Something and Nothing in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

Something and Nothing in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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   Can nothing be something? Or can something turn into nothing? Shakespeare would have the reader believe both are possible. A person can be something and "nothing" as exemplified when Ophelia asks Hamlet "What is my Lord?" and Hamlet replies "Nothing."(3.2. 109,111) Shakespeare uses "nothing" multifariously in his tragic play  "Hamlet."  "Nothing" becomes a way for the reader to draw parallels between Young Hamlet, and his slain father.  Young Hamlet's  use of  the word "nothing," consistently borders on the realm of something. Still, "nothing" is more than a  mere lack of something, "nothing" is the catalyst that enables the reader to see the coalescency that exists between Hamlet, and his father.

     The first mention of "nothing" is in a conversation between Rosencrantz and Young Hamlet.   Young Hamlet explains to Rosencrantz why he feels Denmark is a prison, "Why then ‘tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so; to me it is a prison."(2.2. 246)  King Hamlet believes that Claudius killed him to take his throne. Young Hamlet's father is in a "prison." Therefore, Shakespeare suspends King Hamlet in a place somewhere between a living being and heaven; he walks the earth as an apparition.  The Hamlets think it and therefore to them "it is so."  Both Hamlets have lost their thrones and now seek revenge.  Likewise, both King Hamlet and Young Hamlet have thought their perceptions into reality.

     The next time "nothing" appears, Young  Hamlet is referring  to a player's ability to falsify anxiety. Young Hamlet exclaims surprisedly that the actor can emote such anguish out of "nothing."

 

                      A broken voice, and his whole function suiting

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... New Cambridge Shakespeare edn, edited by Philip Edwards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vickers, Brian. 1993. Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Watson, Robert N. 1990. 'Giving up the Ghost in a World of Decay: Hamlet, Revenge and Denial.' Renaissance Drama 21:199-223.

Wright, George T. 1981. 'Hendiadys and Hamlet.' PMLA 96:168-193.

Shakespeare, William. The Tradegy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark.  New York: Washington Square Press, 1992

Weiten, Wayne. Psychology: Themes and Variations, Fourth Editon. Boston: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1998

Fowler, Alastair. 1987. 'The Plays Within the Play of Hamlet.' In 'Fanned and Winnowed Opinions': Shakespearean Essays Presented to Harold Jenkins, edited by John W. Mahon and Thomas A. Pendleton. London and New York: Methuen.

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