Themes of of Morality and Revenge in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” Essay

Themes of of Morality and Revenge in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” Essay

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The use of contrast helps portray the concepts of morality and revenge in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. The foil between characters further develops the concepts and characterization, providing an additional layer of meaning behind the play. Contrast can mainly be observed between Hamlet and Claudius, and Hamlet and Fortinbras. The contrasted characters mentioned play a major part in developing a main theme throughout the play, that being moral corruption. Moral corruption can be seen through the state of Denmark as a whole, as well as simply in the family unit Hamlet is exposed to. Either way, the contrast between characters demonstrates how morally corrupt the ideas surrounding the play really are.
As Hamlet struggles to find the meaning behind morality, we see a clear contrast between his ideology and Claudius’. Hamlet is unable to decipher exactly between what is wrong and what is right; and although he considers himself a person of good intentions, he tends to find the line between right and wrong blurred on many occasions. As the play progresses, it can be noticed that Hamlet becomes much more inward. He finds that he overthinks every detail about his life, and his future involving revenge, as he says “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all” (III.i.83). The irony of this statement is found in the fact that he is upset with himself for not taking action and being a coward; however by doing this he is overthinking the situation. While the play progresses, it is seen that Hamlet’s inability to act is his demise. So, a clear contradiction in Hamlet’s character can be recognized. He contradicts himself often when it comes to the idea of revenge; as he considers it to be immoral to kill someone, but at the same time disc...


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...chooses to uphold immorality. The contrast between Hamlet and Claudius is deliberately exposed to enhance that idea by showing that neither man is able to choose morality over immorality; thus providing a clear-cut example of moral corruption in man. Also, the notion of revenge takes on the contrasted viewpoints of obtaining honor between Fortinbras and Hamlet. While Hamlet gets pulled further and further into the perceived need of honor, Fortinbras is able to abstain from moral corruption and keep his dignity, and for this he is the only character that is strengthened at the end of the play and not dead. A message that can be conveyed from this tragedy is that those who mean well, and are not morally corrupt, will find themselves having a better stature in life. However, paralleling those who counter you is not only ironic, but also a sign of diminishing morality.

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