The Masks In Hamlet Essay Research Paper

The Masks In Hamlet Essay, Research Paper

In Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the death of a

character becomes a frequent event. Although many people

lose their lives as a result of their own self-centered

wrong-doing, there are others whose death are a result of

manipulation from the royalty. This is the case of Polonius?

family. The real tragedy of Hamlet is not that of Hamlet or

his family but of Polonius? family because their deaths were

not the consequence of sinful actions of their own but

rather by their innocent involvement in the schemes of

Claudius and Hamlet.

The first character to die in Hamlet is Polonius.

Although Polonius often acts in a deceitful manner when

dealing with Hamlet, it is only because he is carrying out

plans devised by the king or queen to discover the nature of

Hamlet?s madness. Being the king?s Lord Chamberlain, it is

his duty to obey the king and queen?s wishes and it is this

loyalty that eventually proves to be fatal for him. An

example of how Polonius? innocent involvement with the

royalty results in his death can be found at the beginning

of Act III, scene iv, when Hamlet stabs him while he is

hiding behind the arras in Gertude?s room. This shows how

Polonius, a man unaware of the true nature of the situation

he is in, is killed by a member of the royalty during the

execution of one of their schemes. This makes Polonius?

death a tragedy.

The next member of Polonius? family to die is his

daughter Ophelia. Ophelia?s death is tragic because of her

complete innocence in the situation. Some may argue that

Polonius deserves his fate because of his deceitfulness in

dealing with Hamlet while he is mad, but Ophelia is entirely

manipulated and used by Hamlet and the king for their own

selfish reasons. An example of how Ophelia is used by Hamlet

takes place in Act II, scene I, when Hamlet uses her to

convince his family he is mad. Ophelia explains to Polonius

how Hamlet has scared her, causing Polonius to draw the

conclusion that Hamlet has an “antic disposition”. Although

this is the subject to interpretation and many believe that

this is simply Hamlet taking one last look at Ophelia before

he becomes engaged in his plan to kill Claudius, the fact

that he scares her and does not try to alleviate these fears

points to the conclusion that he is simply using her to help

word of his madness spread throughout the kingdom via

Polonius. In Act III, scene iv, Hamlet kills Polonius while

he is hiding behind the arras in the Queen?s room. This

event causes Ophelia to become insane and leads to her

eventual death in a river near the castle in Act IV, scene

vii. It can be seen how the combined scheming of Hamlet?s

scheme which brings about the death of Polonius which leads

to Ophelia?s death. The passing of Ophelia is a tragedy

because she does nothing deserving of death, she is merely

used for other people?s personal gain.

The last member of Polonius? family to die is Laertes,

Ophelia?s brother and Polonius?s son. Laertes? death is

tragic because, although he kills Hamlet, he is avenging his

father?s death, an act, with reference to the moral climate

of the 1600s, that would have been condoned by the people

who saw the play. The difference between Hamlet and Laertes

is that Laertes does not use others to attain his goals and

his revenge is in part due to the pressure put on him by

Claudius. This makes Laertes? murder of Hamlet excusable and

his death a tragedy. An example of how Claudius uses Laertes

to try and murder Hamlet is seen in Act IV, scene vii.

Claudius and Laertes are discussing Hamlet when Claudius

says: Laertes, was your father dear to you? Or are you like

painting of a sorrow, A face without a heart?

He is asking Laertes whether he is really sorry about his

father?s death or if he is just acting mournful without

feeling mournful. Claudius uses these lines to lead Laertes

into a plan to kill Hamlet, asking him what will he do to

prove his love for his father in ActIV, scene vii.

Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake to show yourself

in deed your father?s son more than in more than words? It

can be easily seen how Laertes, influenced by Claudius in

the heat of his anger, could conspire to murder Hamlet and

it is in this attempt that Laertes loses his own life to the

very poison he kills Hamlet with. Once again, a member of

Polonius? family loses their life as a result of a conflict

that they are oblivious to, making Laertes? death a tragedy

as well.

Contrary to popular belief, the tragedy associated with

Hamlet is not about Hamlet or his family. It is, however ,

about the tragic fate of Polonius? family , whose deaths are

not the result of any sins they omit but by their being

manipulated by Hamlet and Claudius for reasons they are

unaware of. Although the death of Polonius? family stands

out as being the most tragic, many other characters in the

story are killed as well. In fact, the death of a character

in Hamlet almost becomes commonplace near the end of the