Unadmirable Relationships Hamlet

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"Hamlet shows us no admirable human relationships." Discuss, supporting your views with detailed evidence from the play.

"We are arrant knaves, all..." Hamlet, written by the ever observant William Shakespeare, certainly seems to prove this true. Embroiled in corruption, Denmark the "prison" is barely the place for admirable relationships to flourish. Any claim that "Hamlet shows us no admirable human relationships," would therefore, on the surface, be mostly justifiable. The play's four kinds of relationships: in blood, in name, in romance, and in friendship, reflect the rotten state from which they spring. Hamlet's mother disregards his grief, Polonius disregards his daughter's love for Hamlet, Hamlet uses Ophelia, Claudius values power over his wife, and Hamlet plots his friends' deaths. Admirable relationships where mutual trust, respect, loyalty, and selflessness are key values shared between human beings are few and far between in Hamlet. The only relationship which comes close in Hamlet is the friendship between the Danish prince and humble Horatio. This gloomy reality not only reinforces central thematic concerns such as corruption, but also justifies Hamlet's brutal actions. Most importantly however, Shakespeare makes the concerns in the play relevant and important to our own lives. We learn to value and nurture the admirable relationships we do have, for the improvement of our own lives and the wellbeing of a society.

One of the closest and most impacting relationships that we have is that with our family. There is often no stronger bond than between a parent and a child. At the beginning of Hamlet, however, Shakespeare hits us with a mother and son whose relationship is far from admirable. Hamlet's first line refer to his Uncle and new step-father as "a little more than kin, a little less than kind," showing no respect for his mother's second choice of husband. Referring to his mother when proclaiming "frailty, thy name is woman!" simply confirms his lack of respect for her. Gertrude, however, is also guilty of failing to be loyal to her son with sweeping, ignorant comments about his grief. She tells him "do not forever with thy veiled lids seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou know'st ‘tis common – all that lives must die." Hamlet, however, simply cannot accept his mother's hasty marriage – "a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourn'd longer." Her lack of respect and empathy here, and "dexterity to incestuous sheets," infuriate and sadden Hamlet to the point where he contemplates suicide, exclaiming "O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew!" His mother's marriage has plunged Denmark into a hotbed of corruption, which Hamlet believes is "an unweeded garden, that grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature." The garden was an Elizabethan symbol of order, and even from the first Act Hamlet speaks of the "rank and gross" garden as a metaphor for the corruption destroying Denmark. Hamlet's threatening behaviour towards his mother in Act 3 cause her to question "thou wilt not murder me?" and as a result, lose trust and faith in him. Hamlet on the other hand disrespectfully asks her "where is thy blush?" and Gertrude fails to understand her son, instead thinking he's "mad as the sea and wind." It is the lack of admirable relationships, even between mother and son, which create a morally defunct society.

Hamlet and Gertrude are not alone, however. Polonius' total disregard for his daughter's relationship with Hamlet is patronising and shows he has little trust for her judgement – "you have ta'en these tenders for true pay which are not sterling." In Act 3, Polonius also uses his daughter to help Claudius find the cause of Hamlet's madness, treating her like a puppet "walk you here…read on this book..." Ironically his advice to Laertes – "to thine own self be true" – contradicts his attitude towards his daughter, who he typically directs like most...
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