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Ears and Hearing in Hamlet
Transcript of Ears and Hearing in Hamlet
Although words are used to communicate ideas, they can also be used to manipulate other people, destroy the truth and serve as tools in corrupt quests of power.
With this said, the information observed by the observer can empower and destroy those who gain such knowledge. William Shakespeare's
not only gives insight into the method of what is heard and how it is interpreted but also exposes an individual's character.
"How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead"
He (kills Polonius) by thrusting a rapier through the arras.
“I have words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb” (IV.vi.21).
"So the whole ear of Denmark/ Is by a forged process of my death/ Rankly abused" (I.v.41-43)
The theme "spying" is continuously happening in
As we know, this is when Polonius decides to hide behind the blinds with the intention of finding out what Hamlet is going to talk about with his mother
Little did he know that by doing so will be the very reason for his death
His craving of finding out Hamlet's intentions has him sitting in the last place he will ever sit
This is not the first time Polonius has spied on Hamlet. Ex. Polonius and Claudius spy on Hamlet and Ophelia to figure out the reasons for Hamlet's madness
Spying seems to be the only way people in
get their information, false information to be exact
If Polonius had not been spying, he most likely would have lived a little bit longer
When Hamlet refers to the person behind the blinds as a "rat", shows that only rats are meant to hide and sneak behind people.
Thus showing that the state of Denmark is at risk
Having a king like Claudius who spy's on others continuously can very much be killed along with Denmark just like Polonius.
Davidson sates that "what a sentence means depends partly on the external circumstances that cause it to win some degree of conviction" (Davidson).
Essentially, the information heard by the individual can be interpreted differently than what the message intended to be.
The people of Denmark are too ignorant and are blinded by Claudius's charm on them that they are unable to realize the diseases Claudius has brought upon them.
Claudius's character is reveled through this scene; he is unable to care for anyone but himself. He cares only about his safety.
Therefore, by Polonius's death which is caused by his spying, relates to the death of Denmark as a whole which is caused by Claudius slowly poisoning the state of Denmark through his urge to obtain information that was not given to him directly.
Shakespeare's portrayal of the ears and hearing motif in
proves that words have the power to control and corrupt the minds of people and affect their judgment; Shakespeare also proves that it is possible for readers to know one's character based on how easily words can influence their decisions. It is the reliance on words and the willingness to act on them which determines the character's fate. While the reliance on words to act ultimately leads to the demise of certain characters, the ability to think and contemplate what is heard prevents or delays the demise of others.
"forged process" refers to the false stories that were told to the people of Denmark by Claudius regarding the true cause of King Hamlet's death.
Because the people of Denmark are ignorant of how King Hamlet died and why the state of Denmark is in ruin, they remain ignorant to the fact that the king whom they currently follow - Claudius - is the cause of their suffering and thus, will endure continuous suffering as a result of their ignorance.
When King Hamlet's ghost appears to Hamlet and reveals the truth to him about Claudius and Gertrude, Hamlet is empowered by this knowledge.
He is able to realize that Claudius may try to kill him as well and becomes more cautious around him. If Hamlet had not been aware of how dangerous Claudius is, he may have been caught off guard and killed.
Similarly, his knowledge of Rosencrantz's and Guildenstern's plans to ambush and kill him allow him to intercept them and kill them instead.
Hamlet's knowledge of Gertrude's possible treachery also makes him more cautious towards her which proves to be a logical decision as her motives and intentions become more questionable throughout the play.
"In Hamlet, language is slippery" (Weiss 88).
Claudius; perfect example of a man who manipulates others
"Uses of words are represented by images of ears & hearing" (Weiss 88).
EX: Pouring poison into King's ear
Poison poured in ear is symbolic
Death spreading through King's body
Death spreading through Denmark
The ears and hearing motif plays a large role in
as it allows readers to understand a character's personality.
The level of importance that an individual places on what they hear and their willingness to act on it with or without evidence of truth or merit shows readers who that individual truly is.
Although readers are given ample reason to assume that Polonius is foolish and without any actual, his reliance on what he hears to act indicates that he lacks the mental capacity to actually think and act for himself; in essence, Polonius is a slave to what he hears.
This reliance on words to gain him knowledge leads to his demise at the hands of Hamlet.
Like his father, Laertes also acts immediately based on what he hears without verifying it.
While he does not rely solely on what he hears to act, Laertes does not think things through which proves that he is irrational and reckless.
Hamlet's reaction to the things that he hears show that he is very different from Polonius and Laertes - instead of immediately assuming that everything he hears is a fountain of endless knowledge, Hamlet is skeptical of what he hears and tries to find merit in what he hears before acting on it.
When the apparition tells Hamlet the truth about his murder, Hamlet needs to prove Claudius' guilt before immediately acting out and killing him.
LePore, Ernest. Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1986.
Shakespeare, William, and Harold Jenkins. Hamlet. London: Methuen, 1982. Print.
Weiss, David. The Essence of Shakespeare. New York: Spark, 2004. Print