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Transcript of Papers
Five Major Areas:
3. Development and Support
5. Language A-Level - Excellent
1. CONCEPT: The essay should have a cogent, thoughtful analysis; it should demonstrate command of interpretive and conceptual tasks required by the assignment or specified in the assignment prompt; ideas should be original, often insightful beyond ideas discussed in lecture and class.
2. THESIS: The essay should be controlled by precise, lucid, and well-defined thesis that is sophisticated in both statement and thought.
3. SUPPORT: Well-chosen examples, persuasive reasoning used to develop and support thesis consistently; uses quotations and citations effectively; the causal connections of the argument are evident and sound.
4. STRUCTURE: Appropriate, clear and smooth transitions; arrangement of paragraphs seems particularly apt, or at least does not draw attention to itself (e.g., paragraphs that stretch beyond more than one page, or paragraphs that have no real focus).
5. LANGUAGE: Uses sophisticated sentences effectively; usually chooses words aptly; observes conventions of written English and MLA format; makes few technical or minor typographical errors. B-Level - Satisfactory
1. CONCEPT: Shows a good understanding of assigned materials (readings, movies, and lectures), and the ideas and methods of the assignment prompt are addressed. Often, essay will recapitulate the prompt, though a high-B paper goes beyond the rehearsed and obvious; there may be one or two minor facutal or conceptual inconsistency, or otherwise some part of the paper that has not been examined, defined or discussed.
2. THESIS: Clear, specific argumentative thesis (not a 'book report' type description or plot and character summary); may leave minor terms undefined.
3. SUPPORT: Pursues thesis consistently and develops a main argument with clear major points and appropriate evidence; often, supporting details are taken directly from lecutuires and class discussions; makes an effort to organize paragraphs topically, though often in arrangements that are simplistic.
4. STRUCTURE: distinct units of thought in paragraphs that are controlled by specific and detailed topic sentences; clear transistions between developed, coherent, and logically arranged paragraphs.
5. LANGUAGE: some mechanical difficulties or stylistic problems; may make occasional problematic word choices or awkward syntax errors; a few spelling or punctuation errors; a few idiomatic expressions and cliches; usually presents quotations correctly and effectively. C- and D-level - Average or Below Average
1. CONCEPT: shows an understanding of the basic ideas and information involved, though often displays inadequate command of the materials overall; may have some prominent factual, interpretive, or conceptual errors, or even confuse some of the significant ideas under discussion.
2. THESIS: there is little guiding argument, and mostly the essay relies upon description or summary; central or key terms may remain undefined.
3. SUPPORT: the essay only partially develops its argument, and leaves many important matters undiscussed or assumed; shallow analysis; may fall into digressions or unrelated topics without developing ideas or points of logical, causal connection; tends toward generalization adn unsupported, sweeping claims (e.g., about "humanity," or "the Victorians," or "Shakespeare's time"); may not include any quotations or citational support in some paragraphs.
4. STRUCTURE: overly simplistic strucutre, some awkward transitions; the essay may wander from topic to topic, or may include an illogical arrangement of ideas and subtopics; paragraphs are weakly unified or contain extraneous information.
5. LANGUAGE: more frequent wordiness; several unclear or awkward sentence constructions; some grammatical or proofreading errors (subject-verb agreements, sentence fragments, passive verb constructions). Citational format is inappropriate or so inconsistent as to be distracting. SAMPLE Assignment Prompt
ASSIGNMENT: Choose one of the topics below and [STEP ONE] compose a 3 page (MLA format) draft essay on your chosen topic; we will work in class on peer reviews of these drafts. [STEP TWO] Use your draft essay to compose a 5-7 page finished essay on the same topic.
HAMLET ESSAY PROMPTS
1. Revenge and Justice.
We have discussed the various soliloquies which depict Hamlet contemplating the meanings of his own actions, and we have discussed the striking oppositions between certain "just" and "unjust" characters in the play. Reflect on those to consider the nature of "revenge" and "justice" as it is depicted in the play as a whole. This topic address the following questions: How is Hamlet's revenge justified ( by Hamlet, by the Ghost, by others) in the play? Is Hamlet's plan for revenge condoned by the play as a whole? aren't several acts of violence and retribution condemned both by individual characters and by the play taken as a whole, and what does that mean?
2. Appearance and Reality.
This topic addresses the issues that begin with the very first lines of the play, as characters struggle to determine what is going on around them, and ask of one another, "Who's there?" (1.1.1). We have returned repeatedly over the last four weeks to the importance of appearance versus reality in Hamlet. Think over some of the work we have done: we contemplated what it means "To See or Not To See" and asked ‘what is the importance of invisible or ghostly realities in this play; we also discussed the example of Hamlet's soliloquy on suicide in which the theme of seeing/not-seeing is addressed in at least four different "discourses" -- alchemical/philosophical, religious, business, and psychological frames of discussion; we also saw that throughout the play characters either "see" or "know" the truths of philosophy, religion, business, and psychology.
Reality is imagined in this play in a stunning array of perceived and unperceived ambiguities, and the differences between the perception of things and certain underlying truths of political life, philosophical inquiry, psychological observation, and religion belief are all treated in extraordinarily vigorous language in this play.
For this essay, respond to one of the three prompts: (1) Given that there is no such thing as a simple "truth" in the play Hamlet, which characters see the most "truth" and what is that "truth" that they see? (2) Compare and contrast the "knowing" and "seeing" and "hearing" of Hamlet to at least two other characters of your choice. (3) Create your own prompt focused on the theme of "appearances and realities" in Hamlet.
3. Rationality and Emotionality.
We have noticed that several characters in the play are "stoic" in reserve, and we analyzed closely the speaker of Shakespeare's Sonnet 30 (cf. Helen Vendler’s short essay), who passes through at least five phases of dark despair, optimistic adoration, and calculated reserve. Vendler suggests that these phases might be a marker of passing time itself.
Time and Space, the very basis of sensory experience, move through and are examined as part and parcel of the Sonnet's fourteen line account of feeling.
This essay prompt considers the importance of feeling and rationality in Hamlet, and essays written in response to this prompt should choose at least four characters in the play and analyze what the play as a whole says about feelings and reason. Your essay should answer the following questions: Is Hamlet a better character because he has strong feelings? Or, on the contrary, is the play suggesting that Hamlet’s reason and his commitment to controlling feelings are the most important feature of his character? Example
Oct 17, 2010
The Mousetrap: Or, Trapping an Ethic of the Tragic
It could be said that Shakespeare’s Hamlet confronts Hamlet with two main dilemmas: whether to seek revenge against King Claudius for the murder of his father, and how to go about making this revenge possible. It may be tempting to treat these as isolated problems, which Hamlet and any analysis of Hamletcan deal with separately. However, reading AlenkaZupancic’sThe Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two alongside Walter A. Davis’s Death’s Dream Kingdom: The American Psyche Since 9-11 in the context of their analyses of Hamlet reveals that these two dilemmas are very much interwoven. Hamlet’s ultimate justification for carrying through with his mission to revenge his father can be closely aligned with the theory of tragic ethics that Davis outlines in his work. Correspondingly, Zupancicexplores the intricacies of the mechanism by which Hamlet carries out his plan: the play-within-a-play. Together, these authors show that the play-within-a-play served as more than a trap for King Claudius; instead, its main function was to ensure that Hamlet had to carry out his plan and act ethically.
It is in Hamlet’s “to be, or not to be” soliloquy that he most pointedly addresses the question of ethics: “To be or not to be – that is the question:/ Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune/ Or to take arms against a sea of troubles/ And, by opposing, end them.” (III.i.64-68). Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy drives right to the heart of the dilemma he faces: (how) should he be? As Hamlet rejects suicide and concludes in affirmation of being, declaring, “the undiscovered country makes us bear those ills we have than fly to others we know not of… Thus conscience does make cowards <of us all>,” the emphasis in that question shifts decisively to the how, or, more specifically, how to bear those ills (III.i.87-91). Davis, here, agrees with hamlet, finding the question of how one should be to be the most important ethical question:
our primary ethical responsibility is not just for what we consciously intend but for who we are… our character as the end result of a process of psychological self- determination… The choice that matters—that determines all others—is the choice one makes in determining one’s emotional and psychological self-reference; i.e., the decision to feel one way rather than another when faced with those conflicts that activate an anxiety… All choices derive from the choice one makes in and about that situation... How one feels becomes who one is—until the next crisis produces the need for the next self-mediation. (Davis, 175-176)
Davis’ point is that these decisions regarding one’s overall comportment toward the world ultimately shape each of the individual decisions one makes, and thus, are ethical at a more primal level. That Hamlet so often gives himself to these extended reflections in the form of soliloquy, and seems to take each as his directive for the proceeding section, is evidence that Hamlet, too, sees ethics in a similar way. Additionally, the complexity of these musings, the constant dialectical clash between concepts like “being” and “not being,” or metaphors like “suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and “taking arms against a sea of troubles” shows the extend to which Hamlet is willing to go to undertake this task, and the difficulty which comes along with such an effort (III.i.64-68). For Davis, this soliloquy “articulates the complexities that come to define the inner condition of one who rejects [the superego] in favor of the hard path of reflection… that radical force… that lays bare all the contradictions… between thought… and action” (Davis, 224). This process, for Davis, is what defines the subject of tragic existentialism: “to act one must take up one’s disorders, not avoid them” (Davis, 228). Thus, it’s tragic character: such an ethic requires confronting all about oneself and one’s surroundings that one does not want to confront. Hamlet’s soliloquys, most especially the first, demonstrate that Hamlet’s reflection definitively exhibits this willingness, bringing him to the core of the conflictions he feels: death, what it meant for his father, what it could mean for him, and what it would mean to inflict it upon someone else.
In light of this, the most important feature of the mousetrap to emphasize is that Hamlet deliberately and actively staged it. The royal family did not happen to stumble onto a performance of the “Murder of Gonzago.” Instead, it was Hamlet’s way of sending a disguised message to the king. It served a double function: not only to find out if the king was guilty, but, should that be the case, to instantly inform the king that Hamlet knows he’s guilty, as if he already knew before. For AlenkaZupancic, this double function is what makes Hamlet’s plot such a powerful device:
In Hamlet, the redoubling of fiction… functions as the very “trap”… of the Real…the “mousetrap” in Hamlet has exactly the status of the “declaration of declaration.” Through the staging of the “Murder of Gonzago,” Hamlet declares whatwasdeclaredtohimbyhisfather’sGhost.Atthesametime,this “declaration of declaration,” taking the form of a stage performance, succeeds precisely because it produces a dimension of: “I, the Real, am speaking.” This is what throws the murderous king off balance. (Zupancic, 13)
The Real, for Zupancic, is here the Lacanian term meaning (loosely) the traumatic kernel of truth, which the subject tries to avoid due to its unbearable nature. To the king, it seems that the only way that Hamlet could have possibly staged this performance is if Hamlet already knew of Claudius’ guilt, and thus, it is as if it is the truth itself declaring itself to the king in the guise of this play. That this serves as a “double declaration” of Hamlet’s is made evident by Hamlet’s constant (almost annoying) interruptions throughout the course of the play, the most notable of which he utters right before the King panics: “He poisons him i’ th’ garden for his estate. His name’s Gonzago. The story is extant and written in very choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife” (III.ii.287-290). And, as Zupancic notes, Hamlet must reveal the truth in this manner: “it is essential that Claudius’ crime be staged. If Hamlet were to inform Claudius of his knowledge directly, this would have quite a different effect. It would not have this effect of ‘I, the truth, am speaking,’” (Zupancic, 119). Claudius’ feeble reaction when he realizes what has happened “Give me some light. Away!” is evidence of how impotent this strategy has rendered him (III.ii.295). While if Hamlet had directly confronted him, either alone or in public, Claudius could have credibly denied it in the eyes of others, this displacement of accusation from Hamlet to the play makes it impossible for Claudius to do so. For him to accuse Hamlet of what he actually did, staging this play to make Claudius look guilty, would seem so overly paranoid that it would backfire and further cement the obviousness of Claudius’ guilt.
Thus, the mousetrap locks in with certainty the course each character must follow: Hamlet and Claudius, each aware that the other knows yet left with no reliable way of escaping or denying this realization, now have very little choice at all.
With Davis’ notion of the ethical and Zupancic’s explication of how the mousetrap functions, it becomes clear how Hamlet uses the play-within-the-play to ensure that he continues to act ethically, and that he is forced to change the very way he feels, and is. The gloominess that casts a shadow over the whole play, and especially Hamlet, is both generally and ominously described by the statement “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (I.iv.100). What Hamlet strives to do is make this apparent to all; on this point, both Zupancic and Davis converge. Mechanically, “The whole point of staging the original crime in Hamlet is not so much to establish, or even to prove, the truth as to formulate the truth, to inscribe it in the very reality of which this truth is the truth,” (Zupancic, 12). Ethically,
Hamlet learns… that it is impossible to locate, simplify, or contain the rottenness nor is there any actionone can take that would ‘set it right.’ rather than resolving the trauma one must do everything in one’s power to sustain and constitute it by destroying all illusions, exposing all hiding places, and eradicating all guarantees so that everyone will see the situation for what it is.(Davis, 225-226).
Why the mouse-trap is the perfect device for Hamlet to live an ethic of the tragic is now totally clear: functionally, it serves to reveal the truth in such a way that it is inescapable – the revelation of Claudius’ guilt comes to define the entire play, most notably the actions of the characters subsequent to the play-within-the-play (hence the hurried plotting of the Royal family); ethically, it serves to deepen one’s examination of the self, ensuring that no contradiction is left unexposed and the truth of the situation is revealed. This revelation, in turn, is what ensures that Hamlet must continue with his plan for revenge: now that the situation is bare for everyone to see, there can be no turning back. The how has been answered for Hamlet, both in terms of how to be, and how to ensure that way of being.
Ultimately, it is this process of ensuring that what should happen becomes what must happen that makes up most of Hamlet. Much of the play is spent in preparation: Hamlet’s deliberation over whether or not he wants to do it, how he feels about doing it, and why he is doing it, and Hamlet’s organization of the players to ensure that the mousetrap is both possible and successful. But, this could not have been possible without Hamlet’s determination after-the-fact to stay true to what he has already set in motion, rather than betray it and give into the suicide that he ultimately rejected. Creating the mousetrap and locking in the path he had to follow was the biggest choice Hamlet made during the course of Hamlet, but it was not the only one; its importance was manifest in how strongly it shaped all of Hamlet’s subsequent actions following its resolution.
Davis, Walter, Death’s Dream Kingdom: The American Psyche Since 9/11, Pluto Press, 2006
Zupančič, Alenka. The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Two. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003 Example
Throughout human history, individuals often rationally feign reality as a means to an end. Whether it is camouflaged hunting parties, or high school cliques, individuals and groups manipulate their appearance through rational self-interest. Of the many philosophers, intellectuals, and anthropologists that have examined the duality between appearance and reality, William Shakespeare rigorously incorporated this theme into his plays and sonnets. Specifically, Hamlet, addresses appearance vs. reality in three different types of situations: philosophy, politics, and psychology. Through the use of Hamlet’s soliloquies examining suicide, his habit of replacing conventional appearances with his own reality, and Hamlet’s character interactions with Gildenstern and Rosencrantz, Shakespeare examines philosophical appearances and their respective realities. By examining the political tactics of Claudius, Shakespeare highlights political appearances. Lastly, through the play within a play, , Shakespeare examines psychological appearances and their realities.
Through Socratic reasoning, Hamlet analyzes his situation and scrutinizes the “Danish custom” pertaining to suicide, in order to find a logical reason for or against suicide. Because of his father’s death, Hamlet is overwhelmed with grief, and begins to contemplate suicide. Hamlet first addresses the morality of suicide in his first soliloquy. (I, ii, 129-158) Hamlet wishes that his flesh would “melt” and that god had not made the bible “gainst (self slaughter!) (I,ii, 133, 137) This quote exemplifies the Danish custom, following the example set by Catholicism’s prohibition of suicide. Note that Hamlet reacts to his wish, suicide, rather than analyzing the factors causing his suicidal temptations. This reaction limits Hamlet’s reasoning and thus prohibits him from logically determining a reason against suicide. Instead of questioning himself (the Socratic method) Hamlet recounts the Bible’s position on suicide and concludes suicide is wrong because religion tells him so. Hamlet closely investigates morality in arguably the most famous speech in the English language, beginning with the lines “to be, or not to be.” (III, i, 64-98)
In Hamlet’s fauxliloquy (because he addresses Ophelia on stage, this speech is not a true soliloquy) he again questions the morality of suicide, however this speech is far more powerful because he approaches the final judgment of suicide using the Socratic method. Because he addresses the topic of suicide in several logical steps, he reasons with the consequences of each decision. First, Hamlet presents a question, “to be or not to be” (III, i, 64) He then weighs the moral ramifications of living and dying. He asks is it nobler to suffer through life: “[t]he slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” passively or to actively seek to end one’s suffering? (III, i, 65-66) This question is what sets this speech apart from Hamlet’s first soliloquy; because Hamlet weighs both suicide and suffering, he is closer to logically determining the moral reality of suicide. Finally, Hamlet ends his philosophical analysis of suicide by considering the uncertainty of the concept of afterlife. Therefore, the appearance of the morality of suicide: its wrong because it is damned by god, is replaced by Hamlet’s newfound reality: suicide is wrong, because it is foolish to jump into something as unknown as the afterlife.
Because Hamlet understands the discrepancy between appearance and reality, Hamlet is more enlightened than other characters. The play opens with a very significant quote: “who’s there?” (I, i, 1) This quote readies the audience for the feature presentation based primarily on masking the truth and the dramatis personae reactions to appearances. At face value this quote seems like it is just questioning if someone is there, but in reality it is questioning the extent of our understanding of underlying truths, such as the status quo of Denmark in Hamlet. For example, Marcellus acknowledges Denmark’s “preparations” for Fortinbras’ “lawless resolutes” by stating, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” (I,i, 110, 117;I, iv, 100). Commoners, such as Marcellus, judge the state based on what they know, however: Denmark’s state is more fetid than rotten. The reality of the situation is that Claudius is a murderous, incestuous liar and this dynamic will destroy the royal family and ultimately the Danish crown, however only Claudius, Hamlet, and the ghost of King Hamlet are privy to this information. Furthermore, the fact that some individuals, such as the guardsmen and Hamlet, can see the ghost of King Hamlet, while others, such as Gertrude, do not see the ghost, supports the contention that some individuals are more enlightened than others. Although the guardsmen and Hamlet both see the ghost, it is only Hamlet who is able to converse with the specter. Furthermore, the fact that Hamlet questions the validity of what the ghost is saying regarding his identity, reinforces his position as the character who is the most “tuned in” with the gap between appearance and reality. Another example of Hamlet being more enlightened than others occurs in an interaction between Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Gildenstern. (II, ii, 287-292) Although most individuals would have believed the three two close friends, Hamlet is able to take a step back and logically analyze the situation. Because Hamlet understands that people can and will lie, his perspective on reality is closer to the truth than others. Because some individuals, such as Ophelia and Gertrude, accept the appearance, without questioning reality, they are clearly unenlightened. Lastly, his role as the playwright for the “mousetrap play” is yet again another example of Hamlet understanding the underlying truths of complicated situations. Because Hamlet understands the discrepancy between appearance and reality, Hamlet is more enlightened than other characters.
Claudius portrays the Political status of Denmark as righteous by diverting attention away from his rise to power and then plotting to remove Hamlet from Danish matters. First and foremost, the most blatant falsehood in the play is the Danish Crown. The ruling family is supposed to be noble and just, however the reality of the matter is that Claudius continually sins and lies to retain his political status as King. For example, Claudius addresses the political situation by contending the sorrow surrounding his brother’s death is nulled by the joyous marriage to his brother’s widow: “In equal scale weighing delight and dole”. (I, ii, 13) Claudius appears to be a political figure trying to cheer up dismal constituents, but in truth, he is only trying to downplay the tragedy he caused. Furthermore, Claudius contends that it was “Your better wisdoms” which caused the marriage in the first place, but in reality, it was Claudius’ lust for power which led to the marriage. After addressing the circumstances of his rise to power, Claudius then quickly diverts attention away from royal affairs to the impending response from Fortinbras. These three steps are vital to Claudius’ appearance as a legitimate heir to the throne. Furthermore, Claudius’ intentions to send Hamlet to England may seem benevolent, however they are murderous. Although Claudius says “this deed” is for “thine especial safety,” the audience finds out Claudius’ plot to have Hamlet killed in England.
Through character interactions Hamlet appears, crazy in order to frighten the court, develops a play capitalizing on Claudius’ guilt, and is able to see past the friendly appearance of his associates in order to determine their true agendas. For example, Hamlet plays a mind game with Polonius in order to convince him that Hamlet is insane. After Polonius says “I will most humbly take my leave of you now,” Hamlet responds with “You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more willingly part withal—except my life, except my life, except my life.” (II, ii, 232-235) This response (given its apparent madness) causes Polonius to leave, but Hamlet reveals reality to the audience by calling the rest of the court “old fools” in an aside. (II, ii, 237) Through Hamlet’s use of psychology he is able to instill confusion in his potential enemies. Hamlet takes mind games a step further by writing a “mousetrap play”. His play’s purpose is to “catch the conscience of the King” by re-enacting Claudius’ murder of King Hamlet. (II, ii, 600) His play may appear to be benign, but because it affected Claudius in exactly the way Hamlet intended, Hamlet is able to expose Claudius’ true emotions. Not only does Hamlet utilize psychology to appear harmless, but Rosencrantz and Gildenstern also attempt to disguise their true strategies. When asked why they are in Hamlet’s chambers at Elsinore, they respond, “to visit you… no other occasion.” Hamlet discovers their deceit, most likely through physical expressions on stage, and tells them “If you love me – Hold not off,” and as expected, Gildenstern admits they lied. This example shows how even close friends of Hamlet are unable to fool him, and that ability gives him an advantage over the rest of dramatis personae.
There are many different appearances in the play meant to disguise reality, but only Hamlet is able to effectively judge the validity of appearances on all three planes previously mentioned, philosophical, political, and psychological. The latter, including Gertrude, Polonius, and Ophelia, unwittingly accept false information and perverted situations. Hamlet’s conspiracy theories cost him his life, but grant him an honorable soldiers burial. This practice of honoring conspiracy theorists has changed substantially since the days of Elsinore. Today, conspiracy theorists today are hardly granted the time of day. The contentions pertaining to 9/11, the JFK assassination, and the moon landing fall on deaf ears. One must ask when did this transition occur? When did conspiracy theorists lose their influence with society? When the media gains access to our homes through television, newspapers, radios, the internet, etc, and when theories become so lofty and far-fetched, it becomes increasingly easier to ignore the quiet theories and resonate the status quo. In conclusion, we should not be so quick to dismiss conspiracy theorists, because they may have the Hamletic gift of enlightenment.
In today’s society many people have diverse personalities. They are neither all good, nor all bad but a mixture of the two..Depending on the situation, the good or bad in them takes over and leads them to act in ways that they normally would not. When an intoxicated person gets in their car and decides to drive even though they know they have had too many drinks, they are clearly exemplifying the “bad” in them. This blend of character dates back to the early 1600’s when William Shakespeare wrote the play, Hamlet. In Hamlet, numerous characters contain dual personalities. In Hamlet, those characters that contain dual personalities follow the example of others and commit acts like murder, suicide, and vengeful plotting, acts that these characters would not normally do.
By looking at the character, Hamlet, one can see how a dual personality leads Hamlet to become a murderer. In the beginning of the play, Hamlet is a respected young man. Soon however, he is visited by his father’s ghost. The ghost tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle and King Hamlet’s brother, Claudius. Hamlet vows to find out if it is true. In doing this, he turns form a “sane” person into an “insane” person. Although this is just an act, through the play one can see how much it affects those around Hamlet. Hamlet’s mother is so distressed by his act, that she and Claudius send Hamlet’s friends to find out what is troubling him. Hamlet tells them that it is just the terrible news of his father’s death and his mother’s hasty remarriage to his uncle. Soon Hamlet is sure that Claudius killed his father and he wants revenge. Hamlet has trouble completing the revenge because when he has an opportunity to kill Claudius, Claudius is at prayer. Hamlet is worried that if he kills Claudius while he is at prayer then Claudius will go to heaven, he says “And am I revenged/ To take him in the purging of his soul,/ When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?/ No” (III.iii.89-92). He decides to wait and kill Claudius while he is sinning.He is a man of thought but soon he becomes a man of action. While visiting with his mother in her chambers, he hears someone behind the curtains and says “How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead” (III.iv.29). Then he stabs the man behind the curtains which turns out to be Polonius, the father of Hamlet’s lover, Ophelia. The Hamlet who pondered his actions would have probably thought about this, but the angry Hamlet is so overcome with emotion that he becomes a man of action. This is particularly interesting because Hamlet was angry at Claudius for murdering his father, it is ironic that he would murder Ophelia and Laertes’ father when that is precisely what drove him to want revenge. Later in the play, Hamlet also ends up killing his best friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because they helped out Claudius. One can see how an apparent quest to revenge his father’s death soon turned into a killing spree due to Hamlet’s unstable personality.
Additionally, Ophelia also possesses a dual personality that leads her to commit suicide. When Hamlet starts to act insane, Ophelia is beside herself. She tries to help Hamlet but to no avail. After a conversation with Hamlet, Ophelia says,
“And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,/ That sucked the honey of his musicked vows,/ Now see (that) noble and most sovereign reason,/ Like sweet bells jangled, out of time and harsh;/ That unmatched form and stature of blown youth/ Blasted with ecstasy. O. woe is me/ T’ have seen what I have seen, see what I must see! (III.i.169-175)
Ophelia is saying that Hamlet is the heir to the throne that everyone used to love and admire, but his new personality is like a musical instrument out of tune. She of all people is the most upset to see her lover in his insane state. Soon, Ophelia, herself, starts to change personalities. She is depressed all the time and as soon as Hamlet kills her father, she is emotionally pushed over the edge. She is so loyal to her family that she becomes insane herself. Hamlet has broken her heart and killed her father. Claudius says, “O, this is the poison of deep grief. It springs/ All from her father’s death, and now behold! Poor Ophelia/ Divided from herself and her fair judgement,/ Without the which we are pictures or mere beasts” (IV.vi.80-81,91-93). Claudius says that Ophelia has been driven mad from the grief of her father death and without her sanity, she may do harm to someone. He tells the guards to keep a close eye on her. However, in act IV, scene VII, we learn that Ophelia has drowned herself. This demonstrates how one can go from a happy lover to a depressed suicidal girl in a short period of time.
Furthermore, Ophelia’s brother Laertes also has a dual personality that leads him to vengefully plot Hamlet’s murder with Claudius but in the end ask for forgiveness. In the beginning of the play, Laertes is in France. However, when he hears about his father’s death he returns and vows to “To cut his throat i’ th’ church” (Act 4, Scene 7, Line144). Laertes represents a foil for Hamlet. Hamlet is a thoughtful person; he thinks about things and plans them before he takes action, before he becomes “insane”. Laertes is the direct opposite; he is rash and quick to act. When he returns from France and finds out that Hamlet killed his father, he decides to kill Hamlet. Claudius recognizes his rashness and enlists him to help. Laertes is eager to do so and says, “And so have I a noble father lost,/ A sister driven into desp’rate terms,/ Whose worth, if praises may go back again,/ Stood challenger on mount of all the age/ For her perfections. But my revenge will come” (Act 4, Scene 7, Lines 27-31). He agrees to help Claudius plot against Hamlet. Soon a battle takes place and Hamlet and Laertes kill each other. Before Laertes dies, he tells Hamlet Claudius’ plan. This shows that Laertes is really pure underneath the personality that momentarily came over him. He could have died without saying a word so that Claudius would succeed but Laertes knew that it was morally wrong to let Claudius win. This shows that even the most rash of people can be overcome by another personality that causes them to momentarily question what is good and what is wrong.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare plays with the different personalities a person may take on given the situation. He shows that is not possible to prepare for every situation. When Hamlet decides to act insane, he did not realize that the consequences would be the death of Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, his mother, Claudius, and himself. Hamlet goes from being one of the most respected men in Denmark to a murderer in a very short period of time. At the end of the novel when Hamlet names Fortinbras his successor, this shows how noble Hamlet really is. He chose someone that could rule the country well. Ophelia begins the novel as a sweet, innocent, young lover. Soon she is maddened by grief due to the death of her father and Hamlet becoming insane. Then, when she is at the end of her wits, she kills herself and leaves her brother to take revenge. Although Laertes was in France for most of the novel, he makes a big impact on the meaning as a whole. Laertes decides from the start that he will get revenge for his sister and father and kill Hamlet. However, after the battle with Hamlet, when he is dying, he tells Hamlet of Claudius’ plot so that Hamlet can kill Claudius. Even though he a rash and dislikes Hamlet, Laertes knows that for the good of Denmark he needs to tell Hamlet so that Hamlet can save the country. Although most people in today’s society have multiple personalities or dimensions to themselves, we have learned that in order to function properly we must prepare for situations. For example, today a person that is too intoxicated to drive a car will prepare to be in this state and take a designated driver with them. The Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Revenge is a principle that fuels many people in today’s world. In William Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet the notion of settling the score is very present with his characters. By looking at Prince Fortinbras and Laertes in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, one can see how the character’s desire to seek revenge and vengeance throughout the entire play are sometimes successful not successful.
One character seeking revenge was Prince Fortinbras. At the play’s beginning you learn that King Fortinbras of Norway was killed in a bet against King Hamlet and his land was also given to King Hamlet. Wanting to gain back the land of his late father, Prince Fortinbras assembled an army to help him take back the land of Norway and avenge his father’s honor. When King Claudius got word of Prince Fortinbras’ plans to attack Denmark, he became very worried. He began to prepare his country for war. Although he was preparing Denmark for war, he’d rather avoid a long drawn out war. So in efforts to try to solve the problem and avoid potential war he sent a messenger to Norway. When the new king of Norway (Prince Fortinbras’s uncle) got word of his plans to attack Denmark (which he told his uncle were against Poland) he immediately order Fortinbras to stop his madness. Realizing that he would never be able to conquer Denmark against his uncle and Claudius, Prince Fortinbras agreed not to attack.
Since prince Fortinbras agreed not to attack Denmark, he decided to attack Poland. So with his new plans, his uncle (king of Norway) agreed to fund his endeavors. In order to get to Poland Prince Fortinbras and his army needed passage through Denmark. So they sent a message to Claudius and it read: “That it might please you to give quiet pass through your dominions for this enterprise, on such a regards of safety and allowance as therein are set down” (Act 2, scene 2, line 82-85). In this message Prince Fortinbras is asking Denmark for permission to pass through their lands to get to Poland. King Claudius happily accepted. In the last scene of the play, Fortinbras finally arrives in Denmark on his journey to Poland. He is welcomed with great surprise when the news that Gertrude, Claudius, Hamlet and Laertes are all dead.
In the end Fortinbras gets the land that his father had lost in his death. In Fortinbras’ case it worked in his favor not to retaliate and seek revenge, because in the end he received what he wanted from the beginning, the land.
Laertes intense need to settle the score for his father, Polonius’, murderer fueled him through most of the second half of the play. Later on in the play when Claudius knew something was going on with Hamlet and wanted to keep an eye on him. To do this he devised a plan to have Polonius hide in the room and listen while Hamlet talked to his mother, Gertrude. So before Hamlet came in the room Polonius hid behind the curtain. When hamlet came in the room he began talking to his mother. In the midst of his conversation Hamlet hears something come from behind the curtain. Thinking the noise he heard was Claudius, Hamlet pulled out his sword and said “How now a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead” (Act 3, scene 4, lines 29). And Hamlet then began to stab at the curtain killing Polonius. When Polonius’s body fell from behind the curtain Gertrude was distraught, and asked Hamlet what he had done. Hamlet replied, “Nay, I know not. Is it the king” (Act 3, scene 4, lines 32)?
When Laertes got word of his father’s death, he was enraged. Soon after the news of his father’s death, Laertes found out that his sister had committed suicide. This motivated him even more to get revenge on whoever killed his father. Claudius saw Laertes’s rage as the perfect opportunity to have Hamlet murdered. So Claudius told Laertes that it was Hamlet that killed his father and caused the suicide of his sister. Claudius and Laertes made a plan to poison Hamlet with a sword in a duel between him and Laertes.
When the day came for the duel, Laertes was prepared to kill Hamlet by any means necessary. The duel begins and when Hamlet strikes Laertes Claudius offers Hamlet some wine’ which is also poisoned. Hamlet denies and strikes Laertes again. In excitement, Gertrude (against Claudius’s objection) takes a sip of the poisonous wine and dies. Laertes finally strikes Hamlet and poisons him. Hamlet then strikes Laertes with his own blade poisoning him as well.
In the end both Prince Fortinbras and Laertes succeeded in getting revenge for the deaths of their fathers. At first Prince Fortinbras was going to uses violence to get vengeance for the death of his father. However, he gave up on that idea and at the end of the play he received his father’s land without having to do anything. Laertes on the other hand took the violent route to retaliate at his father’s murderer. And although his plan worked it was by pure luck.
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