Analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Published under category: Ordering Custom Papers | 2015-05-05 06:27:09 UTC

Context: Shakespeare

This paper analyses Shakespeare’s work. There are many other school assignments that can be custom written for you here. The play Hamlet begins with Prince Hamlet being summoned from his school in Germany to attend his father’s funeral at their home in Elsinore, Denmark. When Hamlet arrives home, he is shocked to find out that his mother is already remarried to Claudius, his uncle and now the new king. Hamlet views the marriage as a foul incest and to make things even worse, his uncle is king despite Hamlet being the right heir to his father’s throne. Suspecting foul play in his father’s untimely death, Hamlet hatches a plan to avenge his father’s death. A series of events and bloodbaths follow and the play ends with King Fortinbras ordering full military honors during Hamlet’s funeral. Hamlet can be criticized from a number of different perspectives and among these is from the social criticism perspective which basically examines the numerous ills in the society. While watching the play, one can easily notice several malicious conditions that characterize the flawed social structure of the environment in which Hamlet is staged. The character of Gertrude demonstrates some of these social ills when she is illustrated as a shallow individual whose main thoughts and interests revolve around her personal pleasures, both bodily and external. Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, behaves like a child since all she seems to care for is her need to be delighted. Not much is demonstrated about her day to day activities apart for her obsession with fine clothes and trinkets, warm baths and soft pillows. She is also illustrated as a very sexual being and this is one of the factors that make Hamlet behave so violently against her. According to Hamlet’s father’s ghost, Gertrude is adulterous, lustrous, and incestuous beast who loves witchcraft and treachery. The ghost’s description of Gertrude as adulterous perhaps illustrates that Gertrude and Claudius may have had an affair even before Hamlet’s father’s death and this might also explain why Gertrude got married to Claudius shortly after the death of Hamlet’s father’s. Gertrude’s portrayal as a selfish individual who only cares for things that she can derive pleasure from seems to support the accusations by Hamlet’s father’s ghost of her being adulterous but there are several factors in the play that seem to dispute this accusation. If Gertrude was indeed adulterous, then there is a high probability that she would have collaborated with Claudius to murder Hamlet’s father who, in this case, would have been as an obstacle to their love for each other. Gertrude would therefore not be the child-like victim portrayed in the play but would actually be a villainess. Moreover, her collaboration with Claudius would have made Claudius to treat her like an accomplice and therefore confide in her. This, however, does not happen in the play and this casts some shadow of doubt on whether Gertrude actually collaborated with Claudius to murder Hamlet’s father. Hamlet’s doubt of whether she was adulterous is further demonstrated when he confronts her while she was in her closet and spells out all the crimes that she has committed. Adultery is however conspicuously absent from the list of accusations and this perhaps indicates that Hamlet did not believe that his mother was adulterous. Gertrude fondness of telling lies is another demonstration of a flaw in the social structure in Hamlet’s society. Gertrude is such a habitual liar that she not only often lies to others but also deceives herself about the consequences of the actions that she takes. The lies that Gertrude tells are however not wicked and cruel falsehoods because it is her need to emotionally and physically protect those around her that motivates her to tell the lies. For instance, Gertrude finds it necessary to tell to the king that Polonious has been killed by Hamlet but in a bid to protect Hamlet, she lies to the king that Hamlet regrets his actions even though it is clear that he is not. Shakespeare’s description of Ophelia also demonstrates several social ills the most notable of which are the consequences faced by Ophelia due to the lack of a female figure and influence in her life. The lack of a mother’s influence in Ophelia’s life set the stage for external demands such as the need to reflect the desires of others to shape her life. An examination of Ophelia’s character illustrates that she behaves in a way that is different from that which is normally expected of a woman. Ophelia was not raised by her mother and has always been surrounded by men and therefore has always been influenced and confined by external factors and the men around her. Shakespeare does not explain why Ophelia’s mother is absent in her life but illustrates how Polonious, her father, played a key role in shaping her life. The lack of a female figure in her life combined with the central role that her father plays in her life creates a myriad of problems for Ophelia one of which is her inability to directly relate, as a woman, to a male paradigm. Even though there are many things that a woman can learn from a man, the fundamental differences between a woman and a man can sometimes place the woman at a disadvantageous position in the society. For instance, men have always assumed a hierarchical relationship over women and this makes it difficult for women to fully benefit from the suppressing nature of this hierarchical relationship. This patriarchal relationship leaves women with two choices the first of which is to allow male figures to dominate them and the second is to act in defiance and risk not being loved. Shakespeare condemns this patriarchal relationship by emphasizing, in many of his plays, the various negative consequences that results from this unfair practice. In Hamlet this can be seen in Ophelia’s lack of self identity since her father has imposed his identity upon her. Polonious believes that his needs are the same as those of Ophelia and therefore influences her to reason as he does. Given that the other significant influential person in Ophelia’s life is Laertes, her brother, Ophelia eventually loses her self-identity as a woman. Ophelia’s lack of self identity is well observed in the way Laertes and Polonious influence just about any aspect of her life including her relationship with Hamlet. The two appear to treat maters that should otherwise have remained as Ophelia’s private issues as issues that are important to the whole family. The two individuals not only treat Ophelia as though she does not have a mind of her own but also treat her as an inferior being. Ophelia’s lack of self identity makes her act as a puppet to the males around her and even when male dominance over her life disappears towards the end of the play, she does not make any effort to position herself as a feminist hero of the play but instead acts in the exact opposite. As the play comes to an end, Ophelia illustrates the consequences of allowing men to shape her self-identity when she fails to recognize herself as an independent person in the absence of the male figures in her life. The only admirable assertion of her identity takes place when she commits suicide. This is because her decision to commit suicide appears to be her first notable autonomous choice even though it leads to a tragic end to her life. ORDER PLAGIARISM FREE PAPER

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