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Dysfunctional Families in Hamlet
Transcript of Dysfunctional Families in Hamlet
With which she followed me poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears. Why she, even she-
O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer! - married with my uncle,
My father's brother..." (I.ii.147-153)
In the beginning, Hamlet returns to find his mother remarried to his uncle.
Sets off his anger towards his family (namely his mother) and highlights the dysfunctional nature of the family.
Only been a few months since the King's death, and Hamlet's mother has already moved on to his uncle.
Creates a lack of respect for their relationship on Hamlet's part as he feels they disrespected his father.
Shows a lack of love for Hamlet's father on Gertrude's part.
"So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for
I'll have suit of sables. O heavens! die two months,
ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope a great
man's memory may outlive his life half a year."
"Marry, sir, here’s my drift:
(And I believe it is a fetch of wit)
You, laying these slight sullies on my son
As ’twere a thing a little soiled i' th' working—
Mark you, your party in converse, him you would sound,
Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes
The youth you breathe of guilty, be assured
He closes with you in this consequence:
“Good sir” or so, or “Friend,” or “Gentleman,”
According to the phrase or the addition
Of man and country." (II.i.38-49)
Prior to this dialogue, Polonius gives his son advice about the many things that he should be sure to do once in France. He warns his son to keep his thoughts to himself, to be careful not to be too trusting with new acquaintances, and most importantly to be true to himself.
This fatherly advice provides a contrast to the dysfunctional relationship between Hamlet and his stepfather, the new King Claudius.
Although this bit of fatherly advice suggests that Polonius is a genuinely good father, his later spying on his son proves otherwise.
Dysfunctional Families in Hamlet
Relation to Other Themes and Works
"Under the which he shall not choose but fall;
And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
But even his mother shall uncharge the practice
And call it accident." (IV.vii.63-66)
Dysfunctional nature of family comes to head as Claudius plots Hamlet's murder with Laertes.
Claims it'll look like an accident so Gertrude won't be suspicious
Not only plotted to kill his nephew (or his now son as he says) but also planned to lie to his wife about it.
Motives for killing Hamlet are most likely due to the play, so he's killing his nephew to save his power.
Hamlet is being sarcastic here, but his act is a product of his father's murder. Hamlet tries to get a reaction out of Ophelia (most likely guilt) and it shows how deeply his family has hurt Hamlet. His sarcasm in this scene can be seen as a self-defense mechanism in order to hide his pain.
Act I (Continued)
"'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown." (I.v.35-40)
Hamlet's father comes back as a ghost and reveals that Hamlet's uncle murdered him for the crown.
Creates an obsession on Hamlet's part to seek revenge against his uncle.
Highlights dysfunctional nature of family as his uncle kills his own brother simply for power.
"Hold off the earth awhile,
Til I have caught her once more in mine arms."
Laertes jumps into his sister's grave at her funeral to hug her once more before they bury her.
This is incredibly bizarre and goes above and beyond the typical sister-brother relationship.
Behaves as if the love of his life has died, which implies that there may be more than a sibling relationship there.
Incredibly dysfunctional in nature.
Act II (Continued)
He schemes a way for Reynaldo to follow Laertes and hint about his wrongdoings and take note of reactions.
Due to this, Polonius proves to be a conniving man and his relationship with Laertes appears to be filled with distrust.
Within Hamlet, the theme of dysfunctional families occurs various times throughout the plot. As such a central focus, this theme is related to many other occurring themes such as:
- The madness evident in Hamlet is ultimately fueled by the dysfunction within families.
Polonius both spying on and urging Ophelia to deny Hamlet in order to discover the source of his madness.
The presence of Hamlet's father's Ghost.
Hamlet's own madness
- The dysfunction between Claudius and Hamlet's father leads to his father's murder, urging Hamlet to spend the course of the play plotting revenge.
Lies and Deceit
- One way in which dysfunction is present within Hamlet's own family is displayed through Claudius's devious ways.
He formulates a plan to slay his brother in order to gain control of the crown. -Dysfunction between Hamlet's father and Claudius.
He marries his brother's wife after his death which evokes chaos within the immediate family. -Hamlet disapproves of his mother's marriage to Claudius, creating tension between all three characters.
In Relation to Other Themes
In Relation to Other Works
Dysfunction within families is a theme that is prevalent in a great majority of works. This is such a common theme because it serves as a way to incite the action of the plot, creating drama and conflict. For instance, all Shakespeare plays seem to have a trace of dysfunctional families in one way, shape, or form.
is a prominent example of this; the conflict is caused by the relationships between Lear and his greedy daughters. King Lear also deals with the theme of madness and deceit.
Romeo and Juliet
also have dysfunction between their families. This causes tension between the two star-crossed lovers, causing them to sneak around behind their parents' backs.
is yet another instance in which complex family issues contributes towards the plot. A plethora of abuse and strife exists between family ties.
"Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dame,
Drink off this potion. Is thy union here?
Follow my mother." (V.ii.308-310)
After finding out that his uncle killed his mother, he stabs him.
Finally gets his revenge for the murder of his father through this action as well.
He feels no remorse after killing his uncle.
He instead feels content, which shows how bad their relationship was.
Through this act, Hamlet ends his issues with his family once and for all.
"Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed,
Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty - " (III.iv.91-94)
Hamlet"s obsession with his mother's sex life definitely suggest that the family is dysfunctional.
This goes over the typical parent-child relationship. In fact, this suggests that Hamlet may have an Oedipus complex.
Kirstin Fierro, and Samantha Zerrenner