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Hamlet Compared with Lady Lazarus

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Hamlet Compared with Lady Lazarus

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  • December 2010
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Compare the ways in which Shakespeare and Plath explore the theme of mortality in Hamlet and Lady Lazarus.

In both Lady Lazarus and Hamlet the semantic field of mortality and death can be clearly seen. Hamlet’s second soliloquy, ‘To be or not to be’ can be found in act three, when Polonius and Claudius are hiding behind a wall listening to how Hamlet responds to Ophelia. Although there is a huge time difference between when they were written it is surprisingly similar in its semantic field of vocabulary to Lady Lazarus written in the 1950s by Sylvia Plath. There is also a huge difference in the type of genre that the texts are and the intended audience for them. Hamlet was intended to be performed and so has many more emotions expressed and the need to be listened to and watched, but Lady Lazarus, is a dramatic monologue of how the persona feels, and so can be read individually.

Hamlet and Lady Lazarus are similar because they both deal with the issue of mortality. In Hamlet this is most clearly expressed through Hamlet’s second soliloquy where be begins to wonder what the point of life is as he is not succeeding in keeping his dead father’s wish, of revenging and murdering Claudius. For this reason it has many lexical fields of pain, suffering, conflict, death and suicide. This can be related to Lady Lazarus as the persona in that poem feels that there is no point in life. In the first few lines of the soliloquy, we have the semantic field of weaponry, as it says: “The slings and arrows or outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing them?”
This extended metaphor shows that Hamlet views life as a real battle that needs to be overcome if he is to continue with life and the ability to revenge his father’s death. When Hamlet uses the verbal phrase ‘to take arms against a sea of troubles’ he is describing the fact that he needs to murder Claudius, no matter what the consequences are for himself, as in the Tudor times it...