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Downfalls Caused by Weakness

By Speed92 Nov 17, 2010 1928 Words
Weakness is a main theme within the play Hamlet. In the play we are shown different forms of weakness within the characters through their experiences. Three characters whose weaknesses lead to their downfalls are, Polonius, Hamlet and Claudius. Polonius' weakness is his need for control and to know everything about the people around him. He is so dedicated towards Claudius that he even spies’ on the people he cares about most. Hamlet’s weakness is his act of madness. His hate for his uncle and the grief of losing his father drives him for revenge. In doing so, Hamlet puts on a persona of being mad. Claudius' weakness is that he is too proud, and that he cowards away from the people he knows can damage and hurt his reputation. When a problem arises Claudius runs and hides away while someone else comes along to confront and fix it. In the play Hamlet, the character’s downfalls are caused by their own weaknesses of character.

Weakness can be brought upon a person in many ways. Polonius’s weakness is thehis inability to control his actions towards other people. Polonius has a controlling personality that ultimately causes his downfall. Polonius’s uncontrollable personality causes him to spy and manipulate the people he cares about. Right from the beginning we observed that Polonius manipulates Ophelia into spying on Hamlet. Polonius demonstrates that he is capable and willing to use his family as pawns, as well as do anything to keep Claudius happy. Polonius’ relationship with Claudius is nothing more than servant to a king. Polonius is used as a servant to retrieve information for Claudius. Since Polonius is used and manipulated by the king Polonius does the same ounto others that he cares about, such as his daughter and son. Ophelia reveals to Polonius about how Hamlet is treating her and Polonius’s first action is “Come, go we to the king. This must be known, which, being kept close, might move more grief to hide than hate to utter love” (2.1.117-119). Polonius’ lack of compassion towards his daughter shows much weakness in his character. Polonius is willing to use Ophelia as a pawn, while he tries to impress the king, than be respectful to his one and only daughter. Polonius reveals to us that his weakness is his uncontrollable actions towards others. These actions consist of hurting people he cares about to impress the king. On top of this, Polonius spies on his only son Laertes while he is in France. Polonius sends out a spy, Reynaldo, to document Laertes actions while in France. Reynaldo is simply going to France to deliver money and notes to Laertes, but Polonius asks, “Before you visit him, to make inquire of his behaviour” (2.1.4-5). Polonius shows us that he cares for his son by sending money to him but Polonius also believe that Laertes is in France for all the wrong reasons. Polonius’s actions reveal to us that he does not truly care for his son Laertes. Polonius actions are the same harsh actions he used with Ophelia, but under different circumstances. As well, Polonius would never have worried about Laetres if it was not to protect his family’s name. Polonius is worried that Laertes may give them a bad family name if he is “gaming, drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling, drabbing...” (2.1.25-27). So far Polonius has been using other people to spy for himself. Polonius’s frantic obsession with being in control becomes so great that he decides to spy on Hamlet and his mother Queen Gertrude with his own eyes. Polonius claims’ he spies only to protect the Queen from Hamlet. Hamlet has gone mad from love but it is clear that Polonius is doing this simply to discover information for the King. He wants to prove himself for his selfish needs. This last act of his cause’s his downfall. If Polonius had realized his selfish needs earlier his last words “O, I am slain” (3.4.24) would never have been said. Polonius’s downfall caused much distress on his children as well it provokes more madness in Hamlet“To be, or not to be, that is the question” (3.1.56) Hamlet speaks these lines while he is in a confused and vulnerable state of mind. Hamlet is the main character in the play Hamlet, however this does not mean Hamlet is perfect in any way. Hamlet’s weakness is his act of madness. Hamlet first reveals this when he is conversing with his mother, Queen Gertrude. The Queen declares Hamlets madness after he claims to have seen the late Kings ghost “Alas, he’s mad.” (3.4.106).These three words show us that Hamlets actions are strange. Hamlet has seen the ghost of his father, but does not know how to prove it to his mother. To her, she thinks that her son has gone mad with insanity. If Gertrude understood that, not only has the late King Hamlet’s ghost really appeared, butand how her marriage to Claudius has also truly devastated Hamlet, multiple things would occur. Hamlet’s madness can be conveyed as grief since his mother married Hamlet’s uncle, who is also her late husband’s brother. However, we know that this is not the case. It is clear that it is nothing more than an act to enrage Claudius. Hamlet’s act of madness is a rebellion against the new King. While Hamlet is acting out in his mad state of mind it gives Claudius reason to send him away to England. “I like him not, nor stands it safe with us to let his madness range. Therefore prepare you. I your commission will forthwith dispatch, And he to England shall along with you.” (3.3.1-4). Hamlet does not understand that his act of madness could lead him to an early death, for Claudius only wants to send him to England so that he may be sent to his grave, while Claudius washes his hands clean of the mess. While Claudius tries to send Hamlet away to England, Hamlet tries to push Ophelia away with his madness, as well as using harsh words. Hamlet shouts; “Get thee to a nunnery. Why, wouldst thou be breeder of sinners?” He is rough on Ophelia and even though it may be an act, his harsh words are unnecessary. The way he treats Ophelia is ridiculous even though he was trying to disguise himself. He uses Ophelia as a pawn just like her father did. Hamlet uses love as the motivation for his madness so that he can continue to fool Claudius and Polonius. While Hamlet is acting mad he disregards both Ophelia’s and Gertrude’s emotions. Hamlet’s downfall is caused by his act of madness that in the end has caused Claudius to send him away, as well as emotionally hurt the two women he cares about most, his mother Queen Gertrude and Ophelia. Weakness can blind a man of his sins towards othersas we have seen through Hamlets actions in the play Hamlet.

To be a coward is a highly recognized weakness. In the play Hamlet, Claudius has shown on multiple occasions that he is cowardly and that he is not fit to wear the crown of Denmark. Claudius first shows that he is a coward when he hears word that the young Fortinbras of Norway wants revenge and may be planning to invade Denmark. Claudius is too cowardly to confront with Fortinbras about this invasion that he has resulted to contacting Fortinbras’ uncle “To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras --- Who, impotent and bedrid, scarcely hears of this his nephew’s purpose” (1.2.28-30). Claudius shows us within the first two scenes in the play that he is a coward. Instead of facing Fortinbras himself he writes a letter to Fortinbras’s uncle. This shows us that Claudius rather have other people deal with his problems instead of dealing with them himself. Claudius not only runs away when there is word that Fortinbras may be invading but he tries to send Hamlet away while he is going through his time of madness. When Claudius realizes that Hamlet may know the real fate of his father, Claudius runs to hide behind Gertrude. Claudius has realized, that Hamlet will do nothing more than insult him with harsh words while he is in the presence of his mother. While Claudius is cowering away from Hamlet, he decides that the best decision is to send Hamlet away to England. To ensure that his plan will work with success, Claudius must give evidence of his madness. Claudius uses and manipulates Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,, two of Hamlets best friends from when he was a scholar. Claudius brings Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to the castle so he can inform them of Hamlets state of mind. As well, Caudius gives them instructions such as: “To draw him on to pleasures and to gather, so much as from occasion you may glean, Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus that, open’d, lies within our remedy” (2.2.15-18) Claudius once again uses others as pawn while he cowards away. Claudius is a coward, but he is also power hungry and selfish. The worst of Claudius’s many weaknesses is his selfishness. Claudius is so selfish and power hungry that he is willing to kill his own brother just so he may take the thrown and become king of Denmark. Even while Claudius killed his brother, he carried out the deed in the most cowardly way. Claudius crept upon the late Kings sleeping body and poured poison into the King’s ear. The late king’s ghost describes Claudius cowardliness with these words “Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole with juice of cursed hebenon in a vial, and in the porches of my ears did pour” (1.5.61-63) Claudius has shown us that he cowards behind others time and time again. Claudius does not have the courage to face his brother in a proper duel for the crown. Furthermore, Claudius doesn’t give his brother the pleasure of seeing his murder, for he was asleep while Claudius poured the poison in his ear. Claudius’ weaknesses caused his downfall for, when it became news that Claudius was the reason for many deaths, treason was said to be committed and Hamlet killed him with no regret.

Hamlet, Claudius and Polonius’s downfalls are all caused by their own weaknesses which has ended in death and regret within the play Hamlet. Polonius’s weakness is that he is not able to control his actions which in the end, causes his downfall, for he is killed by Hamlet when he was caught spying on Queen Gertrude and Hamlet. Hamlets downfall is caused by his act of madness that caused more pain to others than Hamlet wished for. Hamlet pushes away the ones he loves most, his mother Gertrude and his love Ophelia. Claudius suffered the worst of all weaknesses, which happens to be the weakness of being a coward as well as being selfish and power hungry. Claudius suffers his own demise and brings the entire court with him as he falls to his death. The decisions made by Polonius, Hamlet and Claudius caused their own downfall and they must continue to live with the affects that it has caused on themselves as well as others.

Work CitedShakespeare, William. Hamlet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992

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