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Themes in Hamlet

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by

Haley Brobst

on 15 October 2014

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Transcript of Themes in Hamlet

Madness
Early on in this play Hamlet decides to act insane so people believe him to be harmless while he searches for answers as to Claudius's involvement in his father's death. As the play goes on, Hamlet seems to lose his grip on reality and actually go insane. Ophelia also goes mad with grief after her father's death.
Suicide
Throughout the play Hamlet contemplates suicide. His most famous line, "To be or not to be" deals with this. Hamlet wishes that God had not "fixed his canon 'gainst self-slaughter" so he could end his suffering. Ophelia also may have committed suicide, but Shakespeare never specifies.
Themes in
Hamlet

Haley Brobst, Amber Butts, and Beca Martin
Revenge
Denmark is experiencing political turmoil during Hamlet. It's king has recently died, and it's queen has remarried after less than two months since his funeral. Her new husband is also her former husband's brother and murderer. As this is taking place, young Fortinbras of Norway is plotting to avenge his dying father by reconquering the land Denmark stole.
Political Livelihood
After learning that his father was murdered, Hamlet decides to seek revenge. He spends the entire play planning to get revenge, but does not achieve it until the final act. Laertes seeks revenge upon Hamlet for the deaths of Polonius and Ophelia, and young Fortinbras plans to conquer Denmark to avenge his father.
Love
Love surrounds all of
Hamlet's
characters. Hamlet loves his father, mother, and Ophelia. He acts differently in love than other characters in love, however, and cannot forgive them for not loving the way he does. He never forgives his mother for remarrying Claudius or Ophelia for sending back his letters.
Death
The central plot of
Hamlet
is centered around the death of Hamlet's father. It is because of King Hamlet's murder that Hamlet begins to seek revenge upon Claudius. Polonius and Ophelia's deaths also spark Laertes's need for revenge. Death makes Hamlet ponder if life is worthwhile or if he should commit suicide, another central theme.
Women
There are only two named female characters in
Hamlet
. They are Ophelia and Gertrude. Hamlet believes that both have let him down. Gertrude married Claudius within two months of King Hamlet's death causing Hamlet to believe that she betrayed him. After this betrayal Hamlet feels that all women are weak and that Ophelia has betrayed him as well, even though she is innocent.
Betrayal
Hamlet is betrayed by many people. Claudius betrays him by murdering his father. Gertrude betrays him by remarrying Claudius within two months of King Hamlet's death, even though she and Hamlet seemed to love each other very much. Ophelia betrayed Hamlet by sending back his love letters. Lastly, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern betrayed Hamlet by being more loyal to Claudius than him, even though they had been friends since their childhood.
Family
Family loyalty is a central theme in
Hamlet
. Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras all take action to gain revenge for their families. Hamlet kills Claudius for the murder of his father, Laertes kills Hamlet for the murder of Polonius and the death of Ophelia, and Fortinbras avenges his father by conquering Denmark. Ophelia also goes insane after her father dies because she cannot bear to live without him.
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