Case Study: Shakespeare’s First Tragedy, Hamlet
Shakespeare uses the revenge tragedy to create conflict between characters that Is dramatically involving for the audience ND allows for multiple Interpretations of the significance of Hamlet avenging his father, his apparent madness and the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude.
The final scenes do not ostensibly clarify these concerns however it is the cryptic nature of Hamlet which makes it such a timeless captivating play. In the first act, Hamlets encounter with the ghost establishes the struggle between avenging the honor of his murdered father and his own Integrity.
Hamlet Is bound by his promise to “sweep to (his fathers) revenge” but for the majority of the play he Is unable to array out his duty, as “conscience does make cowards of us all” The alliteration of this line emphasizes Hamlets inaction, and this is Juxtaposed with the immediate reaction of Alerts reaction to his own fathers death. He states that he would be willing to “cut (hamlets) throat I’ the’ church” for killing Polonium, a biblical allusion that conveys the extent of his rage. As he dies however, Alerts offers to “exchange forgiveness” with Hamlet and absolves him of Polonium death.
Hamlet does eventually kill Claudia regaling his honor but he himself Is also killed along with Gertrude.
His request to Horopito to “report me and my cause a right to the unsatisfied” suggests the unsettled political and social nature of the play, even in its final moments. Formations’ arrival with the ambassadors, symbolically restoring order to Denmark, does little to resolve the question of Honor as “the sight is dismal and (their) affairs from England come too late” Is contrasted by “bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage” which suggests that indeed Hamlet was an honorable man.
Deception Is demonstrated In the question of the legitimacy of Hamlets madness which Is never conclusively proved. His “antic disposition” in Act 1 forms the basis for the motif of pretence that recurs throughout the play. Polonium asks Aphelia if Hamlet is “mad for thy love? ” and his imitation of insanity is often so plausible that when the audience is presented with a plausible reason for his madness such as losing Aphelia that the distinction between appearance and reality become less deflate.
Deception is also evident In Hamlets self-reflexive nature, constantly drawing attention to Its status as a play and the limitations of the form through the mathematical staging of “the mousetrap” in order to comment on the fallibility of human perception. Deception could be blamed for the denouement of the play, as Claudia, Alerts and Hamlet are punished, emphasized through the exclamations “villainy!….
Treachery! ” and Alerts repetition of “the king, the kings to blame”.
However the characterization of Hamlet as an emotionally sensitive and delicate man with a “noble mind” uses pathos to subvert ten nascence’s traditional expectations AT a traditional revenge Nero. I nuns Nils tenant is the final scenes do not bring the concern of deception to a sufficient conclusion; ether it conveys a sense of injustice. This sense of ambiguity inherent throughout the play coupled with the exploration of human nature and its flaws serves to create an intriguing and timeless piece.
The ambiguity of Hamlets relationship with Gertrude is maintained from the beginning of the play to the end as he vacillate s between affection and aggression for her.
He is disgusted by her “incestuous” marriage of “most wicked speed” so soon after his father’s death when at the funeral she was “like Nibble, all tears”, a simile that alludes to Greek mythology. Hamlets feelings for Gertrude are often interpreted differently in different productions however most commonly portrayed as an oedipal complex or Jealousy of the throne.
He does genuinely seem to love her as he resolves to metaphorically “speak daggers to her, but use none”. His final words in the closing scene as she dies “wretched queen, adieu” are a poignant conclusion to their relationship and expresses his grief. While it appears they are reconciled in death, the audience is left wondering whether Gertrude was a knowing participant in Claudia plan or an innocent victim.
Her death adds to the confusion in the final scenes of the play and leaves Hamlets accusations of her “tasty marriage” unresolved.
Hamlet is essentially an exploration of human nature and its flaws through a variety of characters, plot devices, theatrical and literary techniques that combine to form a coherent whole, however inconclusive it may be. The final scenes do little to inform a Judgment on the play as a whole due to contrasting and ambiguous intricacies. This is done purposely and skillfully by Shakespeare to leave an individual with the task of interpreting the play for themselves.