In this scene however, Hamlet alone sees this vision. This scene reveals Hamlet’s madness at its pinnacle. In conclusion, Hamlet’s “antic disposition” can easily be understood, through examples of Hamlet’s unpredictable attitude changes, slaughter of innocents, and interactions with the ghost of his father, to be only the “tip of the iceberg” concerning his unstable mental state. Shakespeare gives readers an opportunity to evaluate the way the title character handles a very complicated dilemma and the problems that are generated because of it. These problems that face Hamlet are perhaps best viewed as overstatements of the very types of problems that all people must face as they live their lives each day. The magnitude of these “everyday” problems are almost always a matter of individual perspective. Each person will perceive a given situation based on his own state of mind. The one, perhaps universal, dilemma that faces all of mankind is the problem of identity. As Victor L. Cahn writes, “Hamlet’s primary dilemma is that of every human being: given this time and place and these circumstances, How is he to respond? What is his responsibility?” (69). This dilemma defined by Mr. Cahn fits in well with the comments of both L.C. Knight and Mark Scott, because it too requires some serious introspection on the part of Hamlet to resolve, and also supports the idea that Shakespeare is using Hamlet’s dilemma to illustrate the effect that perspective, or state of mind, can have on a given situation. Hamlet started a battle of wits with Claudius by acting mad and calling it his “antic disposition”, although the whole thing was a ploy to get close to Claudius to be able to avenge his father’s death more easily it takes a toll on the young prince. I believe it may have started as a ploy, however; the tables were turned on the prince himself as his personal hell became a mental reality. I found that my reader’s alike share my fondness of “The Genius of Stratford-on-Avon” A fellow student devotes his webpage to Shakespear and writes: Like most of Shakespeare’s plays, every time I read it I discover something new. It is a great story with elements for everyone: ghosts, betrayal, lust, shattered dreams, accidental deaths, twists, and humor. Prior to the beginning of the play we must assume some very important facts. The situation is dark. Hamlet is not apparently the man who would be king. He’s a student at Wittenberg and apparently likes the academic life. He has a father he loves, a mother who seems a decent sort, and the future with all the weights and responsibilities of being a king are well off. It’s a life to be savored and enjoyed. But the bottom falls out. The beloved father dies and suddenly his mother is remarried to his uncle. What’s happening here? Hamlet is suffering through an emotional shock. Anyone who has lost a parent, sibling, close relative, or friend knows the pain grief can bring. The dark well that you free fall through that makes the world seem “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable. . . .an unweeded garden/That grows to seed, . . . rank and gross” A place of emotional pain you would rather be free of and contemplate “self-slaughter” as a choice. “To be, or not to be, – that is the question (3.1.56) It is a hard, dark, place and the pain is overwhelming. It’s anguish that only can be felt, not really shared. The words “I know how you feel” are not only empty but also a lie. In this place of pain Hamlet now has to deal with the other problems that are calling to his attention. It’s not an easy place. The pull of conflicting emotions is powerful. He doesn’t want the responsibility of being king but understands the duty is his and he should be king not Claudius. (I am too much ‘I the sun). He is grief stricken “seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not ’seems.’” He is upset. How could his mother marry his uncle (to post/With such dexterity to incestuous sheets). Is there no shame? Is lust in her so strong there is no ability to control the appetite? (Frailty, thy name is woman!) Now in this emotionally weakened state having lost father and mother, he is told the man sleeping with his mother is his father’s killer. This is enough to send the most stable of us off. As his emotional stability is being overloaded, Hamlet must act or find himself “shorting out.” This play studies the actions of the man of destiny in extraordinary circumstances. This play reminds us of the increased difficulties and responsibilities that must be addressed by the person who has either chosen or been chosen to play a major role in the life of his country. How will they bear up under the strain? (Internet) Hamlet’s delay in seeking revenge for his father’s death plays an important role in allowing Shakespeare’s look into the human mind to manifest itself. If Hamlet had killed Claudius at first opportunity, there would have been little chance for Shakespeare to develop the internal dilemma which all three critics, L.C. Knight, Mark Scott, and Victor Cahn, mention in support of the widely held view that, in Hamlet, Shakespeare is attempting to make a comment about the complexity of the human mind, and the power that a person’s mental perspective can have on the events of his life. Hamlet is definitely a great example of a typical revenge tragedy of the Elizabethan theater era. It followed every convention required to classify it as a revenge play quite perfectly. Hamlet is definitely one of the greatest revenge stories ever written and it was all influenced first by Sophocles, Euripides. Revenge although thought to be unlawful and against the Church was absolutely adored by all Elizabethan people. The Elizabethan audience always insisted on seeing eventual justice, and one who stained his hands with blood had to pay the penalty. That no revenger, no matter how just, ever wholly escapes the penalty for shedding blood, even in error. This was also a very important point that was also dealt with brilliantly by Shakespeare in finding a way to kill Hamlet justly even though he was required to kill Claudius. Hamlet was written with the mighty pen of Shakespeare who once again shows people that he can conjure up any play and make it one of the greatest of all time. Then Hamlet, feeling his breath fail and life departing, turned to his dear friend Horatio, who had been spectator of this fatal tragedy; and with his dying breath requested him that he would live to tell his story to the world (for Horatio had made a motion as if he would slay himself to accompany the prince in death), and Horatio promised that he would make a true report, as one that was privy to all the circumstances. And, thus satisfied, the noble heart of Hamlet cracked; and Horatio and the bystanders with many tears commended the spirit of this sweet prince to the guardianship of angels. For Hamlet was a loving and a gentle prince, and greatly beloved for his many noble and prince-like qualities; and if he had lived, would no doubt have proved a most royal and complete king to Denmark. (Internet)


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