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Grief in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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According to Webster’s Desk Dictionary, grief is defined as “keen mental suffering over affection or loss” (397). Various characters in Hamlet choose to deal with grief in different ways, with many of their methods harmful in the end. Ophelia is dealt two setbacks during the course of the play, one being her father’s death and the other being Hamlet’s disrespectful treatment. Her brother Laertes must also deal with Polonius’s death, as well as Ophelia’s. From the beginning of the play, Hamlet grieves over his father’s murder. His grief is what sparks his quest for revengeand his battle to kill Claudius.


 Throughout the play, grief takes center stage in many of thecharacter’s lives, but they all choose to react in a different fashion. Grief takes many distinct shapes and forms and until people learn how to overcome it, it will remain an integral part of life.  One way to escape grief is to commit suicide, as Ophelia apparently does. Thegravedigger proclaims, “Is she to be buried in Christian burial that willfully seeks her own salvation” (Act V Scene I Lines 1-2). The gravedigger is wondering why a woman who has taken her own life deserves such a fancy funeral. When the Queen informs Laertes and Claudius  of Ophelia’s death, she says, “...she[Ophelia] chanted snatches of old tunes” (Act IV Scene VII Line 195). Ophelia did not know how to express her grief, other than in song. In Act IV, she sings of Polonius, “He is dead and gone, lady, he is dead and gone” (Scene V Lines 31-32).

Suicide AwarenessVoices of Education (SAVE) proclaims, “When a person faces his grief, allows his feelings to come, speaks of his is then that the focus is to move from death and dying and to promote...

... middle of paper ... been treating Ophelia very poorly, and her death must be hitting him even harder knowing that she died without his love.

Many sources on grief declare it to be something that must be faced or it will never go away. Ophelia never faces her grief, but it does go away when she drowns herself. She resorts to singing to solve her problems, while Laertes takes to violence. He believes he will feel relief once Hamlet is dead. Hamlet, on the otherhand, grieves for his father and does not take action for some time. He also has strong feelings on how his mother should take a longer time to grieve for her former husband. These three characters endure the same sort of grief at times, but choose toreact differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but as many of the characters in Hamlet discover, grief can overtake one’s life and lead to downfall.


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