William Shakespeare’s plays have long been regarded as works of literary merit due to their complexity and thematic depth, as well as their universal appeal and ability to stand the test of time. One of Shakespeare’s most renowned plays, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, subsequently referred to as Hamlet, is an ideal example as it satisfies the requirements of literary works of merit.
Complexity is a characteristic of literary merit found in Shakespeare’s works, and most evidently, in his characters. Hamlet, for example, is considered to be the epitome of complex characters, as he displays many layers throughout the play. It’s obvious that this tragic character is indecisive and unsure at times, including when he contemplates suicide, in his relationship with women, and when to kill his uncle, King Claudius. For example, in Act Two, Scene Two, Polonius, advisor to Claudius, reads aloud a love letter written by Hamlet to Ophelia, his supposed love interest. In this letter, Hamlet declares his love for Ophelia, and tells her never to doubt his love. However, when talking personally to Ophelia in the next act, Hamlet tells her that he never loved her. Yet, at Ophelia’s funeral in the final act of the play, Hamlet tells the attendees that he had more love for Ophelia than does forty thousand brothers for each other. This happens to be one of many examples of Hamlet’s complexity, mostly due to his “feigning” of madness throughout the vast majority of the play. This characteristic of complex characters is one reason why Shakespeare’s works are considered to be of literary merit. Another characteristic of literary merit that Shakespeare’s works display is thematic depth, especially in Hamlet. A major theme in this tragedy is that of revenge, which can be seen frequently throughout the play. There is the obvious plot of revenge in the play as Hamlet tries to avenge Claudius of King Hamlet’s death. There exist two other plots as Laertes attempts to avenge...
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