Hamlet's Cave

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Natania Lipp
Mr. Gahan
AP Language and Composition
29 March, 2013
Hamlet’s Cave
In Plato’s One Republic, his main message is that people are shaped by the thoughts of others in society so that idealistic illusion is much more common than realistic thinking. He criticizes the habit of recreating past expectations instead of forming original opinions. Shakespeare supports the mockery of these imitations in Hamlet, by creating a plot that demonstrates a man who does not know how to conduct his life around the demands of others. Hamlet is misdirected by his family and friends, pressured by the expectancies of society so that his actions are dictated by everyone but himself. However, he maintains a special spark that differentiates him from the others in the play. Hamlet’s longing for diversity and real self-expression is similar to Plato’s descriptions of the men in the light outside of the cave. Shakespeare and Plato’s diction parallels each other, teaching their audiences that society can only move forward if predisposed ideas are transcended, and actions are taken beyond “convoluted shadows”(206). Plato states that almost all works of people are merely imitations of other works. Hamlet opens with paradoxical reflection, beginning the play with Plato’s theory of impression. Bernardo’s first line, “Who’s there?” (I.i.1), and Francisco’s response, “Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself” (I.i.2-3) already directly reflect off of each other as if on either side of a mirror. The two characters are juxtaposed in the paradox of having the same conflicting job. Both of them are guards whose duty it is to identify the people they meet, and yet they run into each other, rebounding off of their original purpose, as reflections. In the first few lines, Shakespeare has already introduced Hamlet as a play that sends the same message as Plato does in The Republic. As it says in “Book X” of The Republic, “…The tragic poet is an imitator, and therefore, like all other imitators, he is thrice removed from the king and from the truth” (291). Socrates says that the work of all poets is shaped by the work of other poets. Since tragedy is repeated and all come from the same source, tragic poets separate themselves from truth and instead they mimic ideas of sadness rather than actually embracing the emotion. Shakespeare accepts Socrates’ challenge to go beyond copying other works and rather than succumbing be to the poet who only imitates the ideas of higher essential forms, he creates a play that criticizes the same factor. Hamlet is depicted as a character that can see past the reflections of reality and tries to break down creations to their simplest form. Rather than settling for the fact that his dad is dead and his uncle is the new king, he searches for an explanation. But once Hamlet looks into his reflection to figure out how his father really dies, he gains regrettable insight that ultimately leads to the death of many, including him. The ghost that appears to be his dad is really just an imitation of his real self, whose sole purpose is to be Hamlet’s conscience. The opening of the play challenges the audience to decide whether the ghost of Hamlet’s father is real, or whether it was conjured up by the expectations of Marcellus, Bernardo, Horatio, and Hamlet. The rhetorical situation is rooted from the recent death of Hamlet’s father and the war that he fought in before his death. His previous circumstances helped to create this image that the characters at the beginning could share. As the characters continue to analyze this ‘ghost’, Horatio expresses his concern, “a mote is to trouble the mind’s eye”(2.2.13). While he may appear to be warning against the dangers of a ghost and how nothing good can come from its presence, the foreshadowing of corruption is not his only message. Horatio specifically uses the words “mind’s eye” in order to suggest that the mind has an eye of it’s own, separate from the ones used for literal...
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