Irony in Hamlet

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Irony In Hamlet

One of the most useful motifs in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the use of irony. Harry Levin’s “Irony in Hamlet” explains that ironic commentary is a technique that reinforces the poetic justice of the work.

Our first impression of Hamlet is derived at the gathering in the courtyard, dressed in black for his deceased father. He has a melancholic demeanor about him and he is kept to himself. His first words say that Claudius is "A little more than kin and less than kind,"(Shakespeare 13) indicating a contrast in values between the new king and himself, thus, in a sense, designating himself to the position of an outcast. Ironically, the one who least wants to be part of the world at this despairing time, must engage himself fully with the world in order to validate the ghost’s accusation and then carry out his wish.

Claudius is a very ironic character. Claudius is first revealed to the audience in an effectively glorified state. He ceremoniously enters the stage as the recently crowned king of Denmark, and regally addresses his people. Passionately maintaining the claim that although the memory of his brother Hamlet, the recently deceased king, is still painful, he has a vital obligation to assume the throne. The kingdom has appropriately mourned King Hamlet's loss, and it is time to embrace Claudius' potent leadership. Within the first few lines of his speech, Claudius cunningly pays lip service to the beloved King Hamlet, while effectively promoting his own, apparently compassionate image. It is apparent that Claudius is immensely contented with his new responsibility. When Claudius mentions using "an auspicious and a drooping eye"(Shakespeare 11), he would have his followers believe that he views the current situation with both remorse and hopefulness. However, in an act of verbal irony, Claudius' statement also refers to his two-faced nature. The elder Hamlet of whom Claudius so lovingly speaks is the victim of Claudius' murderous nature....
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