Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy, Hamlet, resonates and maintains a lasting appeal, through the posing of questions, which few about societal issues, such as appearance and reality, action and inaction, revenge and corruption. These themes are represented through the disillusionment shown towards humanity and an exploration of one’s self, where the questions posed by Hamlet are also relatable to the audience. Imagery of decay and disease are weaved throughout the play to reinforce the themes. The exploration of these values and ideas through characterisation and language forms and features, contribute to Hamlet’s lasting appeal and the textual integrity of the play, as they resonate contextually to different audiences.
The play is first established with an ambiguous and unnerving question, “Who’s there?” which is a microcosm for the entire state of Denmark. This mental state of Hamlet is expressed most notably in the soliloquy, ‘To be or not to be’, where the audience is privy to rhetorical questions. It is ultimately based upon an antithesis; life and death, ‘to be or not to be’, questioning existence as a whole and whether or not it is “nobler in the mind to suffer…or to take arms against a sea of troubles”. Despite that Hamlet is discussing the topic of suicide; it is more rational in thought, depicted in a non-emotional manner. Shakespeare has used long sentences to present Hamlet in a detached and thoughtful way and has a slower pace due to a higher frequency of adjectives, metaphors, rhythmical repetitions and regular iambics. The structure of the soliloquy is systematic; first stating the ...
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...ngs rank and gross in nature”, is a metaphor for all of Denmark, expressed by Hamlet after his mother’s marriage to his uncle, Claudius. Revenge is now longer just a personal vendetta, but to also politically free Denmark of this metaphorical ‘unweeded garden’. The universality of the theme of corruption expressed through questions sustains relevance to different contexts, and thus is part of Hamlet’s lasting appeal.
We, as the audience, revel in the complexity of characters and the themes explored through continual questioning that avails too few answers. Through the exploitation and subversion of the ‘revenge tragedy’, Shakespeare has cleverly weaved a story that presents provocative ideas and enduring values, ultimately about the human condition, which maintains its relativity and textual integrity, to both its Elizabethan audience and to a contemporary audience.
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