I think he’s an absolute ruler, obsessed with power and control over his subjects. Although he does his job; going to meetings, making allegiances, discussing problems, he is a pretty poor ruler. Because how can a person so obsessed with power ever be a good ruler? His well-being will always go before anything else, even Gertrude (if he even really loves here). In the end when he poisoned the drink for Hamlet to drink, he didn’t even bother saving his wife before she drank it. Aside, he said: “It is the poisoned cup. It is too late” (Hamlet, 326). And being a leader should mean that you care about your people, keep them safe, fed, what not. Claudius said he had two reasons not to kill Hamlet for Polonius’ death, but I think there’s really only one and he’s manipulating Laertes into killing Hamlet, so he won’t have to take the blame for it. Claudiusbegrudges the love people have for Hamlet. Like he mentioned, because the public loves Hamlet, and doing something bad to Hamlet would hurt really only Claudius, he doesn’t want to take the fall for it. He’s just a very bad person overall. Killing the king, his own brother, to take over the crown is such an immoral act. In the informal debate Haruki argued that it didn’t specifically say that Claudius murdered his brother, but it does. “Oh, my offense is rank. It smells to heaven. It hath the primal eldest curse upon't, a brother’s murder” (Hamlet, 188) is what Claudius said before he prayed for forgiveness for the foul murderhe committed. And even after that he said: “Words without thoughts never to heaven go” (Hamlet, 192). He knows he’s guilty and he can feel it, yet power is still more important to him for he’s willing to let Gertrude die in order to kill Hamlet. A bad person, with moral values that aren’t actually morally right (of course based on perspective) can never be a good ruler. He would sacrifice anything in order to stay king and maintain control and power, even if he has to wipe out the majority of his people, or kill the son of the women he “loves” ( that he stole from the brother he killed.. ), or even kill the woman he “loves”. A person is as good of a leader as one is a person. And Claudius overall is just a bad person.
Hamlet & Ophelia: Is it Love?
Throughout the entire play, I questioned whether or not Hamlet’s love for Ophelia is true. because how would you know? Like truly know. How does love show itself? How would Shakespeare show us that his love is actually true, despite being argued that it wasn’t? Many people argued that it wasn’t love, because many people, mostly Ophelia’s brother and father, didn’t believe it was love, but rather that Hamlet was using Ophelia. When Laertes was leaving, he told Ophelia that Hamlet’s love was “forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, the perfume and suppliance of a minute” (Hamlet, 40). Polonius thought that Hamlet went mad out of love, but he also said to king Claudius that he believes the origin and commencement of his grief sprung from neglected love” (Hamlet, 146), implying that Hamlet does love Ophelia, and went crazy when that mutual feeling of love wasn’t reciprocated. When Claudius talked to Hamlet to find out if he was crazy out of love, he said aside: “Love? His affections do not that way tend” (Hamlet, 146). And then believing that whatever Hamlet said sounded logical and not something a crazy person would say. Contradictory to what some might believe, I think Shakespeare subtly and sometimes really directly showed the audience that Hamlet really loved Ophelia in the play. Conspicuously through Hamlet’s words and his actions. The biggest example of Hamlet’s love for his Ophelia is when he wrote her a love letter. A famous phrase that is now used for many things concerning love. His poem telling Ophelia “doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love” (Hamlet, 94). Also, when he tried to protect her from harm’s way, in case his revenge on Claudius would go wrong. He didn’t want Ophelia to get dragged into the drama and possibly getting hurt so he made her believe that he once loved her and then saying that he never loved her. Maybe also because he knew that he was being spied on by Claudius’ servants, Claudius and Polonius. And finally, the most convincing one was when Ophelia drown'd and Hamlet was so hurt he jumped into a grave fighting Laertes to convince him that he loved her so much that he actually went crazy over her loss. Without Ophelia, for a moment, he lost purpose in his life all over again. He even told Laertes: “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum” (Hamlet, 296). Love can be shown through words, but most importantly it is shown through actions. Hamlet’s act of protecting Ophelia, writing her a love letter, and fighting her brother out of grief and anger (maybe not the best way to go about things), to me, indicates that he really did love Ophelia.
Polonius: Good Father or Bad Father?
When Polonius is first shown in the play, he is portrayed as a caring father. He shows his utmost concern for his son, Laertes, and gives him life advice for his travels such as, “Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act” (Hamlet, 44) and “To thine own self be true” (Hamlet, 44). He talks about how to respect other people and be respected; how to carefully handle money, so he won’t fall in financial predicaments; How to not lend money to friends, for it will ruin their friendship; how to not say everything that he thinks and to not get in fights quickly, although if he were to be in one to stay honorable. And finally, Polonius tells him to be true to himself. Which I think is a key component in analysing Polonius’ character and his value as a father. This all seems like good advice, but then the rest of the story shows a different side of Polonius. When Laertes leaves, Ophelia and Polonius are left. They discuss Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet, and Polonius clearly criticizes and disapproves of it. He doesn’t believe that Hamlet’s “offers” of affection to Ophelia are true and says “you speak like a green girl” (Hamlet, 46) to Ophelia as if she was ingenuous, naive and dumb. Him criticizing Ophelia like that shows a completely different view of Polonius as a caring father. He seems overly-attached- almost obsessive over Hamlet and Ophelia. “Tender yourself more, or…. you’ll tender me a fool” (Hamlet, 46).This made me think that all the advice Polonius gives to his children is not for their benefit, but more for his own. As if he desperately needs his kids to have a good reputation in order for him to have a good reputation. Such as when he sent Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in France. To lie about Laertes actions in order to find out what he’s really doing. “Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth” (Hamlet, 80) so that people wouldn’t think too bad of Laertes, and thus not too bad of Polonius. People will just think that Laertes is a party-animal who got a little out of hand. And then finally, the utmost biggest failure that Polonius underwent in the play, is to keep his children alive. In the end both Ophelia and Laertes died, and so did he. His acts of finding some sort of redemption for himself resulted in the death of his entire family including himself; blood is thicker than water and that was clearly visible at the end of the play. He told Laertes “give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act” (Hamlet, 44), yet he often gives his thoughts to his tongue and many unproportioned thoughts to action. He also told Laertes “to thine own self be true” (Hamlet, 44), however Polonius’ actions contradict everything that Polonius previously advised to Laertes and displays his lack of integrity and honesty. The best advice someone could give is the advice that is already lived out in the giver, and by Polonius not doing that, is given the-worst-father-of-the-year award. *Applause*.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Did they deserve their fate?
I think that they got severely punished for something they weren’t even aware of. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were Hamlet’s childhood friends, but Hamlet being so vengeful and fixated on revenge, wasn’t able to see past their actions and understand that Guildenstern and Rosencrantz really had nothing to do with Claudius’ plan of having Hamlet murdered. Especially when Gertrude said that “sure I am two men there are not living to whom he more adheres” (Hamlet, 86). I do agree that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “did make love to their employment” (Hamlet, 304). They freely laid themselves down to serve for the king and queen, and would do a lot in order to get a better reputation under them. “We both obey and here give up ourselves, in the full bent, to lay our services freely at your feet to be commanded” (Hamlet, 88). Although, they were asked to spy on Hamlet to see whether or not he was crazy, they weren’t aware of that. They were asked to spend time with Hamlet; make him have fun, since the queen and Claudius described Hamlet as a “changed” person. Both of them really wanted to be there for him: “Heavens make our presence and our practices pleasant and helpful to him!” (Hamlet, 88). In the end, after they were executed under Hamlet’s (aka pretended Claudius’) command, Hamlet described what Claudius wrote in the letter to the king of England. “To mine own room again, making so bold.. to unseal their grand commission, where I found.. an exact command… that, on the supervise (no leisure bated, no, not to stay the grinding of the ax) my head should be struck off” (Hamlet, 300). Claudius ordered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to accompany Hamlet to England, but they were not aware of the fact that he was sent there to be murdered. So when Hamlet unnecessarily wanted the messengers of that letter to be executed, I was really shocked. This is the last free write I’ve written and I’ve scanned many pages of the Hamlet book over and over again, and the more I read, the more I think that Hamlet is crazy.. His purpose was not to have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern executed, but he thought it necessary for “‘tis dangerous when the baser nature comes between the pass and fell incensèd points of mighty opponents” (Hamlet, 304). If fate decided that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern had to be killed for trying to help out their childhood friend and trying to please the king and queen, (for doing their job basically), then fate is unkind and cruel.
Hamlet’s Revenge: Justified or Not?
Murder is a sin, but killing is a righteous act. I believe that there’s always a reason for someone to seek revenge and Hamlet has every reason to want to take the life of his uncle. When Hamlet’s father’s spirit showed up to him, he explained to him the horrors of his death. He told Hamlet that “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown” (Hamlet, 62). Since when is murdering a family member for power a righteous act? And even towards the end of the book, Claudius intended to murder Hamlet as well. Despite that, I still don’t think his revenge is justified; Revenge never is, despite his rational and the bastard of an uncle he has. Another thing that needs to be considered if we think revenge ever to be justifiable, is not just the righteousness of the kill, but also the stage of sanity. Is Hamlet crazy or not? Because his entire surroundings seems to work against him from his point of view. He grows resentful of his mother who married his uncle just a few weeks after his father’s death. His childhood friends conspire with the king to spy on Hamlet. Polonius is against his love for Ophelia, and Ophelia is starting to believe her father. He has a very complicated situation that makes enduring life so much harder, especially for someone who doesn’t have a purpose anymore. I don’t think murder for the wrong reasons can be justified, but someone who’s crazy can’t help it. Because people act in contrast to what they think and belief. So believing that killing a person is the right thing to do, makes it the right thing to do. “I think so, so it is so.” How can one be sure that things around them are real? The only thing you can fully rely on is yourself. Albert Einstein once said something that really got me thinking over and over again, when I felt I was going insane; “A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?” Crazy is once again a subjective term. From my point of view, Hamlet is all kinds of crazy, and all kinds of genius. I don’t think he’s crazy because he wants to kill his bastard uncle, but I do think he’s crazy in the way that he has lost his way. He has one path to follow, and due to this fixation and obsession for revenge, he can’t think properly and realize that there are other ways. “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations). Another thought that crossed my mind, making me think Hamlet was crazy, is that Hamlet is picking the easiest way for revenge. Death is too simple, too easy, too kind. The best kind of revenge would be to wait till happiness fills Claudius’ life and then to turn that happiness into ashes, and leave him with nothing but his own crazed and desperate mind. But seeking revenge is like digging two graves, one for the other and one for yourself.
Hamlet in the 21st Century: Does the Play Have a Role?
The play is set in in the city of Elsinore in the country Denmark in the Middle Ages. Hamlet seems to have been based on an old Danish myth, "Amleth," about a young prince who avenges his father's death when it turns out that his father had been murdered by his own brother. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet around 1600, making this story about 400 years old! So how does a story that old still have a role in the 21st century? Because the themes of the story are incredibly relatable to many people. I mean, I understand that not everybody is a prince/princess whose father has been murder by their own uncle, but the situation might be similar. This play has a role because the themes have a significant relation with many people. Blood is thicker than water is said many times. Family is the most important thing in life, which is why Hamlet seeks revenge for his father’s murder. But it gets so complicated when his family member is murder by another family member who married another family member. Also, family ties are very important in life. Hamlet “is subject to his birth” (Hamlet, 40). Many people in this world are. Due to religion, social ranking, and wealth people have to behave in a certain manner or accomplish something in order to honor their family. Hamlet is very philosophical. “To be, or not to be? That is the question-- Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them?” (Hamlet, 138) is something he ponders over consistently. He is so reflective that he has become indecisive, maybe even paralyzed in his decision making, especially when it comes to actually acting on his revenge for his father. Many people nowadays are suicidal, vengeful, and can really relate to Hamlet’s feelings. I mean, who doesn’t think about the purpose of life? Or the meaning of death? Or oblivion? Or the afterlife? Why does what we do matter? When we die, everything dies. The world is only and truly yours, because the only thing you can rely on is yourself. So what should you do? Seeking revenge is something we can also relate to. People are naturally selfish, because that’s what you need to survive. And when someone or something does something to you that cuts you deep and makes you miserable, all you want is to do the same thing to them. Give them a dose of their own medicine. Make them suffer for what they put you through. Although it’s not a natural thing to do, it’s a natural feeling to have. All people want is what’s best for themselves. Laertes, before his death, fancily said: “I am justly killed with mine own treachery” (Hamlet, 328). You could say that Karma caught up to him. Hamlet is just an amazingly written play that people still enjoy today and find significance in due to the fact that it’s relatable, no matter what century we’re in.
Why do we still read Shakespeare today?
Four-hundred years has passed since Shakespeare wrote his last play, yet his stories and the characters he created are still alive today. So why is four-hundred year old literature still valuable today? First reason is because Shakespeare wrote in “Olde English”. A language that’s hard to understand, and very challenging to decipher. This is why students read it and literature students in university are required to read it. It is to test our translation skills, and be able to understand archaic texts through critical reading and analysis. Another reason is because Shakespeare eloquently expresses his ideas and emotions in his writing that we still know today, and asks philosophical questions that people still ponder over. He potently makes us think about various dilemmas that come with being human. Let’s use Hamlet for example. All individuals on this planet, in the course of their life time, will be faced with the choice of action or inaction and will thus face Hamlet's dilemma of "To be or not to be". Every one will once have to decide what the moral and the right thing to do is and realize that "conscience makes cowards of us all." Or in Twelfth Night, people will be mocked and rejected, and everyone will feel some form of desire, or love for a person (they can’t have). But naturally for the most obvious reason: because it’s Shakespeare. Shakespeare was a master playwright, author of literature, and all around skillful at using the english language. There has not been anyone like him since he put his pen on his paper. He penetrated the mind of the human species, and beautifully, dexterously and accurately portrayed human struggles in his plays which is what makes his work so timeless. Shakespeare is a prime example of an immortal writer. “The language is rich, the characters are complex and many of his basic themes – love, treachery, honor, bravery and political intrigue – still resonate today” (Ovations).