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Significance of Poison in Hamlet

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Simran Lalli

on 13 April 2015

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Transcript of Significance of Poison in Hamlet

By: Jessica, Simran, Kyle, Nitharsan and Usama
Significance of Poison in Hamlet
How a single fault, "some vicious mole of nature" (Act 1, Scene 4), can destroy the reputation of a nation or an individual.
King Hamlet’s Death
The first time we see poison mentioned in Hamlet is when the ghost of King Hamlet explains to Hamlet the true cause of his murder

Poison, a Cowards Weapon
In the 1600’s men fought for their honor in duels. Chivalry was very important, chivalrous knights were brave and strong

The Knights had a Code of Chivalry that they had to follow at all times

During these times it was better to die than to be a coward

Poison would be a cowards weapon, only a man with no honor or respect for himself would use poison as a weapon to harm others.

Plans to kill Hamlet
In act 4, scene 7, Claudius and Laertes create plans for Hamlets death during their duel
Deviously using poison to assure Hamlets death
During act 5, scene 2, many of the plans intended for Hamlets death end up unfolding the wrong way
Why poison
Claudius's plans unravel on him leaving him to die next to Hamlet due to his devious thinking
Leartes & Claudius's plot to use poison to kill Hamlet
Queen Gertrude: Claudius' co-conspirator or Hamlet's defender?
"Gertrude, do not drink."
"I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me."
(5.2.295-296)
Gertrude's death
Poison and The Queen
We will never know where Gertrude's true intentions were.
Poison represents betrayal and spoiled relationships between Claudius and King Hamlet
Spoiled relationship is seen when the ghost describes how the poison reacted with his blood
Deceit
Poison Symbolizes Deceit?
In the play Hamlet, Symbolism is explicitly evident as poison represents the deceit,betrayal and corruption.An example of a character that takes part in deceit is king Claudius.

King Claudius lies and deceives his wife, Gertrude, and the citizens of Denmark.

The poison is a symbol of deceit because King Claudius is compared to a snake and a snake’s sting is poisonous.





“The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown”. (1.5.44-45)
The Comments Made by Ghost explains how king Claudius act was unexpected.
Serpents attack without warning, whether who it may be, symbolizing deceit.


“ There’s letter sealed, and my two schoolfellows, whom I will trust as I will adders fanged (3.4.220-221)
Poisonous snakes are defined by their fangs. Fangs carry venom.
Hamlet refers to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz as poisonous snakes.beucase they carry lies with them
Being two faced/acting an double roll.
Friend or a foe?



Poison in Hamlet
Broken relationships
Discussion Question 1
Discussion question 2
Throughout Shakespeare's work we see murder and suicide come up time and time again
In all of Shakespeare's plays we see men kill other men using swords and rapiers
In Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris are all killed while in hand to hand combat
In Richard III: Richard III is killed by Henry VII
In King Lear: Edmund is killed in a duel with Edgar
Claudius is the the only character that doesn't engage in hand to hand combat but is the reason for so many deaths


Criticism
Every other male character in Shakespeare's work had to fight for what they wanted to get it
When they fought it was an equal battle, the opponent with the greater skill was the victor
Claudius never once stood up to someone and fought them directly, instead he used poison so that he wouldn't be in danger of losing his fight
Poison allowed the man with the lesser strength, wits and skill to come out on top
Secondary Source#1
“ Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?" And the woman said unto the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. "--Genesis 3:1-5


The Serpents lie symbolizes the poison, which he uses to convince Eve.
As for the play Hamlet, King Claudius is the serpent where his poison symbolizes his lies. In both cases there is a character being deceived by the snake.
Criticism
The Garden of Eden defines the official definition of a serpent.
Serpents are known to deceive and get what they want no matter what or how far their desire is.
The serpent from the biblical story of the Garden of Eden and King Claudius both get what they desired for, the Creation of mankind, and the power that Claudius desired for.
Secondary source #2
“Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand/ Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched,” (1.5.79-80)
King Claudius has poisoned his brother (King Hamlet) because he wanted his life, crown and queen, thus Claudius betrayed his own brother through the act of greed
relationship is broken through betrayal, thus the bond is poisoned
“Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor/ To those of mine," (1.5.56-57)
"Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole/ With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial" (1.5.66-67)
"And with a sudden vigour it doth posset/ And curd, like eager droppings into milk” (1.5.73-74)
King Hamlet emphasizes the spoiled relationship between him and his brother (Claudius) by comparing the blood curdling from the poison to milk mixed with acid.
milk is spoiled or his blood is spoiled because of the poison/betrayal that King Claudius set upon his own brother.
In the biblical story of The Garden of Eden the poisonous snake convinces Eve to eat the apple from the forbidden tree when God forbid her to touch the tree.
"And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword.
I bought an unction of a mountebank,
So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,
Collected from all simples that have virtue
Under the moon, can save the thing from death
That is but scratched withal. I’ll touch my point
With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly
It may be death.(4.7.153-162)
" I’ll have prepared him
A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
If he by chance escape your venomed stuck, our purpose may hold there"(4.7.168-176)
The scheming Claudius is worried as Hamlet is posing a threat to his reign
Laertes sword has poison on it, and Hamlets drink is poisoned in case Laertes cannot kill him
"Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric. I am justly killed with mine own treachery."(5.2.314-316)
"It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain.
No medicine in the world can do thee good.
In thee there is not half an hour of life.
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated and envenomed. The foul practice
Hath turned itself on me. Lo, here I lie,
Never to rise again. Thy mother’s poisoned.
I can no more. The king, the king’s to blame."(5.2.323-330)
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial, And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body (1.5.67-72)

Claudius' plan backfires on them creating a catastrophe leading to the death of Hamlet, Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude
Shakespeare plays involving poison
Romeo and Juliet
Macbeth
King John
Antony and Cleopatra
Richard III
Poison in the Elizabethan Era
Poison was seen as a cowards way to kill as fighting skills were greatly honored
Men fought in combat for their respect and honor of their kings
People believed in witchcraft; poison,potions and supernatural powers
The consequences for witchcraft were taken very serious including;
beating, boiling, torture, and execution
In the play
Hamlet
by William Shakespeare, poison is a recurring symbol
The use of poison leads to the death of one or multiple characters
It could also be viewed symbolically as revenge, betrayal and corruption
This poison Claudius uses to kill King Hamlet is henbane

Being poisoned to henbane these days probably won’t kill you, but in the 17th century it would definitely kill you

Henbane when ingested causes seizures, violence, and trembling limbs

Some initial symptoms of henbane overdose are headache, urine retention and irregular heartbeat

A lethal dose of henbane would cause a slow and painful death

In 17th century there was no medicine or procedure that you could have done to save someone that had ingested henbane


Poison Analysis
Do you agree/disagree it was a cowards move for Claudius to use poison to kill his brother King Hamlet? What does this say about the relationship between the two brothers ? What does this say about Claudius as a character?
Shakespeare's plays often include poison as a tool for the devious to plot one or more characters death
Why does she drink from the cup?
Maybe to take stand against her husband Claudius, or maybe she commits suicide to save her son, Hamlet
Why Poison?
No, no, the drink, the drink! O my dear Hamlet!
The drink, the drink! I am poisoned.
(5.2.319-320)
The poison was placed there by Claudius, which can bring us back to the fact that he is a coward, and a man with no honour.
Was she having an affair with Claudius?
or
was she the innocent victim caught in a plot of murder?
"He is justly served.
It is a poison tempered by himself."(5.2.338-339)
Through the play Claudius proved hes a man with no honor
Constantly using poison shows he is a coward willing to go by any means to keep his power
The Reference To The Serpent
In act 1, scene 5, The ghost of late Hamlet References King Claudius as a snake
In Act 3 scene 4 Hamlet makes a reference to poisonous snakes
When Claudius killed Hamlet he broke multiple rules in the Code
Never attack an unarmed foe
Obey the law
Avoid Deception
"The potent poison quite o'ercrows my spirit." (5.2.368)

The Duel
Shakespeare uses poison as a female weapon in his works, making
Hamlet
an exception. Do you see this happening in present day works? Why do you think poison would be more of a female's weapon than a male's weapon?
Works Cited

Callahan, Tim. "The origin of Eden." Skeptic [Altadena, CA] 14.4 (2009): 56+. Academic
OneFile. Web. 9 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from, http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA196533566&v=2.1&u=ko_k12hs_d48&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=15eaf87a2c531176eda3a2690df39915

Kaye, Dara. "Murther Most Foul: Poison as a Gendered Weapon in Shakespeare." Murther Most Foul: Poison
as a Gendered Weapon in Shakespeare. The Shakespeare Institute Review, 9 June 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Shakespeare, William, and Alan Durband. Hamlet. Woodbury, N.Y.: Barron's, 1986. Print.





"Furthermore, poison causes greater anxiety than other violence, because it allows those with lesser physical strength, wits, political power, or other means to prevail over those with greater power, and is therefore potentially a force against tradition, order, and hierarchy." (Kaye, 14)
Every other character in Shakespeare's work had to literally fight for what they wanted and got it by being stronger and more skilled than their opponent
Full transcript