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The Ambiguity of Shakespeare's Ambiguous Hamlet

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Ambiguity of Hamlet

In Shakespeare’s dramatic tragedy Hamlet, the reader finds ambiguity of one type and another here and there throughout the play. The protagonist himself is an especially ambiguous character is his own rite.

Harold Bloom in the Introduction to Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet expounds on the ambiguity and mysterious conduct of the hero during the final act:

When Horatio responds that Claudius will hear shortly from, presumably that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been executed, Hamlet rather ambiguously [my italics] makes what might be read as a final vow of revenge:

It will be short. The interim is mine.

And a man’s life’s no more than to say “one.” (2)

The play begins with the changing of the sentinels on a guard platform of the castle of Elsinore in Denmark. Recently the spectral likeness of dead King Hamlet has appeared to the sentinels for no definite purpose. Tonight the ghost appears again, for no apparent reason, to Barnardo, Marcellus and Horatio, a very close friend of Hamlet. Horatio and Marcellus exit the ramparts of Elsinore intending to enlist the aid of Hamlet, who is home from school, dejected by the “o’erhasty marriage” of his mother to his uncle less than two months after the funeral of Hamlet’s father (Gordon 128). There is a social gathering of the court, where Claudius pays tribute to the memory of his deceased brother, the former king, and then, along with Queen Gertrude, conducts some items of business, for example dispatching Cornelius and Voltemand to Norway to settle the Fortinbras affair, addressing Polonius and Laertes on the subject of the latter’s return to school abroad.

Hamlet is present at the court gat...

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...est 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 No line nos.

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.
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