A Return To Moral Order The

A Return To Moral Order : The Extent To Which Good Overcomes Evil / Order Overcomes Chaos In Shakesp Essay, Research Paper

In every society a distinctive hierarchy (organization of power) exists; it could a

country?s government, with a president, his cabinet and voters or it could be something as

simple as a school, where the teachers are the decision makers and the children follow

obediently. In the Shakespearean world, life was kept constant through the maintenance

of the Great Chain of Being or moral order. The Great Chain of Being was thought to

be the natural order of power amongst all the beings in the universe. According to this

chain, God had the most control over life followed by Archangels, Angels, Saints, Kings,

Nobles and Peasants (who had little power). Any disruption in this chain was believed to

cause chaos in society. As people today challenge the government, and children conflict

with teachers, so too did people of the Shakespearean world sometimes try to challenge

moral order, the results were disastrous.

In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Denmark is thrown into chaos by the

reckless actions of several characters who fail to follow the moral order. However, at the

play?s end, the chaos resulting from these actions is resolved and moral order is restored

as Shakespeare proves that good does triumph over evil. Hamlet?s quest for revenge of

his father?s death leads him on a horrific journey that destroys the Danish monarchy, yet

manages to be successful. Although the spying of Polonius, Rosengrantz and

Guildenstern leads to the disruption of the natural progression of the battle between

Hamlet and Claudius, these characters are reprimanded for their actions. Finally, the

cause of all the tragedy, Claudius and his overzealous ambitions, are destroyed, so that

order may be returned to Denmark.

After his father?s ghost returns to command vengeance for his death, Hamlet casts

aside his normally intelligent, sensible personality and takes the task which leads to the

devastation of the Danish monarchy. Hamlet was uncertain as to whether the ghost was

?a spirit of health, or goblin damn?d? (I. iv. 40) : however, ?with wings as swift / as

meditation, or the thoughts of love, / [he swept] to [his father?s] revenge?. (I. v. 31-32)

To assist in his plot to catch the murderer of his father, Hamlet feigns insanity and

considers whether it is serves his purpose better

To be or not to be, that is the question; / whether ?tis nobler in the

mind to suffer / the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / or to

take arms against a son of troubles / and by opposing, end them.(III. i. 55-60)

Hamlet is unsure whether the ghost is a good or evil presence, yet he commits himself to

the quest regardless; this ignorance of right from wrong proves to be fatal. By taking

vengeance for his father?s death, Hamlet tries to overthrow moral order, by going above

Claudius? authority in a plot to kill him. Through his reckless disregard for the natural

progression of life, Hamlet initiated the chaos that would cost the lives of almost all those

around him, including his own mother. Although Hamlet started off with the good

intention of putting his father?s spirit at ease he was forced to consider whether or not his

actions were as evil as the original murder and if in fact he should have left Claudius?

punishment to fate. Despite the many victims of Hamlet?s quest, Claudius was killed for

his crime; completing Hamlet?s journey, and restoring order to Denmark.

The persistent spying of the play?s characters contributes to the chaos of the plot.

Polonius, advisor to Claudius, attains all his information for the King through spying; to

gain information about Hamlet?s sanity he went ?Behind the arras to convey [himself], / to

hear the process: I?ll warrant she?ll tax him home:? Claudius not only spies on Hamlet,

but he also spies on his own son Laertes when he goes off to France. Polonius?

distrusting nature is abruptly ended when Hamlet fatally while he hide behind the arras

listening to a conversation between Hamlet and Gertrude. Like Polonius, Rosencrantz

and Guildenstern are used by Claudius to spy on their childhood friend Hamlet. The two

men engage Hamlet in a renewal of their friendship, but Hamlet becomes aware of their

loyalty to Claudius. Upon a trip to England commissioned by the Claudius, Hamlet

discovers a letter from the King sentencing him to death. Hamlet alters the letter to order

the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who were accompanying him to England, and

then Hamlet escapes the ship.(V. ii. 13-47) By failing to realize their own limitations,

(that is that they are men, and not capable of foreseeing the future as they tried to do

through spying) Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern caused a disruption of order by

providing Claudius with the information he otherwise wouldn?t have had, thus helping him

avoid Hamlet?s revenge. It was the consequential death of these characters that restored

order; as Hamlet could then carry out his vengeance against Claudius without interference.

Like Hamlet, Claudius, the King of Denmark tried to step outside his natural role in the

moral order and control fate. Claudius admitted that his ?offense [was] rank, it smells to

heaven. / It hath the primal eldest curse upon?t, / A brother?s murder…? (III. iii. 36-37)

Claudius killed his brother, Hamlet Sr. with poison, while he was sleeping, and then

married his brother?s wife and took his crown. Claudius believed that in ? the corrupted

currants of [his] world / offense?s gilded hand [could] shove by justice? (III. iii. 57-58)

and that God could not forgive him ?since [he was] still possessed / of those effects for

which [he] did murder, / [his] crown, [his] own ambition and [his] queen?.(III. iii. 53-55)

After Claudius lost his crown, Gertrude and his life, Fortinbras arrived in Denmark to

claim the Danish throne. Claudius? higher ambitions of royalty he was not naturally to

have, caused him to commit a murder that would spark tragedy to all those around him.

Furthermore, Claudius believed that wealth procured a higher power in society, above the

average citizen and even above the law; for Claudius, this perception of power was

enough to induce the evil act of murder. At the play?s end, with Gertrude dead, it is

Hamlet?s sword that finally kills Claudius, ending his reign as monarch with his life and

allowing Hamlet the satisfaction of completing his original goal before he too died.

Therefore it is shown that the noble quest for revenge overcomes the evils of greed, and

restores order to life.

In conclusion, let it be shown that if Fortinbras (who was to seek revenge for the

murder of his father at the hand?s of Hamlet Sr.) had invaded Denmark when he originally

wanted to, he would have made the same mistake as Claudius, Hamlet and all the spies:

trying to control destiny. However, because he waited, he was rewarded with the

attainment of the Danish crown in an honest manner. Fortinbras? impeccable timing at the

play?s end signifies the final restoration of order and proves that following the moral order

leads to a civilized life and the triumph of good over evil.


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