top-rated free essay

Hamlet

By qetuowryip Mar 31, 2013 964 Words
Shakespeare’s Hamlet has and intricate plot formed by the characters and themes throughout it. One major idea is Hamlet’s changing sanity, which fluctuates through the play as a performance and as a true madness. The other main theme which develops the play is the act of vengeance, with the delay and doubt that accompanies it. These themes, along with dramatic devices and the characters in the plot, add to the textual integrity of the play.

There is a duality to the character of Hamlet, as his madness changes from a performance to true insanity throughout the play. Initially, in Act 1 Scene 5, Hamlet is coerced by the ghost and decides that he will “put an antic disposition on”. This is the main use of dramatic irony in the play, as the audience knows Hamlet’s madness is performed. However as the play develops and changes, so too does Hamlet’s madness. Act 3 Scene 4 is the main turning point for Hamlet’s madness. The scene begins with a confrontation between Gertrude and Hamlet. Gertrude: “Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended”

Hamlet: “Mother, you have my father much offended”
The use of stichomythia in this conversation creates a sense of violence between the characters. It also confirms to the audience that Hamlet’s madness is still a performance, because he can respond quickly and with wit. When this is juxtaposed with Ophelia’s legitimate insanity, it becomes clear that Hamlet is still performing. Ophelia speaks cryptically in Act 4, using metaphors and imagery of nature. Her use of rhyme and poetry also adds to the audiences understanding of true madness.

Hamlet’s performance turns to reality directly after he murders Polonius in cold-blood. If Hamlet were sane he would have shown an emotional reaction. However he reveals nothing, - “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell”. The powerful and hurtful words used in this sentence clearly show that his performed madness has amplified to a true insanity. From this point until the final scenes of the play, the character of Hamlet has changed. He begins to use more metaphors, speaking cryptically to other characters. When the ghost appears to Hamlet later in the scene, only Hamlet can see him. Gertrude is worried about Hamlet as he “bends [his] eye on vacancy”. For the ghost to be real, Gertrude must be able to see him - since in the beginning of the play the watchmen and Horatio can see the ghost. This is a further use of dramatic irony, as only the audience knows that the ghost can be seen by other characters. This shows that the ghost is now a figure of Hamlet’s imagination and he has lost control of his mind.

As Hamlet is in exile he abruptly decides to send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their death in England. He later tells Horatio that they were “not near [his] conscience”. This quote demonstrates how Hamlet has lost all sense of emotional attachment and has no moral responsibility towards his old friends. Just as the audience fears Hamlet is lost control entirely, he comes back to reality when he learns of Ophelia’s death in Act 5 Scene 1. “I loved Ophelia, forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum” Hamlet’s choice of imagery, “forty thousand brothers”, shows the audience and other characters in the play the intensity of his love towards Ophelia. This is the turning point, yet again, for his madness. Once he realises that his true love is gone forever he snaps out of his mad trance and comes to terms with what is currently happening. This is proven by his apology to Laertes in the following scene, “Give me your pardon sir…I here proclaim was madness”. He speaks in third person when referring to his previous actions, demonstrating that he was not in control.

The idea of revenge is a large component of the plays overall plot. As the play begins the ghost acts as a catalyst and coerces Hamlet into wanting to take revenge for his father’s “foul and most unnatural murder”. It is hard for Hamlet to commit to action because of his philosophical nature. He tends to ponder on issues that are less relevant to the things happening around him. The main scene that demonstrates Hamlet’s inaction is Act 3 Scene 3. Claudius is praying and Hamlet’s trait as a philosophiser prevents him from taking revenge. Instead he watches Claudius while he contemplates mortality and life after death, again. Further into the play, Act 4 Scene 4, Hamlet cannot understand why “twenty thousand men” can fight for an “eggshell” of land while he does nothing. He proclaims “Why what an ass am I!” since his father was “kill’d”, his mother “stain’d” and all he does is philosophise.

The other revenge plot in the play is Laertes avenging his father, Polonius. Laertes is manipulated by Claudius to fight Hamlet with the poisoned sword. As Laertes dies, he reveals his true emotions, “Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee”, demonstrating that he would not have acted against Hamlet if it wasn’t for Claudius’s pressure.

A major delay in the play, is Hamlet’s use of the “mouse-trap”. Hamlet chooses to doubt the ghost rather than taking action against Claudius. He uses the play-within-a-play as a means to “catch the king” and thus prove that the ghost was real, not “be the devil”. The use of this form of metatheatre creates a “chameleon” effect, where only the audience and Hamlet know the true use of this entertainment.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is shaped and defined by the major themes of madness, revenge and doubt within it. Along with these themes, his use of dramatic techniques and character interactions are what makes the play so famous.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • hamlet

    ...A Critical Analysis on Hamlet In one of the greatest plays, Hamlet, William Shakespeare introduces a tragic story of the royal family of Denmark, which contains elements of politics, loyalty, heroism, friendship, and love. Allan Massie, a writer for The spectator, argues that Prince Hamlet is “an indecisive and self-questioning Romantic i...

    Read More
  • Hamlet - Characters: Hamlet Laertes and Fortinbras

    ...Hamlet, Fortinbras and Leartes are all very different people with different lives, but as these men interact in the play we learn that there are many circumstances surrounding them that mysteriously connect them. All three of these characters had some reason to avenge some circumstance in their life, but they all had a very different way of conq...

    Read More
  • hamlet

    ...King Hamlet? At the end of the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Fortinbras enter the scene with a bunch of dead bodies and one of them is Hamlet. Fortinbras claims that Hamlet would have been a great king, but the question is why would Fortinbras make a claim to this statement? There cannot be a strong country without a strong leade...

    Read More
  • Deception in Hamlet

    ...DECEPTION IN HAMLET One must always be weary of the truth because it is quite often manipulated to serve the needs of any person who requires that the truth be on their side. Quite often, the only way to discern the truth from the fiction is by way of a deceptive act, because an act of deception always exposes both its self and the truth to b...

    Read More
  • Is Hamlet a Hero

    ...Hamlet Hero Paper I. My concept of a hero Hamlet, as one of the most eminent plays in history, possesses an intricate conflict between the protagonists and antagonists. Nonetheless, there is confusion about who the protagonists and the antagonists are, and how heroes should be defined in this well-known play. Heroes, for a long time in my ...

    Read More
  • Hamlet

    ... Hamlet The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragic play written by the famous English playwright William Shakespeare, which portrays how young Prince Hamlet pursues revenge on his uncle for heartless murdering of his father and receiving succession to the throne by marrying his recent...

    Read More
  • Religion in Hamlet

    ...The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare is one of the most famous and influential tragedies of all time. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet—and most of his other tragedies—at the beginning of his career in the early 1600s (Shakespeare’s Career). The tragedy genre was developed long before Shakespeare. A central idea of the tr...

    Read More
  • Hamlet Allegory on War

    ...Hamlet: An Allegory of War in Our Time Deceit is the key device used in politics and everyday life to acquire power, status, success, and in many instances, revenge. Deceit and revenge are often repeated in Shakespeare’s Hamlet through many of Hamlet’s actions and of those of the play. Hamlet’s hesitation in killing Claudius, and Hamlet...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.