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Free Hamlet Essays: Teaching Deception and Selfishness in Hamlet

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Teaching Deception and Selfishness in Hamlet

The Tragedy of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, illustrates the disintegration of not only a family but a society. In a play riddled with greed, manipulation and dishonesty, the end result is the demise of all the main characters. ?It is clear that the theme of vengeance is merely a vehicle used by Shakespeare in order to articulate...themes central to humanity: relationships between father and son, mother and son, and Hamlet and his friends...youth and age? (Introduction to Hamlet). The children are not at fault for their parents? mistakes. Since youth learn often through observation of the adults around them, society today is hyper-aware of the ?example? that it sets for the future generation; in
Denmark during Hamlet?s time period, there was little consideration for the moral structure of the future leaders of the country. Through the conceit of the adults in Hamlet, there are moral repercussions for themselves and the youth of Elsinore, who are unable to bear the burden of the adults? mistakes.

The adults at the forefront of the play are Claudius, Hamlet?s uncle/stepfather;
Gertrude, his mother and Claudius? new wife; and Polonius, counsel to the King and father of Ophelia and Laertes.

Claudius is smug at the onset of the play because he appears to have gotten away with killing King Hamlet, Gertrude?s late husband and Hamlet?s father, in order to ascertain the King?s title and woo Gertrude. He has committed selfish and murderous acts that, in the belief of the time, would damn his soul. In fact, in one soliloquy in Act III, scene III, he admits to himself that he feels no remorse for what he has done, saying, ?But,
O, what form of prayer can serve my turn...I am still possessed of those effects for which I did the murder _ my crown, mine own ambition, and my queen? (lines 54-58). The deception that Claudius has commited puts the responsibility of avenging his father?s death on young Hamlet, something that he proves unable to accomplish until the very end of the play, despite several attempts to muster the courage. Claudius also turns Hamlet?s own friends against him by attempting to utilize Guildenstern and Rosencrantz as spies.

Polonius, counsel to the King, is a manipulative character intent on winning the
King?s approval. His solutions to the problems surrounding the royal family involve spying and lying as means to achieve an end. This is evident in Act III, scene I, lines 49-51, when
Polonius instructs Ophelia on how to behave while he and the King are spying on Hamlet.
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