Nuances of Irony in Hamlet

2815 Words12 Pages
Nuances of Irony in Hamlet The irony within Shakespeare’s dramatic play Hamlet is apparent to the casual reader/viewer. This essay will explore the various instances and dimensions of this irony. In his essay “Hamlet: His Own Falstaff,” Harold Goddard explains the irony of the final scene: Laertes begs Hamlet’s forgiveness and follows the King. Hamlet, as if visited by his own genius at the end, speaks to those around him as if they were gathered in a theatre as “audience to this act,” prevents Horatio from drinking the last drops of the poisoned liquor, and cries to his friend in words the whole world knows by heart: Absent thee from felicity awhile, And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, To tell my story. Martial music is heard in the distance, and a salute. The conquering Fortinbras has come from Poland, and Hamlet has just enough breath left to give him his dying voice as his successor. What irony! Like Henry V’s, all the Elder Hamlet’s conquests have been for nothing – for less than nothing. Fortinbras, his former enemy, is to inherit the kingdom! Such is the end to which the Ghost’s thirst for vengeance has led. (22-23) In similar fashion, Harold Bloom in the Introduction to Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet comments on the irony of Fortinbras’ succession to the throne of Denmark: Shakespeare gives Fortinbras the last word on this, but that word is irony, since Fortinbras represents only the formula of repetition: like father, like son. “The soldier’s music and the rite of war” speak loudly for the dead father, but not for this dead son, who had watched the army of Fortinbras march past to gain its little patch of ground and had... ... middle of paper ... ...sive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: Univ. of Delaware P., 1992. Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957. Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. N. p.: Pocket Books, 1958.
Open Document