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Obligation and Duty in Hamlet

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Heather Trites

on 5 May 2015

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Transcript of Obligation and Duty in Hamlet

The themes of Obligation and duty are present in Hamlet because of Hamlet's idea that he has the obligation to get revenge for his murdered father. Hamlet's father has been killed by Claudius who has taken his place on the throne and married his mother. Hamlet believes that it is his duty as his father's son to seek revenge upon Claudius for what he has wrongly done. Hamlet feels obligated to kill Claudius and regain the thrown because this is what Claudius took from his father. Duty and obligation is also present in Hamlet through the characters of Leartes and young Fortinbras. Leartes, similar to hamlet, believes that it is his duty to kill his father's murderer. Young Fortinbras feels obligated as the new king of Norway to regain the land that his father lost.
And so 'a goes to heaven;
And so am I reveng'd. That would be scann'd:
A villain kills my father, and for that
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
'A took my father grossly, full of bread,
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?
"I am satisfied in nature,
Whose motive in this case should stir me most
To my revenge; but in my terms of honour
I stand aloof"
" How stand I then,
That have a father kil'd, a mother stain'd,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while to my shame I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men
That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? O, from this time forth
My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth"
Heather Trites
Obligation and Duty in Hamlet
Hamlet Act 4 Scene 4
Hamlet learns that Fortinbras is sending an army into battle just to take control of a small amount of land. Fortinbras is doing this to honor his father who lost the land. This act of loyalty towards his father by Fortinbras makes Hamlet realize that he is not doing his duty as a son for his father. Fortinbras may be a minor character in the play but this action has a significant impact on Hamlet. It forced Hamlet to finally act upon his duty as a son to seek revenge for his father's murder.
Hamlet Act 3 Scene 3
In this scene, Hamlet is observing Claudius praying. Hamlet thinks that it is a good time to kill him but then remembers that if he kills him while he is praying then he will go to heaven. Hamlet does not want Claudius to go to heaven because he believes it is his duty as a son to make him suffer in hell as part of his revenge for his father.
Laetes Act 5 Scene 2
Laetes plans to kill Hamlet during the fencing match to avenge his father who was killed by Hamlet. Before the match, Hamlet appoligizes to Laetes about wrongly killing his father. Leates appreciates the apology but he follows through with his plan to kill Hamlet. He does this because even though Hamlet apologized it is still his duty to his father to avenge his death. His duty to his father is more important than anything else and unlike Hamlet he is not making excuses for why he is delaying the action of his duty. Laetes acts as a foil for Hamlet in this place.
Haste me to know 't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.
Hamlet Act 1 Scene 5
Hamlet speaks to the ghost of his father who tells him that he has been murdered by Claudis. Hamlet swears to be loyal to his father and perform his duty as his son to avenge him and take back his mother and the throne. Talking with the ghost of his father makes him feel obligated to ac upon this duty. Later in the play when the ghost returns to speak with him, he is reminded to remember his duty as son and carry out the murder of Claudius.
The End
"I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth
Have you so slander any moment leisure
As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
Look to 't, I charge you. Come your ways.

I shall obey, my lord"
Polonius then Ophelia
Act 1 Scene 2
The character of Ophelia does have obligations in the play too. It is her duty to obey Polonius and respect his wishes. As a women of lower standing than Hamlet, she has the duty to no longer pursue him because it is more important that he finds a proper women that is not her. This character's obligations and duties are not as prominent in the play as other but still are a good example of the obligations that families of royalty had at this time.
love me
i can't
avenge me
Conclusion
The themes of duty and obligation in Hamlet illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole by bringing about the question of why did Hamlet seek this revenge. Did he seek it to avenge his father because it is his duty as his son or because he hated Claudius for soiling his mother? Regardless of the answer, Hamlet still has the inability to act upon this obligation he believes he has. The obligations of the other characters make as good foils for Hamlet. Both Fortinbras and Laetes have obligations to their fathers, like Hamlet, expect they actually act upon these duties. Hamlet procrastinates and avoids carry out the act of revenge for his father. Even though he has these obligations he is still unable to get proper revenge because of his own personal issues. Hamlets approach to his duty as a son contrasts with the other characters to show how his personal effects stop him from what is supposed to be a very important duty and obligation to respect his family's honor/
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