Essay, Research Paper
William Shakespeare?s Hamlet is an extremely well thought out play. Each component is included quite purposefully. All have their own specific contributions to the play. Perhaps, it is Hamlet?s peers that endow the most. Horatio, Ophelia, and Laertes all provide key character contrasts to Hamlet. They also serve to elucidate particular themes that, eventually, aid in deciding the outcome of the play. Many significant contributions are made to the plot and play in individual scenes by Hamlet?s three peers. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how Hamlet?s peers, Horatio, Ophelia, and Laertes present to the play as a whole.
To truly see the contributions of Hamlet?s peers to the play, this paper will briefly look at their personalities and obvious traits and proceed to relate them to the plot and major themes of the play. Also, this paper will describe how each peer impacts the major character, Hamlet.
Laertes occupies a unique role in the play. The relationship between Hamlet and Laertes develops into a very interesting one as the play progresses. Hamlet spends almost the entire play attempting to avenge his father?s murder by killing the person who committed the deed, Claudius. When Hamlet kills Polonius, Laertes father, he assumes the same role for Laertes that Claudius represents for himself. The stark contrast between the two is shown in the ways each chose to go about avenging their fathers? deaths. Contrast and comparison between them can also be seen when each of their lives is described in the beginning of the play. Laertes is essentially Hamlet?s parallel. He is also the member of the younger generation that is manipulated the most by the older generation, namely Claudius. The scene in which Laertes? contributions are best demonstrated is Scene seven, Act four.
The scene begins with a conversation between Claudius and Laertes. Claudius is attempting to manipulate Laertes into agreeing to a devious plot that would result in the death of Hamlet. All of Hamlet?s peers contribute to the theme of how the older generation manipulates and controls the younger generation. However, it is Laertes that is beguiled the most out of the younger generation. After Claudius tells Laertes of how Hamlet is responsible for his Polonius? death Laertes states, ??. my revenge will come.? (V.ii.29) Moments after he discovered the identity of his father?s murderer, Hamlet, he made it evident that he will avenge his father?s murder. Hamlet, on the other hand, at this point in the play, has still not concluded on whether or not to kill Claudius. Similarly, the following question, asked by Laertes of Claudius, demonstrates the same theme, ?? tell me Why you proceeded not against these feats,? (V.ii.7) Laertes uses direct questioning, which is in great contrast to what Hamlet would have done. Hamlet would not have had the courage to ask; he would have observed instead to arrive at an answer to his questions. Claudius? manipulative powers are revealed when Laertes speaks of Hamlet?s return to Denmark, and says it ?? warms the very sickness in my heart.? (V.ii.56) Claudius easily convinces Laertes that Hamlet is to blame for his father?s murder as well as Ophelia?s state of madness.
The next member of Hamlet?s peer group, Ophelia, also contributes greatly to the play. Her major contribution is towards Hamlet?s state of mind. His mind fluctuates in accordance to their relationship. The theme behind this is how women, in general, confuse and put Hamlet in a state of disillusion. Like Horatio signifies Hamlet?s sanity, Ophelia signifies his confusion and emotional status. She also contributes to the tensions between Hamlet and Laertes. Her death is the event that results in Hamlet?s decision to participate in the duel with Laertes. Ironically, the scene that best indicates her contributions to the play occurs after her death. It is Scene one in Act five, the scene of her funeral.
After Hamlet has a conversation with two gravediggers about the potential occupant of the grave they were digging he is forced to hide when he hears the service about to begin. Since Hamlet has been away, he is oblivious to the fact that Ophelia is the one to be buried in the empty grave. His first hint of who has died comes when he hears Laertes voice, ?That is Laertes,? (V.i.218) When he figures out whose funeral it is he exclaims, ?What, the fair Ophelia!? (V.i.236) At this point he is in a state of mass confusion. He knows not what to do. He jumps from his hiding spot in a fit of confused rage and proclaims, ?I loved Ophelia;? (V.i.263) He is obviously not acting as he did when he was rational. In that one statement he revealed a secret that he had kept to himself for the entire play. He continues in his argument with Laertes over who loved Ophelia more. He questions Laertes love to his by offering many challenges, they saying, ??. I?ll do?t?.? (V.i.272) His love for her is now proven, yet nobody believes it to be true. The queen believes it to be, ?? mere madness:? (V.i.278) The argument, between Laertes and Hamlet, that the situation produced has increased the tensions between the both of them. The challenge made by both relating to how much each loved Ophelia contributed greatly to the challenge made to duel. Her death and her life have both successfully resulted in the demise of Hamlet.
Horatio is a man of stability and seems rational in his thinking. His superior knowledge and strength of character provides him with the capabilities to give good advice, and there is no other person who seeks his advice more than Hamlet. Horatio is much more than just Hamlet?s best and, perhaps, only friend in the play. He signifies Hamlet?s rationality, sanity, and competence. His steadfastness and loyalty contrasts with Hamlet?s variability and excitability, though both share a love of learning, reason, and thought. However, it should be noted that his unassuming nature forces him to be overshadowed by Hamlet. His support of Hamlet is demonstrated throughout the play and the advice he provides Hamlet contributes to the outcome of the play. The one scene that best makes evident his contributions to the play is Scene two in Act five. This scene proceeds the duel between Hamlet and Laertes, and it begins with a conversation between Hamlet and Horatio that effectively summarizes their relationship.
Hamlet beings the conversation by explaining his thoughts on destiny and how it controls one?s life no matter what efforts are taken to change it. Horatio replies, ?That is most certain.? (V.ii.12) This shows how, in theory, Horatio is supportive towards Hamlet. Both parties know, very well, that Horatio possesses the superior knowledge of the two. Hamlet throughout the play, in fact, has made his aspirations of wanting to be at the same level of knowledge clear. Moments like these, when Horatio agrees with and supports Hamlet?s ideas and theories on important subjects, contribute greatly to Hamlet?s sanity, emotional stability, and self-confidence. Although Hamlet states that the reason why he does not commit suicide is because he fears what lies beyond death, it is easy to see that Horatio?s supportive friendship gives him reason to continue living as well. As the conversation continues, Hamlet talks of Claudius, ?He that hath kill?d my king, and whored my mother;? (V.ii.65) With this, he tells Horatio something that he has kept to himself throughout the play. This exhibits the trust that Hamlet has in Horatio, thus solidifying their friendship. Their personal conversation ends when Osric arrives. He engages in a petty battle of wits with Hamlet. After they trade a few comments Horatio adds, to Osric, ?Isn?t not possible to understand in another tongue?? (V.ii.124) He is clearly defending Hamlet in the conversation, something all good friends would do. When Osric leaves, they are again left alone. ?You will lose this wager, my lord.? (V.ii.200) This is when Horatio explains his thoughts on the situation. Although Hamlet eventually disagrees with these thoughts he still takes them into account out of respect for his friend?s superior knowledge. Horatio, being the understanding, rational man that he is, realizes how stubborn Hamlet is and knows that he will not listen to his thoughts and therefore concedes. Horatio does not react like one who has just had his comments ignored by his best friend. Instead, he alters his thoughts and gives his advice based on what he derives from Hamlet?s replies. He says, ? If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their repair hither, and say you are not fit.? (V.ii.203-205) This conversation distinctly shows Horatio?s role in the play, as well as his contributions made.
The purpose of this paper has been fulfilled, one can now clearly see that each of Hamlet?s peers contribute greatly to the play. We, the audience, are able to learn more about Hamlet by contrasting his personality with theirs. Also, we can see how their characteristics and actions effect Hamlet and the plot.
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