Hamlet: Tragedy of Failure

Hamlet: Tragedy of Failure

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Hamlet: Tragedy of Failure

        William Shakespeare's, Hamlet is a tragedy of failure, the failure

of a man placed in circumstances and faced to deal with them successfully.

Shakespeare uses different techniques to develop the characters in Hamlet.

Throughout the play dramatic irony is used by allowing the audience to view

the true actions of the characters before the characters disclose them.

Shakespeare toys with the idea of appearances versus reality in the play,

among these are Claudius, the play within the play, and Rosencrantz and



        Hamlet's father, the king of Denmark, has suddenly died. Claudius,

Hamlet's uncle, hastily marries Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and more

importantly they become the new king and queen. King Claudius is viewed as

legitimately gaining control of the throne by everyone except Hamlet.

Hamlet knows that there is "something rotten in the state of Denmark." His

belief is verified when the guards inform him of a ghostly figure with

close resemblance to the late king. The ghost reveals to Hamlet that while

in the garden, Claudius poured poison in his ear. Claudius prays to be

forgiven but his prayers are not sincere. Claudius, overcome with guilt,

would prefer to keep his status then reveal what he did to King Hamlet.


        The play within the play is useful because it allows Hamlet to

verify the validity of the ghost. Usually plays are intended for

entertainment purposes. The play is not real and the actors are playing a

role.  In reality Hamlet makes it so that it is similar to what really

happened to his father. Hamlet even goes as far as to instruct the actors

appropriately.  He will prove that the ghost is truthful by the reaction on

Claudius' face. The play appears to be harmless but it has a close parallel

to what really happened to the late King Hamlet.


        Rosencrantz and Guildernstern, who are the king's spies, pretend to

be friends to Hamlet. The king has sent for them to investigate Hamlet's

madness and what he suspects about his father's death. This is a

contradiction because later Claudius says that Hamlet's troubles are

unknown. Hamlet not being the fool also pretends to be friends to

Rosencrantz and Guildernstern. He reveals to them that he is aware of their

intentions when he says "were you not sent for." Claudius, fearing Hamlet

knows too much sends him with Rosencrantz and Guildernstern to England to

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be executed. Hamlet changes the orders and has Rosencrantz and

Guildernstern executed. Hamlet appears to be friends with them but in

reality he has them killed.


        Shakespeare uses the appearances versus reality as a way to create

irony in each character. The audience knows what the characters are

pretending to be. The audience enjoys the different characters reactions

when the truths are revealed. Claudius was not the legitimate king, the

play was supposed to resemble real life, and Rosencrantz and Guildernstern

were not true friends to Hamlet. Those are just a few of the many examples

of this technique in Hamlet.
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