Hamlet and Death of a Salesman

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5/5/2013
ENLG 115
“Death of Two Families”
The plays Hamlet and Death of a Salesman have many themes in common, but two of the important themes from both plays are family and love. These two themes are the most prevalent in both plays. Family seems to be the fundamental theme throughout both of these plays; both having parents that want the best for their kids but do not interact with them very much. The love theme is a bit trickier because both do not show it directly, but hint to it throughout their plays, they both have love interests, which distract them from what they are trying to accomplish.

In Hamlet the theme of family is very significant. The play is notorious for the way it dwells on the issue of incest – Gertrude's marriage to her dead husband's brother, Hamlet's fixation on his mother, and even Laertes's obsession with Ophelia's sexuality. An example of Hamlet speaking of his mother’s incest shows up in act 1 scene 2, “[…]She married:- O, most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets![…]” It's also important to note how the play is particularly concerned with the way politics impact the dynamics of family relationships, especially when domestic harmony is sacrificed for political gain. Also of importance is the fact that Hamlet involves three revenge plots that all hinge on sons avenging the deaths of their fathers.

As with Hamlet, Death of a Salesman has a major theme of family. Willy believes in what he considers the promise of the “American Dream”, owning a house, having a wife, two children and a white picket fence and the idea that a “well-liked” and “attractive” man will lead to a life of fortune and riches. Oddly enough he becomes obsessed with that idea after his brother tells him that he can become rich if he had gone to the jungle with him, but Willy believes that you have to have a job in the city and be a travailing salesman to have what he considers the American Dream. That assumption is based on the...
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