Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
It seems that it is human nature to want to please others, but compromising ones values in order to do so can result in people getting hurt emotionally or physically. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the desire to please those in authority overweighs the judgement of many characters. These characters are more interested in pleasing those in power than doing what is in their best interest. This is seen in Polonious’ eager attempt to use Ophelia, in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s being coerced into spying on a good friend, and finally in Laertes’ all too easy manipulation by Claudius to take revenge on his fathers’ death. In all these instances, the characters put their better judgement aside in order to do something to please a monarch.
The bond between father and daughter is something that some consider sacred. Polonious uses this bond with Ophelia to please Claudius and Gertrude in finding our what is wrong with Hamlet. The King and Queen were very upset at Hamlet’s seeming insanity. They tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that finding out what is wrong with Hamlet would be “the supply and profit of [their] hope (P.34).” They are obviously disenchanted at his behavior, and Polonious knows this, and tries to use his daughter to prove his theory. When Ophelia came and described to him her meeting with Hamlet in Act I, Polonious immediately took her to the King. Polonious, acting on his duty to “both [his] God and to [his] gracious king (P. 34)” took Ophelia to Claudius to see if he could be any help in trying to find out what is wrong with Hamlet. He quickly tells the king that he will “?loose [his] daughter to [Hamlet] (p. 38)” and concocts an elaborate plan to do so. This plan, and Polonious’ use of Ophelia, is all to please the Royal Court, and has no room in it for Ophelia’s feelings. Polonious uses his daughter almost like one would use a horse, with his “loosing” of her and does so just to try and get on the good side of Claudius and Gertrude.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern also looked to the King and Queen for approval. They didn’t resort to the use of a daughter, but on the use of a close friendship. They used their bond with Hamlet to get information that the Court wanted. Claudius and Gertrude were very convincing in telling Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of how Hamlet was suffering, telling them that “[Their] visitation shall receive such thanks as fits a king’s remembrance (P.34)”. At first Rosencrantz and Guildenstern weren’t too keen on selling out their friend. But instead of standing up to the King and Queen, Guildenstern told them that “we both obey and here give ourselves?to be commanded (P.34)”. They were more interested in doing what was right in the eyes of the Royal Court than doing what right in their eyes. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern weren’t just Hamlet’s friends; they were greeted by Hamlet as his “excellent good friends (P.40)”. Hamlet viewed them in the same regard as he viewed Horatio, one who Hamlet stayed with and loved all through the play. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern didn’t seem to care, and used this trust and love by their friend to please Claudius and Gertrude. This neglect of heart by these two characters was not something that they wanted to do for themselves, but something that they did in order to appease the King and Queen.
These tendencies of human nature can not only break sacred bonds, but lead to more eminent things such as death. Laertes allows himself to be talked into the elaborate plan that the King makes in Act IV to kill Hamlet to save his image of not being a coward. At first, Laertes is only angry at his father’s death. Claudius, though, plants inside of him a murderous rage, and Laertes can’t help but go along and do what the King wants done. Claudius started his ploy when he told Laertes that he wanted to set up Hamlet for death, and Laertes, still in a rage over losing his father, replied that “[He] will be ruled (P.96).” Claudius, tried hard to get Laertes fired up, even insulted him, asking, “Was your father dear to you?or are you?a face without a heart (P.97)?” No man wants to hear that he is a coward, so as all males do, Laertes had to prove that he was a man. To try and prove that he wasn’t a coward, and to make his image more respectable to Claudius, Laertes tells him that he did love his father, and would prove it by “cutting [Hamlet's] throat I’ the church (P. 99).” Claudius, though, was intent on getting his way, and wanted to be sure that Laertes was in a murderous mood. The King kept egging Laertes on, saying such things as “Requite [Hamlet] for your father?show your father’s son in deed (P.99).” The manipulation by Claudius along with these comments turned Laertes from an angry man to a bloodthirsty one. Laertes was fueled into this frenzy only because he did not want to appear a coward to the King. How the King perceived him and what he thought was more important to Laertes than the taking of another life. Laertes only concern was how the King looked upon him, and by killing Hamlet, Laertes thought that his face could be saved.
Laertes and Polonious, along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern proved that they were more interested in how others perceived them, especially those in power, than doing what was really in the best interest for everyone. These characters were manipulated by brutal puppet-masters that toyed with their strings to get the response that they wanted, knowing full well that all would agree to anything in order to please them. This urge to do what was wanted from those in ascendancy was so great a weight, that values were pushed aside for a chance to glimmer in the light of attention from important figures in society.