Top-Rated Free Essay

Literary Merit Essay Hamlet

Good Essays
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 Polonius’ and Ophelia’s deaths, as well as Prince Fortinbras avenging his father’s death. A thematic depth is composed as these three separate scenarios are woven together, calling the value and necessity of revenge into question. Another prominent theme in Hamlet is death. From the appearance of the dead King Hamlet’s ghost in the opening scene to the carnage of the final scene, the knowledge of life and the mystery of death are examined. Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy is a perfect illustration as he ponders over the idea of suicide. Because Shakespeare is able to bring up discussion and call certain ideas into question with such themes, his works are thematically deeper, making them of literary merit.
Despite having been composed over four hundred years ago, William Shakespeare’s plays have stood the test of time and have proven valuable in many academic fields, other than English. The cause of this is Shakespeare’s ability to provide insight into the human condition, as well as his ability to include universal themes in his plays, so as to gain more appeal. Shakespeare’s plays explore ideas that are prevalent in the human condition, such as vengeance, romance, and jealousy, which creates universal appeal and paves the way for the analysis of the human condition in the sub-fields of humanities: psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc. In the case of Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis, his The Interpretation of Dreams, explores the foundation of Hamlet on the Oedipus Tyrannus (Oedipus Rex). Freud explains that Hamlet’s hesitation at avenging his uncle is due to the repression of his subconscious desires. Another example of this cross-curricular analysis of Shakespeare’s works can be seen in Laura Bohannan’s essay, “Shakespeare in the Bush,” in which Bohannan attempts to tell the story of Hamlet to a group of Nigerian villagers. This essay, along with Hamlet is used by students of both anthropology and linguistics as a way of understanding the effects of perspective on one’s perception and expectations. Therefore, because Shakespeare’s works have stood the test of time, and continue to be valued in many academic fields, his works are of literary merit.
Ultimately, William Shakespeare’s works, specifically Hamlet, have all demonstrated their literary merit because of their complexity and thematic depth, along with their value and ability to stand the test of time.

Works Cited
Bohannan, Laura. Shakespeare in the Bush. Print.

Freud, Sigmund, A. A. Brill, Daniel T. O 'Hara, and Gina Masucci MacKenzie. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince Of Denmark. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York, NY, USA: Washington Square, 1992. Print.

Cited: Bohannan, Laura. Shakespeare in the Bush. Print. Freud, Sigmund, A. A. Brill, Daniel T. O 'Hara, and Gina Masucci MacKenzie. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005. Print. Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince Of Denmark. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York, NY, USA: Washington Square, 1992. Print.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Literary Merit

    • 335 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Hawthorne’s mother, Elizabeth Hathorne, dies. Hawthorne falls into a deep depression but continues to write The Scarlet Letter and publishes it in February 1850. On May 19, 1864 Nathaniel Hawthorne dies in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Novels of Literary Merit often teach a life lesson. The Scarlet Letter reveals that revenge is a sin that can transform a human into an evil being. Hawthorne writes, “With the common ministers, he imagined himself… by the poisonous drug of revenge” (169). Roger Chillingworth…

    • 335 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    because of its violent plot and harsh language, one who understands it recognizes that these characteristics are only used to fit the time period, which is during the Great Depression. Undeniably, Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, presents literary merit and should remain in the high school curriculum. Admittedly, the novel shows the mistreatment of minorities; however, the characters that Steinbeck has created exhibit the value of friendship. Particularly, the main characters, George Milton…

    • 983 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Shawn McDorman Mrs. McGill AP Lit and Comp October 24, 2008 Choose a character from a novel or play of recognized literary merit and write an essay in which you (a) briefly describe the standards of the fictional society in which the character exists and (b) show how the character is affected by and responds to those standards. In your essay do not merely summarize the plot. Oedipal society is a very religious civilization. The plebes religiously work their fields, pray to the gods to help their…

    • 1072 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Hamlet Literary Devices

    • 207 Words
    • 1 Page

    In William Shakespeare's Hamlet he writes with many metaphores, double entendres and other literary devices. There are many different meaning and understanding of characters, meaning they are always deeper than they seem. His writing always includes connections in themes, motifs and imagery. The play is really dark, it has many disturbing scenes, it has mainly to do with death, betrayal and greed. The characters of the play help show how dark the play is from them being greedy, sad, depressed and…

    • 207 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Hamlet Literary Analysis

    • 451 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Shane Kraynik Lt. Short AP Literature 8 April 2014 Hamlet Literary Analysis In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet’s inner struggle to exact revenge on Claudius or not is his demise. His indecisiveness creates a path of destruction that takes many lives. Hamlet’s inner struggle is highlighted by his doubting of the ghost’s commands, his refusal to kill the king while during prayer (or attempted prayer), and his inability to kill Claudius bringing the ghost back a second time. Hamlet’s struggle…

    • 451 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Hamlet Literary Analysis

    • 855 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Hamlet Literary Analysis Carl Jung is an expert in freudian theory but with a strong sense of the unconscious and its habit of revealing itself in symbolic form. His personality theory “The persona” is an archetype, or an organized principle based on things we see or do. Hamlet is an example of a person who is doing whatever it takes to accomplish what he thinks is right. Claudius gives a "false impression" that he uses to manipulate people's opinions towards Hamlet. Through the physiological lens…

    • 855 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Literary Merit. While the process of establishing literary merit is difficult, it is the only method currently available to separate work that has significant cultural value from work that is ephemeral and essentially worthless. A work is said to have literary merit if it is a work of quality, this is if it has some aesthetic value or some sort of philosophy concerning beauty and art. Literature must provide a reader with historical information and relevance to ones life while using interesting…

    • 320 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Hamlet Literary Theories

    • 1555 Words
    • 7 Pages

    sex. Most of the time, the child ends up getting into relationships with people that are reminiscent of their parent of the opposite sex. In Hamlet, the main character, Hamlet, seems to be following this Freudian theory. When Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, remarries after Hamlet’s father’s death, Hamlet is enraged and hates his stepfather. It seems as though Hamlet does not want anyone to love his mother because he wants to love her the most. He also does not want his mother to give any attention to his…

    • 1555 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Hamlet Literary Analysis

    • 869 Words
    • 3 Pages

    The Wilting Flowers: The Loss of Innocence in Shakespeare’s Hamlet Innocence and purity wither away in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as the protagonist strives for his revenge, yet wrestles with his past morals and current confusion. However, it is not Hamlet’s angst-ridden struggle that is best examined, but rather the slow downward spiral of the female characters, Hamlet’s mother and his love interest, who are somewhat neglected in the plot. Queen Gertrude and young Ophelia’s loss of female…

    • 869 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    hamlet literary analysis

    • 271 Words
    • 2 Pages

    In “Hamlet”, the tragedy by William Shakespeare, has Hamlet truly gone insane? Or is it all an act? The prince of Denmark is an expert at acting out roles and making people falsely believe him. The roles he plays are ones in which he fakes madness to accomplish his goals. Hamlet is not just putting on an antic disposition; Hamlet gradually slips into madness the longer he puts on his antic disposition. (II.ii.189-195) In this text, Hamlet is giving an example of how he is undergoing his antic disposition;…

    • 271 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays