Hamlet 17 Essay, Research Paper
1. As the play opens, Hamlet is troubled by the turn of events following his father’s death. It seems (and later becomes apparent), that Hamlet’s upset is caused more by the remarriage of his mother and her love and devotion towards Claudius so soon after King Hamlet’s death, than by simple mourning of his fathers passing. This is shown in lines 147-162 “Why she would hang on him / As if increase of appetite had grown / By what it fed on. And yet, within a month / (Let me not think on’t; frailty, thy name is woman!) She married, O, most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” [Act I, Scene II, Ll.147-162]
2. Hamlet seems melancholic and satirical at the beginning of the play. When Hamlet appears in Act I, Scene II, his first words are “A little more than kin and less than kind.” [Act I, Scene II, L. 67] in response to Claudius addressing him as both his nephew and son. The King (Claudius) then asks Hamlet “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” [Act I, Scene II, L. 68] and Hamlet puns in response once again, saying “Not so my lord; I am too much in the sun.” [Act I, Scene II, L. 69]. In both of these quotes (L. 67 & 69) Hamlet shows a depressed detachment and an obvious satirical mood. In lines 79-89 of the same scene, Hamlet opens up a little more to his mother after she asks him why it is that he “seems” so distressed/depressed by his father death, explaining to him “All that lives must die.” [Act I, Scene II, L. 74]. In response to his mothers question Hamlet explains that he does not act his depression, and he is still truly grieving, saying “I have that within which passes show, / These but the trappings and the suits of woe.” [Act I, Scene II, Ll. 88-89]. Then, near the end of the scene, Hamlet delivers a soliloquy – giving the most vivid picture of his mood in the beginning of the play. In the soliloquy, Hamlet laments his religion’s “canon ‘gainst self-slaughter” [Act I, Scene II, L. 136] and curses the world and his mother (for her marriage to Claudius) as well, exposing his deep depression in full.
3. In Act I, Scene II, Claudius makes his first appearance. The impression of Claudius I received from this scene was one of a very “kingly” character. Claudius’ opening speech addressing the royal court was very well controlled and evenly balanced (in my estimation) – and these qualities I assumed would be reflected in the King’s person as well. Then, the swift synopsis and solution delivered by Claudius regarding the situation in Norway [Act I, Scene II, Ll. 17-38] drew Claudius out to also be a good, efficient statesman.
4. Polonius is anxious to a (in the end, fatal) fault, proud – almost delusional, and most definitely over-presumptuous. Polonius probably displays his anxiety best through what seems to be his favorite past time; spying. In Act II, Scene I, Polonius meets with Reynaldo and tutors him on the finer points of such inquiring espionage, acting like a master artesian divulging creative secrets to his apprentice; “See you now / Your bait of falsehood take this carp of truth; / And thus do we of wisdom and of reach, / With windlasses and with assays of bias, / By indirections find directions out.” [Act II, Scene I, Ll. 69-73]. Again and again, Polonius also shows his proud-presumptuousness in his actions. In the play, Polonius ironically pre-judges Hamlet a number of times (not many people can pull that off). First Polonius pre-judges Hamlets intentions toward Ophelia, then his “madness”, and also the nature of this supposed madness (love for Ophelia), saying (after jumping to a conclusion regarding Hamlet and finding himself to be wrong just recently) “If he love her not, / And be not from his reason fall’n thereon, / Let me be no assistant for a state, / But keep a farm and carters.” [Act II, Scene II, Ll. 178-181].
5. I am going to refute the basis of this question and argue instead that Gertrude is ruled by those people around her in her everyday life. I do not believe that Gertrude can be ruled by her emotions because she lacks the (moral) independence to be happy or sad as a result of situations surrounding her. Throughout the play this theory is supported, Hamlet is shocked and cannot understand how the Gertrude he remembered – who lusted to be one with his father, could have married and apparently fallen deeply in love with Claudius so 1-2 months after the Kings death. The Kings death was unexpected and there is no way anyone should be able to recover that quickly, in Gertrude case it is a laughable idea (if she had her own emotional center)(hence Hamlets confusion and anger), yet Gertrude cannot bear any pain or conflict in her world and thus falls into whatever force (person or idea) that will sweep her off her feet!
6. Polonius and Laertes are worried about Hamlet’s interest in Ophelia because they question Hamlets intentions and Ophelia’s judgement. The first such display of this concern was in Act I, Scene III, when Laertes met with his sister Ophelia to say goodbye before he leaves Denmark to return to France. Laertes gives Ophelia and long talk on how she must handle herself and her relationship with Hamlet, and thus she should be careful not to give up her “chaste treasure”, saying “Perhaps he loves you now but you must fear, / His greatness weighed his will is not his own,”[Act I, Scene III, Ll. 17-20] and “If he says he love you weigh what loss you honor may sustain to his unmastered importunity The chariest maid is prodigal enough / If she unmask her beauty to the moon Keep you in the rear of your affection” [Act I, Scene III, Ll. 27-38]
Polonius then enters and says goodbye to Laertes, and after Laertes is gone Polonius gives Ophelis his warnings about Hamlet, “Think yourself a baby / That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,” [Act I, Scene III, Ll. 114-115]
7. The ghost tells Hamlet that he is the spirit of his father-murdered by Claudius for the king’s throne and wife, saying “The serpent that did sting thy fathers life / Now wears his crown” [Act I, Scene V, Ll. 46-47]. The ghost then commands Hamlet to “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”[Act I, Scene V, L. 31] and leaves, bidding “Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember me.” [Act I, Scene V, L. 98].
8. In all honesty, Hamlets reaction immediately following the ghost’s revelation led me to believe he was going to turn around and bolt back to the castle, killing Claudius in his sleep (or something to that effect). The revelation preceding was truly quite powerful and Hamlet seemed not only shocked and angry, but also bent with (hell-forged!) resolution upon vengeance; “I’ll wipe away all trivial, fond records, / All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, / That youth and observation copied there, / And thy commandment alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain, / Unmixed with baser matter.” [Act I, Scene V, Ll. 106-111]. In the end of the same scene though, Hamlet seemed to have left his burning state of mind somewhat, already cursing his fortune to ever hear the ghost’s tale “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right!” [Act I, Scene V, Ll. 210-211].
9. It becomes clear in Act II, Scene II, that Hamlet doubts the truth of the ghost’s story. In this scene Hamlet finally forms a plot, not to execute his revenge, but to test the ghost’s story and find out if Claudius is really guilty of any crime at all. Hamlet does this because he believes the ghost he saw was possibly not the spirit of his dead father, but the devil torturing him, saying “The spirit I have seen / May be a devil, and the devil hath power / T’assume a pleasing shape” [Act II, Scene II, Ll. 627-629].
10. It is my belief that while Hamlet acted mad throughout much of the play, he was simply feigning his madness with “antic disposition”. Since the beginning of the story it seems to be clear that Hamlet is of perfectly sound mind, though his father’s death and the visit from his ghost confused and frustrated him deeply. At the end of Act I, Scene V, just after the ghost left, Hamlet makes it clear that he was going to “bear himself” “strange or odd” [Act I, Scene V, L. 90] and obviously, things like insanity cannot be planned. Throughout the play there were numerous examples which prove Hamlet’s continuing sanity-one of which being that his “madness” was never itself a continuing thing (only presented itself at certain times and in the presence of certain characters). Hamlet also mentioned in asides and conversations to others that he was fine and “but mad north-north-west. When the / wind is southernly, I know a hawk from a handsaw” [Act II, Scene II, Ll. 402-403].
11. Hamlet planned to expose Claudius’ guilt by having the theatre-players put on a show (The Murder of Gonzago) resembling the tale of King Hamlet’s murder as was told by the ghost. Hamlet’s hope was that it Claudius was guilty he would give some sign of it while watching the show, saying “Hum, I have heard / That guilty creatures sitting at a play / Have, by the very cunning of the scene / Been struck so to the soul that presently / They have proclaimed their malefactions / For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak / With most miraculous organ.” [Act II, Scene II, Ll. 617-623]. Hamlet is moved to try this plan because he fears the ghost he saw may have been the devil in disguise, lying to torture him [Act II, Scene II, Ll. 627-632]
12. After the theatre-players performance, in Act II, Scene IV, Hamlet goes to his mothers chamber, where he was told by Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that the queen wished to speak with him, once there, Hamlet planned to “speak daggers to her” [Act III, Scene II, L. 429]. When Hamlet finally did reach his mother, he did just as he said he would, transforming each worried question she asked into references toward the dead King Hamlet. The Queen reacted to Hamlet’s words/accusations with surprise and fear, with each line he spoke, her distress increased, finally saying “O Hamlet, speak no more! / Thou turn’st my eyes into my very soul, / And there I see such black and grained spots / As will not leave their tinct.” [Act III, Scene IV, Ll. 99-102].
13. In Act IV, Scene VII, Claudius craftily molds Laertes into a weapon to be used against Hamlet while they discuss the death of Polonius. Claudius slowly works his way past any doubts Laertes may have had about him by pretending to share in mourning and sadness, saying “You must put me in your heart for friend,” [Act IV, Scene VII, L. 2]. Claudius then inconspicuously took the reins of the conversation, testing Laertes loyalty to his father-”Laertes, was your father dear to you? / Or are you like the painting of a sorrow, / A face without a heart?” [Act IV, Scene VII, Ll. 122-124], to make him defensive/less aggressive while Claudius steered the conversation to a plot to murder Hamlet.
14. If stood next to Laertes as a “vengeful son”, Hamlet would perhaps be more accurately described as simply a frustrated son. When looking throughout the play, many heated, vengeance-thirsty quotes can be found in the name of either of the two characters, yet as actions are recognized as more powerful than words, Laertes is surely a more “vengeful son”. Hamlet is unsuccessful in planning and executing any form of revenge throughout the play (until, of course, the end), but when Laertes heard of his fathers death, he immediately left France to return to Denmark. When Laertes found out (was convinced) that Claudius was innocent and the murderer was Hamlet, he sat down with the King and formed an intricate plan to kill the Prince (once again, acting immediately). Laertes then duels with Hamlet and it is only in this situation (where Hamlet has no chance to think things out) that Hamlet is finally able to kill Claudius.
15. In Act IV, Scene VII, Claudius and Laertes met, and together (with Claudius pulling many strings) the two devised a plan to kill Hamlet. Claudius and Laertes decided that the best way to kill the Prince would be in a fencing duel in which “Even his mother shall uncharge the practice / And call it accident” [Act IV, Scene VII, L. 75]. In this duel, Laertes was to have a sharp foil with a poisoned tip which Hamlet would not bother to check for-due to his noble mind, “He being remiss, / Most generous, and free from all contriving, / Will not peruse the foils,” [Act IV, Scene VII, Ll. 153-155]. Claudius also planned to poison Hamlet’s drink as a precaution, in case the first plan somehow failed [Act IV, Scene VII, Ll. 181-185].
16. In Act V, Scene I, Hamlet (with Horatio at his side) meditates on earthly position, power, and wealth, at Ophelia’s gravesite. In lines 216-223, Hamlet sums up his beliefs on position, power, and wealth, saying that even Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar have died just as everyone else will and that the dust left of both of them is of the same lowly station as that of any other man. [Act V, Scene I, Ll. 216-223].
18. Not only did Claudius failed to come to terms with the sin of murdering his brother before he too was killed, but he spent his last moments watching his son (Hamlet) fight a duel which he had setup to end in the Prince’s death. Claudius also could have saved the life of Gertrude by simply stopping her from drinking the poison he had mixed in a drink meant for Hamlet-for fear that his treachery would be exposed and thus he died in a remarkable state of lost spirituality and deep sin. That his soul was so unprepared for death meant he would either be stuck in purgatory or damned in hell (clear poetic justice because he will now be sent to the same place that the brother that he murdered was made to dwell).