The Sweetness Of Revenge: The Tradgedy Of Hamlet P Essay, Research Paper
English 2322.231November 19, 1998 The Sweetness of Revenge:The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, with witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,——- O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power so to seduce! ——-won to his shameful lust the will of my most seeming-virtuous queen… I made to her in marriage; and to decline upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor to those of mine. ( Ghost of Hamlet’s father I:v William Shakespeare, 40) The tragedy of Hamlet, one of William Shakespeare’s most controversial tales, touches on many of the trials and tribulations of the Middle Ages. Incest within the royal families, murder, betrayal, sex, violence, and criminal insanity are all contained in this story. The knowledge of one’s own strength in mind and body is revealed through the thoughts, words and actions of the main character, Hamlet. How he struggles with his inner demons affects all those around him. Not only does it bring death upon himself, but also death upon everyone closely related to him. The story of Hamlet has been described as a “rich and complex work of art that conveys different meaning to different generations” (Jump 11).Hamlet’s father dies suddenly and Hamlet is appalled to find that his mother Getrude, the Queen of Denmark, is to wed his late father’s brother, his Uncle Claudius. Hamlet suspects some sort of foul play here on the part of Claudius, since he is so quick to wed with Hamlet’s mother, but has no proof to back it up. Deep in his own depression, the hatred towards Claudius grows with immense passion. An apparition appears to Hamlet in the form of his father and convinces him that it was Claudius who was responsible for his death. Hamlet plots revenge but soon realizes, “he is the prince of philosophical spectators; and because he cannot save his revenge perfect, he declines it altogether. So he scruples to trust the suggestions of the ghost, contrives the scene of the play to have surer proof of his uncle’s guilt, and then rests satisfied with this confirmation of his suspicions, and the success of his experiment, rather than acting upon it. Yet he is sensible of his own weaknesses, and tries to reason himself out of it” (Bloom 17). Thus begins the pull within Hamlet of reality and insanity. After being plunged into anguish at the thought of his father being replaced in his mother’s affections by someone else, Hamlet appears to have weaned himself from her and to have fallen in love with Ophelia, the daughter of King Claudius’ most trusted advisor Polonius (Jump 53). She warns him against treason against Claudius because she loves him so (Empson 133). The significance of his attentions to Ophelia are ones of deceit. Everyone now believes him to be a madman. Ophelia deeply believes that Hamlet will marry her one day and she is torn between her love for Hamlet and the loyalty to her brother, Laretes, and her father, Polonius, who have warned her that Hamlet is dishonest in his words of love. During an altercation between Hamlet and Gertrude, Hamlet stabs and kills Polonius by accident assuming him to be Claudius. Hamlet is upset at first but his insanity overwhelms him and his sorrowness is soon replaced by madness. Although he is upset greatly by this, the ghost appears to him and tells him to concentrate on the revenge on Claudius. After the ghost of his father appears this time, Hamlet accuses himself of being tardy and lapsed in time. This appearance of the ghost of his father and Hamlet’s recognition of being reluctant to do what the ghost says pushes him over the edge of sanity and Hamlet decides then and there that he will surely dispose of Claudius in a timely fashion. The death of Polonius and Hamlet’s growing insanity prompts Claudius to send for Hamlet’s head and Ophelia is slowly slipping into a madness that will soon consume her. Hamlet is trapped between two worlds. The moral code from which he cannot escape from is basically medieval, but his instincts are with the Renaissance. Shocked from his unthinking acceptance of the commandments of Church and State, he is forced to find a new orientation (Prosser 166). As the insanity worsens, Hamlet denies her any hope of a marriage between them. It is only after Ophelia drowns accidentally and he is standing at her funeral that he finally confesses his love for her. Both Hamlet’s grief and his task constrain him from realizing this love, but Ophelia’s own behavior clearly intensifies his frustration and anguish. By keeping worldly and disbelieving advice of her brother and father as “watchman” to her heart, she denies the heart’s affection not only in Hamlet but in herself; and both denials add immeasurably to Hamlet’s sense of loneliness, loss, and anger. Her rejection of him echoes his mother’s inconstancy and denies him the possibility even of imagining the experience of loving and being loved by a woman and her rejection of her own heart reminds him of the evil court whose shadow has fallen upon her and threatens him (Bloom 133). All of these incidents accumulate to strengthen the powers of insanity within Hamlet. As his anger and rage grow deeper and deeper, he finds the responsibility of this lies with Gertrude and Claudius. Hamlet’s own stability is questioned time and time again and all of his madness is blamed on the immense hatred towards his mother and uncle and their incestuous relationship. The fact that the ghost convinced him of his uncle’s involvement in the death of his father and his mother’s willingness to marry again so quickly has altered every relationship Hamlet has tried to hold on to causing him great pain and unrest. This betrayal of the family he has so dearly loved and trusted sent him into a world of grief and cold-blooded revenge.
The utter insanity in the story of Hamlet dwells deep within the family. The characters play emotions and guilt off each other and use one instance to cause another. For instance, Hamlet and Laertes exchange words at Ophelia’s funeral and Claudius arranges a swordfight between them. This would also be an easy way for the King to dispose of Hamlet without looking like the antagonist. Once Hamlet is out of the way, then Claudius won’t have to worry about him interfering in the business matters of Denmark. Claudius thinks this to be the easy way for Laertes to avenge the deaths of his father and sister which he blames Hamlet solely responsible for. At the banquet before the swordfight, Hamlet’s mother falls to the ground, poisoned by the wine. As he goes to his mother lying on the ground, he falls realizing he has been slain. Hamlet realizes here that his work is done no matter how unethical or wrong it might have seemed and that he has paid the price for his deeds. By now, Claudius is dead from the wounds Hamlet caused and Laertes is dying next to him. Hamlet dies and his dear friend Horatio says “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” (Horatio V:ii, William Shakespeare 174). So ends the tragedy of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. After all of the instances of murder and betrayal, there were no winners and everyone lost their lives. Many critics have charged Hamlet with moral disillusionment because he kills Claudius only when he is finally rushed into it precipitately by an avalanche of catastrophic events. Hamlet, they note, is merely striking back at Claudius in instinctive retaliation not consciously fulfilling his vow of revenge (Prosser 236).In any case, it should be plain to any reader that the signal characteristic of Hamlet’s inmost nature by no means irresolution or hesitation or any form of weakness, but rather the strong conflux of contending forces. Hamlet represents the type of man whose power of direct action is paralyzed by an excessive development of his intellect. Hamlet is able to do anything except take vengeance on the man who did away with his father and took that father’s place with his mother, the man who shows him the represses wishes of his own childhood realized. Thus the loathing which should drive him on to revenge is replaced in him by self reproaches, by scruples of conscience, which remind him that he himself is literally no better than the sinner whom he is to punish. The distaste for sexuality expressed by Hamlet in his conversation with Ophelia fits in very well with this. Perfectly true, and precisely what was most natural for him to do and accordingly precisely what Shakespeare meant that he should do. It was delightful to him to indulge his imagination and humor, to prove his capacity for something by playing a part: the one thing he could not do was bring himself to act, unless when surprised by a sudden impulse of suspicion, as where he kills Polonius, and there he could not see his victim. He discourses admirally of suicide, but does not kill himself; he talks daggers but uses none. “He puts by his chance to kill the king with the excuse that he will not do it while he is praying, lest his soul be saved thereby, though it be more than doubtful whether he believed himself that, if there were a soul to be saved, it could be saved by that expedient” (Bloom 38). Hamlet is a tale representing true tragedy and how there is no sweeter revenge than revenge itself. “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” (Polonius, I.iii. William Shakespeare 31) Bibliography Bloom, Harold. Hamlet. Chelsea House Publishers. New York. 1990. Empson, William. Essays on Shakespeare. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1986. Jump, John. Shakespeare Hamlet. Aurora Publishers Incorporated. Nashville. 1970. Prosser, Eleanor. Hamlet & Revenge. Stanford University Press. Stanford. 1971. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Yale University Press. New Haven. 1964.