The use of humor in a tragic story helps to give the reader a break from the monotony of a depressing story line. “If a story were completely filled with depressing and tragic events, the readers' interest would most definitely be lost”( Bloom 91). William Shakespeare's, Hamlet is based on the tragedy of a murder of the king of Denmark, whose son must revenge his murderer. Therefore it is classified as a tragedy and if humor weren't present in the play it would be very depressing. Shakespeare ironically uses Hamlet; the main character to add the comedy bit of the play when he is the one the tragedy affects most. This humor is evident throughout the play by Hamlet. When Hamlet is upset at someone like Claudius or Polonius he will mock them in their presence without either one of them really catching on too quickly.
The first one of Hamlet's stand up routines is with his uncle, Claudius in Act I, scene ii. Claudius comments on Hamlets mourning and Hamlet snaps back with a clever pun.
Claudius. How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Hamlet. Not so, my lord. I am too much in the sun.
(Shakespeare I.ii. ll. 66-67)
When Hamlet refers to the sun he is actually saying that he feels that he is "too much of a son" to Caudius, when he is really supposed to be his nephew. The whole complication between Hamlet and Claudius is that, Hamlet's father died and then Hamlet's uncle, Claudius married his mother. This leaves Hamlet with a strange family tree because his uncle doubles as his stepfather. The line that proceeds the ones seen above also tells the reader of the awkwardness of the situation.
Hamlet. A little more than kin, and less than kind!
(Shakespeare I.ii. ll. 6...
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...r the reader. The comedy helps break the story up a bit and gives the reader a mental breather from some of the complications in the play. While the reader is given a mental breather from the seriousness of the play they also are fed some of Hamlet's inner thought about the people he is interacting with. Hamlet is able to directly tell the other person exactly what he feels of them and by using humor, sneak it past them in most cases.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations Of Hamlet. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
Brodwin, Leonora. Hamlet Character Analysis. Monarch Notes. Brodwin's Notes
Scott-Hopkins, Benjamin. "Dark Humor of Hamlet" Shakespeare-Online
Shakespeare, William. "Hamlet." The Unabridged William Shakespeare. William George Clark and William Aldis Wright, ed. Running Press. 1989.
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