Theme of Guilt in Hamlet & Fifth Business

Topics: Hamlet, Robertson Davies, Ghost Pages: 3 (941 words) Published: July 18, 2013
There is one human emotion that can paralyse us, lead us to lie both to ourselves and others, to commit actions that we don’t endure, and to cripple any rational thought processes. It is self perpetuating if allowed to get out of control. Its side effects are anger, aggressiveness, fear or reclusiveness. Its symptoms are irrational behaviour, lying, anguish, and lack of self-esteem. It is the strong emotion that can affect our conscience, like an acid drop it corrodes the soul within and in extreme conditions it demolishes one’s life, it is better known as guilt. Guilt is a reoccurring theme in Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that is demonstrated by various characters including, Dunstable Ramsay, Paul Dempster, Hamlet and Claudius and this essay shall compare the theme of guilt between the two literatures. In the novel Fifth Business, guilt is a plague that has spread throughout the lives of Dunstan Ramsay, and Paul Dempster; both characters are drenched with guilt that was a result of a tragic incident caused by Percy Staunton Boyd when he threw the snowball and it “hit Mrs. Dempster on the back of the head.” (Davies, 2). Dunstan experiences guilt early on in his childhood, realizing it is him who ultimately caused the premature labour of Paul, “Nevertheless this conversation reheated my strong sense of guilt and responsibility about Paul.” (Davies, 136). As the guilt overtakes his life, Dunny compares what he is feeling to what dying feels like and questions whether that would be better than dealing with this overwhelming guilt: “Ah, if dying were all there was to it! Hell and torment at once, but at least you know where you stand. It is living with these guilty secrets that exacts the price” (Davies, 19). Born prematurely, Paul Dempster was convicted of being guilty as he was responsible for robbing his mother of her sanity, as explained to him by his father, Amasa Dempster, “My father always told me it was my birth that...
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