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Hamlet: One Of The Four Great Tragedies In Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is considered one of his four great tragedies. This play not only uses unearthly characters to instill fear, but it also uses foil characters to show the possible outcomes for the protagonist, Hamlet, himself. The crucial contrast Shakespeare creates between “what is” and “what seems to be” causes Hamlet, along with many other characters, to act in order to create the outcome they 9-want. However, no matter their attempts the play still ends with an inescapable tragedy for all of the characters. After his father’s ghost visits Hamlet, he learns he must avenge his father’s death. The difficulty in this task not only comes from the ironic reality that the murderer is his uncle, but also the internal struggle because…show more content…
Hamlet is seeking revenge for the death of his father and believes he has found the perfect time to stab Claudius. However as Hamlet is spying on his stepfather and about to pull out his sword, he sees him “praying”. Hamlet then decides that if he kills Claudius in this moment the new king may be forgiven for his horrible actions and go to heaven. However, this is only “what seems” to be going on, and rather than asking for forgiveness Claudius is giving a fake prayer. Claudius even says, “A brother’s murder. Pray can I not,/ Though inclination be as sharp as will,/ My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent” (3.3.38). This simple contrast between reality and appearance keep Hamlet from successfully carrying out his mission. However, William Empson wonders if there is another reason for Hamlets delay of action or is he simply acting. Empson says, “wonder why he delays, just as he himself wonders. No other device could raise so sharply the question of ‘what is theatrical behavior?’” Although Hamlet does not know the truth, as an audience we pity him because we can see both sides of this event. We are able to hear this distinct contrast between reality, or in this case a prayer, and fantasy when Claudius says, “O, what form of prayer/ Can serve my turn?” (3.3.51) Surprisingly, Claudius does not want forgiveness because he…show more content…
Hamlet puts on an antic disposition in the beginning act in order to prove Claudius’ guilt and avenge his father’s death, but as an audience we finally see how this “madness” affects other characters in later scenes. Most importantly one can see how this contrast not only affects, but also ends Ophelia’s life. Ophelia’s heart, that she believed was filled with love, is soon ripped into pieces when Hamlet acts mad and says, “I loved you not” (3.1.118). Later in the play, Ophelia finds out that not only has her father been murdered, but he was also killed by her own love, Hamlet. After this scene, Ophelia is lost and confused in emotions causing her to take action in the way she believes will benefit her best. This action includes taking her own life because she can no longer bear the pain of all the tragedies. As the queen describes this death she says, “Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,/ Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay/ To muddy death” (2.7.181). These ironic moments again prove that the contrast in actuality and make-believe are crucial to the tragic ending of the play. In these moments, we feel pity and sorrow for Ophelia because we wonder if she had known the truth, would this have happened? Her desire to satisfy her own needs in this moment allow this tragedy to occur though; therefore, at the same time we wonder if the truth would have made a
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