Family In Hamlet Essay

1686 Words7 Pages
We can argue that Shakespeare uses ‘family’ as a catalyst to King Lear and Hamlets madness. Family by definition means “any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins” but metaphorically family is used to define inclusive categories such as community, friendship and humanism. The humanist movement influenced the production of Hamlet and King Lear in the Elizabethan era. It was the belief in the worth of all humans and that truth can be found through introspection. The Ancient Greek influence on Shakespeare and the play meant that most events were based on hard determinism, this belief makes Shakespeare form the play in a fashion that deprives the characters of free will and therefore a descend into tragedy. A family is perceived as the pillar that holds everyone within the bloodline together however it is the family that lead to the madness of the protagonists in each of the plays. We are introduced to prince Hamlet in Act1Scene2 where his uncle refers to him as “... my cousin Hamlet, and my son—“due to his new marriage with Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, quickly after her husband’s death King Hamlet (father to Hamlet and brother to Claudius) Shakespeare uses her remarrying to cause a drift between the two characters. Although Claudius refers to prince Hamlet as his son he rejects it and refuses to refer to him as a father “...A little more than kin and less than kind.” Unlike his mother, Hamlet is suffering bereavement. Gertrude, addresses this, “Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die”. Hamlet replies sarcastically, it would appear as if he could deal with his grief, presenting him as mentally stable to the rest of the characters and audience. However later in Act1Scene5 Pri... ... middle of paper ... ... for example critic Paul Kahn assesses the legal implications of King Lear, from the division of the kingdom where he explores the incompatibility of the value of love with the laws of the state, to the political and psychological implications of the actions of the play on the characters, speculating that his madness had commenced from Act 1 rather than later on in Act3 during the storm. It is evident that Shakespeare uses the embodiment of the idealised family as a foil to the insanity of each protagonist, as they reject the nurturing nature of what the family is supposed to be and do the opposite solely after their own selfish desires. Tragically, neither protagonists were free their families prohibited their social growth and Shakespeare allows them only to be in unison through death. Philosophically, they are more of a family in death than when they were alive.
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