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Hamlet: Admirable or Weak? Essay

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Hamlet:  Admirable or Weak?         

 
   In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, the character of Hamlet is often portrayed as a weak-minded individual, whose lack of purpose leads to seven unnecessary deaths. This is a valid interpretation, but not a very interesting one.

 

Hamlet is considered a tragedy, but it is also quite similar to a modern-day murder mystery. As such the most crucial plot element is Claudius' guilt, or, rather, the extent of Hamlet's knowledge of this guilt. One does not know if the ghost is the doomed spirit of Hamlet's father or a vision sent from Hell. It is impossible to determine how much Hamlet is aware of, how much can he guess, and how much is he deluding himself.

 

Hamlet is almost always performed as a tragedy, and Hamlet's "indecision" is universally accepted as the flaw. "If he had only made up his mind", people argue, "eight deaths could have been avoided." This, of course, is a very easy position for one to take, because we already know that Claudius is guilty. It would be a much more interesting piece if one could be left uncertain of the true facts. Due to the popularity of Hamlet, the fact that Claudius is guilty is taken for granted, and so it seems unfortunate that Hamlet cannot act sooner, but without this knowledge acting too quickly would be a mistake.

 

In the text, however, there is no clear evidence of wrongdoing until Claudius confesses his sins to God, his nephew, and the theater at large. Up until that point Hamlet is weighing the Ghost's story against the king's. The ghost accuses in Act I, but Hamlet is perceptive enough not to accept the being at its word. One thing that he realizes is that the Ghost is playing directly to his own emotions.

 

It ...


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...mbines the best qualities as his two foils: the nobility of Laertes' cause, and the execution of Fortinbras' coup. Fortinbras attacks without justice - his father died honorably in a fair fight, on the battlefield. Laertes has a larger grievance than Hamlet, but must stoop to treachery to complete his vengeance. Hamlet, however, remains true throughout, resisting his impulses until he cannot only perform Vengeance, but Justice as well.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations Of Hamlet. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York, NY. Columbia University Press. 1993.

Magill, Frank N. Masterplots. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1995.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The Riverside Shakespeare. ED. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Haughton Mifflin Company, 1974.


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