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Hamlet Essays

William Shakespeare

❶In his soliloquys he upbraids himself for his failure to act as well as for his propensity for words.

Hamlet's Delay

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Nevertheless, neither of these pat answers is sufficient to overcome our sense that Hamlet wavers in carrying out the commission laid upon him by the Ghost. Not only does his excuse for not killing the king while he is at prayer ring hollow, Claudius's death in Act V is not the outcome of a truly deliberate act, but a seemingly chance occurrence brought about by circumstances that Hamlet's enemies have contrived.

Our sense that Hamlet delays action is reinforced by his demeanor and, above all, by his own words. When we first see the Prince on stage, dressed in black and self-exiled to the periphery of the court, he assumes the role of a critical observer making disparaging asides about Claudius and his consort. After learning of his uncle's crime, Hamlet comes into court in Act II, scene ii reading a book.

The association of Hamlet with "mere words" is strengthened by his penchant for ingenious but pointless verbal banter and highlighted by the inordinate number of soliloquies assigned to him by the playwright. Perhaps one of the most perplexing problems a modern audience may have with Shakespeare's Hamlet is the obvious question: The obvious but simple answer is that if he did not take his time, we would have 'Hamlet: The Short Story' instead of 'Hamlet: There are, however, valid reasons for Hamlet's slow behaviour.

Among them are his public role in the monarchy of Denmark, his education, and the environment of Elsinore. Hamlet is first and foremost the Prince of Denmark. There are no brothers or sisters, and he is the popular, well-liked son of an equally popular and well-liked King and Queen. Not unlike the royal families of today, the royals of Elsinore have two lives—a public one and a private one, both of which are very much interlinked. Their lives as a whole are really not their own, yet their privacy is apparently a sacrifice they are willing to make to render service to Denmark.

Hamlet's father, King Hamlet, had done much to ensure that Denmark was well protected. His untimely death was marked by intense mourning at the court, as well it should have been for a man of his position. However, Gertrude's marriage to Claudius before a month of mourning had passed could be interpreted as a breach of protocol.

This is why in the opening scenes, Claudius goes to such lengths to calm and soothe the concerns of the court. When Hamlet returns to the court from school in Wittenburg, Germany, it is impossible that he can escape what awaits him. The tenants of this castle include the King's minister, Polonius, and his family, Laertes and Ophelia, as well as a coterie of government officials Cornelius and Voltemand , guards Marcellus and Bernardo and their companies , and courtiers Osric, for example.

In this environment, to have even a small amount of privacy is almost impossible since there is always someone somewhere. Such a transgression as the apparently unprovoked murder of a royal minister would open all sorts of questions for Claudius that he may be able to answer.

Even Hamlet's private life is of public concern, especially when it comes to his selection of a wife. Laertes tells Ophelia in no uncertain terms that her relationship with Hamlet is fruitless:. Perhaps he loves you now, And no soil nor cautel doth besmirch The virtue of his will; but you must fear, His greatness being weighed, his will is not his own. For he himself is subject to his birth. He may not, as unvalued persons do, Carve for himself, for on his choice depends The safety and health of this whole state, And therefore must his choice be circumscribed Unto the voice and yielding of that body Whereof he is the head.

The selection of a future queen is an issue at the very core of a monarchy's survival. On the political side, it was common practice to cement peace treaties with a marriage between two ruling houses. A wife's main function as queen was to produce a male heir for the King. In a kingdom like Denmark, which had an elected monarchy, it was doubly important that a future king be suitably matched for the peace and stability of the country.

Gertrude has produced Hamlet; however, the possibility of a direct heir for Claudius is remote, if not impossible, as Hamlet says: The pressure on Hamlet to continue the line and Claudius' desire to keep the Prince off the throne come into direct conflict. Ophelia, as the daughter of a minister, cannot bring either wealth or security to a marriage with Hamlet.

Although Hamlet's profession of love at her funeral is moving and sincere, it is unlikely that they would have been allowed to marry Since the first staging of Hamlet , the very name of Ophelia has become nearly synonymous with that form of female madness that was once termed "melancholia" and marked by a nostalgic state of depression, a dissociation from reality, and a self-destructive drive. Not only does Shakespeare's Ophelia display all of these symptoms, the change that we see in her is shocking.

Prior to her re-appearance as a mad woman in Act IV, scene v, Ophelia is first presented in Act I, scene iii in a carefully balanced exchange with her brother, Laertes. She then proves herself to be a sensible daughter to Polonius, agreeing to end her budding romance with Prince Hamlet. These are powerful traumatic blows, and the gist of mad Ophelia's ditties and ramblings about lost love and death underscores their mutual confusion in her distracted mind.

But Shakespeare did not create the character of Ophelia to serve as a clinical case study in female dementia; there is more to her madness than lost love and a father's death can explain.

Throughout the play, Shakespeare reminds us that Ophelia and Hamlet were lovers before its opening act. The fact of Hamlet's one-time affection for Ophelia is ironically affirmed in the rejection scene that begins Act III.

And, finally, at her burying ground, as he grapples with Laertes, Hamlet declares, "I lov'd Ophelia. But Shakespeare never shows us the two as lovers and the only direct reflection of their romance appears in a love letter poem written by Hamlet in which he entreats Ophelia to "never doubt I love you" II, ii.

The words of this piece and the sentiment it conveys, however, are oddly trite and banal, especially in light of the verbal facility that a deep Hamlet has already disclosed in Act I. Moreover, in his first soliloquy I, ii , Hamlet proclaims "Frailty, thy name is woman!

The woman that Hamlet has in mind is, of course, his mother Gertrude, and her "frailty" lies in her hasty widow's marriage to her husband's brother.

But Hamlet couches this oath in generic terms and makes no exclusion of Ophelia, for whom the word "frailty" proves a far more accurate descriptor. All of this casts some doubt about the strength of Hamlet's love for Ophelia and the significance of his rejection of her as a cause of her insanity. This suggests that lost love is not the event that triggers Ophelia's madness, but that it is the death of her beloved father, Polonius, which pushes her beyond the brink.

Laertes finds this to be the case IV, v. Yet at the same time, Ophelia's songs and her dissociated statements abound with lewd puns that are strongly reminiscent of Hamlet's cruel, sexual wordplay in Act III, scene i. Indeed, when Laertes says that his sister's madness is the result of her love for Polonius, not only does this ring in an association with Hamlet, At the conclusion of Hamlet , as the Prince, Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude all lie dead, an ambassador from England arrives on the scene with the blunt report that "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead" V, ii.

The inclusion of this news seems like deliberate overkill on Shakespeare's part, for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are relatively minor characters and we have already been led to surmise from Hamlet's report to Horatio that his duplicitous school chums have been sent to their death as an artifact of the Prince's ruse.

The phrase itself would serve as the title of modern playwright Tom Stoppard's black comedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead , in which the two characters are resurrected as With the coming of Freudian theory in the first half of this century and the subsequent emergence of psychoanalytically-oriented literary criticism in the s, the question of Hamlet's underlying sanity has become a major issue in the interpretation of Hamlet. While related concern with the Prince's inability to take action had already directed scholarly attention toward the uncertainty of Hamlet's mental state, modern psychological views of the play have challenged his sanity at a deeper, sub-conscious level, typically citing self-destructive and, most pointedly, sexual drives to explain his behavior, his words, and the mental processes beneath them.

In a play with undertones of incest and heavy doses of sexual word-play, Hamlet is not the only Shakespeare play to feature the appearance of an apparition or ghost. But none of these effigies has the presence or the dramatic function that Shakespeare imparts to the ghost of Hamlet's father.

Hamlet not only participates in his life, but astutely observes it as well. He recognizes the decay of the Danish society represented by his Uncle Claudius , but also understands that he can blame no social ills on just one person. He remains aware of the ironies that constitute human endeavor, and he savors them. Though he says, "Man delights not me," the contradictions that characterize us all intrigue him. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!

As astutely as he observes the world around him, Hamlet also keenly critiques himself. In his soliloquys he upbraids himself for his failure to act as well as for his propensity for words. Hamlet is infuriatingly adept at twisting and manipulating words. He confuses his so-called friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern — whom he trusts as he "would adders fang'd" — with his dissertations on ambition, turning their observations around so that they seem to admire beggars more than their King.

And he leads them on a merry chase in search of Polonius ' body. He openly mocks the dottering Polonius with his word plays, which elude the old man's understanding. He continually spars with Claudius, who recognizes the danger of Hamlet's wit but is never smart enough to defend himself against it. Words are Hamlet's constant companions, his weapons, and his defenses.

In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play that was later adapted into a film, playwright and screenplaywright Tom Stoppard imagines the various wordplays in Hamlet as games.

In one scene, his characters play a set of tennis where words serve as balls and rackets. Hamlet is certainly the Pete Sampras of wordplay. Removing book from your Reading List will also remove any bookmarked pages associated with this title. Are you sure you want to remove bookConfirmation and any corresponding bookmarks? Home Literature Notes Hamlet Hamlet. Scene 1 Act I: Scene 2 Act I: Scene 3 Act I: Scene 4 Act I: Scene 5 Act II: Scene 1 Act II: Scene 2 Act III: Scene 1 Act III:


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Hamlet is the main character and protagonist in the play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare. Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. He is the son of Queen Gertrude and King Hamlet, who was murdered by his uncle Claudius. Hamlet is a very unique individual and handles many situations in unusual ways.

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The character Hamlet from Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet explores these existential questions, seeking truth and understanding as he tries to come to grips with his father's death. In the end, Hamlet proves to be an exceedingly existential character.

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Get free homework help on William Shakespeare's Hamlet: play summary, scene summary and analysis and original text, quotes, essays, character analysis, and filmography courtesy of CliffsNotes. William Shakespeare's Hamlet follows the young prince Hamlet home to Denmark to attend his father's funeral. Hamlet is shocked to find his mother already remarried to his Uncle Claudius, the dead king's. Hamlet is a complex character with multiple character traits that lead him through his many confusing and often conflicting actions throughout the play. In this way, Hamlet is using his power of analysis, and therefore cannot be truly crazy. Hamlet is an extremely philosophical and contemplative character. /5(6).

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An Analysis of the Characters in Hamlet Essay Words | 7 Pages. An Analysis of the Characters in Hamlet Hamlet by William Shakespeare has been considered by many critics as one of the best plays in English literature. - Analysis of the Character Hamlet in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark First performed in , Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark is probably the best known of William Shakespeare's works, and may well be the most famous English language play ever written.