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A Comparison of Shakespeare's Prince Hamlet and Machiavelli’s The Prince

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A Comparison of Prince Hamlet and Machiavelli's The Prince          

 
   Machiavelli states that "it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case." Machiavelli's ideas both compare and contrast to the methods used by Hamlet. Hamlet's desire to drive the king mad and eventually kill him, is what he thinks he must do in order to set things right. Hamlet struggles to maintain his position as prince. Perhaps he lacks the essential qualities of a prince outlined by Machiavelli.

 

According to Machiavelli, the pursuit of all things regarded as virtuous and praiseworthy will only lead to the prince's ruin. This is completely true in the case of Hamlet, because he is on a quest to avenge his father's death. The battle between good and evil is constantly in the forefront of Hamlet's mind, as he wavers between acting civil or getting revenge outright. In the beginning, Hamlet struggles to remain good at all times, but this causes him extreme anguish. Hamlet is an honest man, who grieves for his father. He suffers because of the dishonesty of the others in the court, especially his mother and his uncle, and later, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet is able to see through them all, and realize that they're dishonest. He speaks these words to Guildenstern: "Anything but to th' purpose. You were sent for, and there is a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties have not craft enough to colour. I know the good King and Queen have sent for you." (Hamlet, II, ii., 278-280)

 

Hamlet's honesty is also seen when he is speaking with his mother. In act I, scene ii, Gertrude asks him why the de...


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...e his goal was to get and retain power. He wanted to prove Claudius to be an unfit king, and he did so, but only as Hamlet himself was about to die. Hamlet had to cause grief by killing the king, but in the end, he is seen as a hero, because he unmasked his father's killer.

 

Sources Cited and Consulted:

Gray, Terry A. "Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet." http://www.palomar.edu/Library/shake.htm.

Jones, W. T. Masters of Political Thought. Ed. Edward, McChesner, and Sait. Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1947.

Lee A. Jacobus.  A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers.  5th edition. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1998.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Trans. Hill Thompson. Norwalk: The Easton Press, 1980.

Shakespeare, William. The Three-Text Hamlet. Eds. Paul Bertram and Bernice Kliman. New York: AMS Press, 1991.


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