Themes in Hamlet
Impossibility of Certainty and Delay of Action
Hamlet undoubtedly takes a long time to avenge his father’s murder, and his hesitation is his tragic flaw. He spends a great deal of effort thinking and analyzing and far less acting on his dead father’s request for revenge. Hamlet’s delay of action is a direct result of his attempts to obtain more certain knowledge about what he needs to do as well as the circumstances of his father’s death. However, had he not taken so long, the play would not have been – indeed, it relies upon Hamlet’s hesitation.
There are at least three instances of characters seeking revenge in the play. Young Fortinbras seeks revenge against Denmark because Old King Hamlet killed his father and took his father’s lands. Hamlet wants revenge against Claudius for his own father’s murder. Laertes wants revenge against Hamlet for killing his father, Polonius.
The characters in the play demonstrate several acts of deception. King Claudius hides the fact that he murdered his brother, King Hamlet. Hamlet conceals his knowledge of the murder and he also conceals his sanity. In fact, a lot of the play depends on Hamlet’s “antic disposition.” Polonius hides his loyalty to King Claudius and spies on Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pretend to be loyal to Hamlet, but are actually in liege with King Claudius. Near the end of the play, Gertrude hides her knowledge of Hamlet’s antic disposition.
Theater vs. Life
This play is about acting: Hamlet acts insane, Claudius pretends to be a legitimate and sincere king, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern portray themselves as loyal friends to Hamlet. The turning point in the play relies upon the play-within-a-play. There is a question of the idea of appearance vs. reality and whether people are being honest or performing for some other benefit.
The Mystery of Death
The idea of death is closely tied to the motifs of spirituality, truth, and uncertainty as...
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