Hamlet, Laertes, Fortinbras: Avenging the Death of their Father Compare and Contrast Essay
The theme of revenge is widely represented in the novel of William Shakespeare ‘Hamlet’. Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras are three main characters that reveal the feeling of revenge.
They all are very similar but yet different at the same time. They all had love and respect for their fathers and felt the need to avenge their deaths. However, through the play three characters chose different ways to avenge for their fathers’ death.
Hamlet is the main character in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. He discovers the fact of his father’s death from his uncle Claudius. He grieves deeply for his father. The appearance of ghost leads to Hamlet’s understanding of his father’s murder: “If thou didst ever thy dear father love—Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5, Lines 23 and 25),”The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown,” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5, Lines 38-39).
Hamlet decides that the best plan of action is to fake madness striving for revenge. As the play develops, Hamlet’s act of being a madman becomes more and more believable, and his friends and family do not pay much attention to his insane words and insane actions. However, we understand the artificial nature of Hamlet’s insanity. It gives him freedom in actions. Hamlet is a kind of a character that thinks a lot before acting.
Wearing a mask of insanity, he was planning his actions on how to handle his revenge. He calmly overanalyzes each detail and eventually he is hesitating in everything. This leads him to inertness – he, who hesitates in every detail, has no longer motivation for immediate action.
Hamlet finds himself feeling better in the abundance of negative things: betrayal, death and others. He is obsessed with them. Furthermore, being concentrated only on such things, he regards himself as a moral person. Hamlet deeply contemplates about his soul and its place.
He thinks about the fact that revenge is not a good action to make his soul get to heavens. His morality is supported by the scene of Claudius’s pray: “No might I do it pat, now he is praying” (Hamlet, Act III, Scene 3, Lines 74-75). He shows weakness as he is hesitating and searching for an adequate moment to take vengeance.
Hamlet is unwilling to share his real thoughts and his grief, this fact is intelligible, considering the acts of Claudius – the king found two university friends of Hamlet and called them to discover Hamlet’s actions.
Laertes is a minor character. However, his actions play important role in the development of the main character – Hamlet. Laertes comes from a noble family which has a good status and reputation in society. Like Hamlet’s father, Polonius was also killed by a close person to family. Laertes is also suffering through the accidental death of his father and a perfidy of a close person.
Laertes chooses a way for revenge different from Hamlet’s. He is driven by emotions. He does not overanalyze anything – he just acts. He is a rash actor, as nothing can distract him from his revenge. Because of this, he is easily influenced, for example, by Claudius. His rage has led him to his death from his own sword. As regards thoughts about afterlife, Laertes pays no attention to it – his only desire is revenge at any costs. He shows his grief publicly – he calls a crowd for a riot, he struggles for an immediate action.
Fortinbras shows a pretty similar reaction comparing to Laertes. He is eager to act – he has gathered an army for conquering Denmark. His is a prince of Norway, but likewise Hamlet did not receive the crown, he was not crowned too. There is no grief after his father; Fortinbras is led by desire to get the crown.
His dispossession of the crown was a great shock for him. He decides to control another kingdom. He shows no respect, no care about thousands of people in his army. He wants to win honour with his sword, sacrificing thousands of lives. Obviously, Fortinbras is not thinking about his afterlife – his lives in present time with his only desire – to gain victory at any costs.
Although Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras are all concerned with their revenge for their fathers’ death, they choose different ways of realizing their desire. The author shows a revenge driven by emotions, a well-thought out retaliation and a real vendetta with sacrifices. Being concentrated on revenge, all three characters are subtly built in order to represent completely different tempers.
Shakespeare, William “Hamlet” The Complete Works of William-Shakespeare. Web.
Characterization of Hamlet Analytical Essay
Hamlet is without a doubt the best theatrical character ever produced. From the moment we encounter the humble prince we are entrapped by his graceful power. He meets the death of his father with rage and indignation yet he shows no emotion for the people that he kills. He uses the frail and naïve Ophelia as an avenue to vent his anger towards the queen, and cannot understand that his own bitter words have made her insane.
Hamlet’s character is filled with faults. By closely examining his faults, one is quick to notice that the faults are inborn. Throughout the play, Hamlet seems to carry in him a burden that is too big for him. Despite his attempt at bravery, he is weak willed and unable to make some important decisions.
When Hamlet learns in a dream that he is supposed to revenge the death of his father, he promises to do so “with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.” To Hamlet, even his life’s dreams and destiny cannot be compared to this new pursuit.
Immediately after this discovery, Hamlet is at a loss as to why he has to be the one chosen to exert this revenge. This is the first indication we get that Hamlet has a weakness in his character.
Instead of seeking for ways to kill the person who murdered his father, Hamlet begins to wonder why a sane person can commit such an act. To a careful eye, this is something meant to procrastinate his revenge mission.
This is something that even Hamlet cannot seem to comprehend. Upon realizing that he is dreading carrying out his mission, he comforts himself by saying that he is no coward. Hamlet postpones this mission further by seeking to verify the words of the ghost. However, the trap that he sets to confirm this soon ‘snaps’ but he still cannot make a meaningful decision.
Even though Hamlet learns that his mother was an accomplice in his father’s death, she dissuades him from killing her. Although we might all conclude that Hamlet is overtaken by love for his mother, this is something that does not befit a hero.
A true hero should not let emotions come in the way of his assignment. Upon learning of his mother’s role in the death of his father, he knows that he has to punish the perpetrators regardless of their identity.
When he gets this opportunity to “drink hot blood, and do such bitter business as the day”, he fails to master the courage needed to achieve this. At this moment, his mind seems to be a battlefield. On one hand, he knows that he has to avenge the death of his father while on the other he has no courage to do it.
Hamlet promises to be “cruel, not unnatural and to speak daggers at his mother but act none.” This is a sign of cowardice on Hamlets part. In order to hide his true feelings from his mother, he decides to pretend that he is insane.
Immediately after the episode at his mother’s house, another opportunity presents itself for revenge. This time, it is only Hamlet and the king in an enclosed temple where there is no route for escape. Coincidentally, Hamlet goes behind the king and draws his sword ready to strike. In a real life event, this is the moment when we all draw our breath and close our eyes in anticipation of seeing fresh blood.
However, a few moments later, Hamlet brings us back to reality by claiming that “now might I do it pat, now he is praying; And now I will do’t: and so he goes to heaven.” Always having excuses to justify his procrastination, he tells us that he fears killing the king in a moment of repentance. This is a sign of weakness and indecision on Hamlets part.
If hamlet had been genuine about his desire to kill the king while he was in the process of committing iniquity, it is only right that we see this promise being manifested at least in one scene.
At one time, the ghost appears while Hamlet is talking to his mother. Even Hamlet himself knows he has procrastinated the revenge long enough but consoles himself by saying that he is no coward. In the monologue that follows his meeting with Fortinbras, he says that even being exiled to England would come as a respite.
In order to prove that he is no coward he promises “O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth.” This is a promise that we do not see Hamlet fulfilling anywhere in the play and hence our conclusion that he is weak willed and indecisive on what he should do.
Hamlet is one of the greatest theatrical characters that have ever been created. The character has different sides to him that make him hard to be understood.
However, one thing that comes out about his character is his weakness and indecision on some important issues. This makes him to keep on procrastinating revenge on his father’s death. By the time he gets to exert the revenge, he is so late such that the real motive for the revenge has been forgotten.
Drama Analysis of Hamlet by Shakespeare Essay
In the play Hamlet, William Shakespeare who is one of the most influential writers in history has elaborated the contemporary themes in society into a piece of literature as revealed in the drama. Due to his universal way of creating themes, he has been able to influence the western literature. In the contemporary theatre of the western, they still view Shakespeare’s work being relevant.
Shakespeare therefore uses the stylistic device of a play within a play to pass his information to the audience as well as helping him develop his plot. Shakespeare has in this case therefore used the main actor Hamlet in portraying this device. Hamlet who is a character in the play is again seen in another play within the play, which he acts in order to be in a position to kill Claudius.
Hamlet is a play that depicts a vivid drama of melancholy and insanity as well as famous of its ghostliness. In this play, Shakespeare has used various elements of literature to develop the plot of the play. In this case, the writer has used characters, settings, symbols, themes, characterization and other elements of literature in the development of the plot. The writer has used these elements correlatively to achieve his plot.
Themes are used to develop characters in the play. For instance, the writer has used the theme of betrayal to develop the main character Hamlet in the play hence the development of the plot. The writer used the name of the play as the name of the main actor while other characters in the play helped in development of the predominant theme in the main character.
Therefore, four main characters have greatly contributed by playing major roles. Hamlet experienced character development through the betrayals of Ophelia with whom he is romantically involved. Gertrude is his mother and Claudius’ wife while Gildernstern and Rosencrantz were his friends from the University of Wittenberg.
When the scene begins, there is a very close relationship between Hamlet and the mother, which later fades off when Gertrude remarries his uncle Claudius two months after his father’s death. This culminated the distrust in women since his mother was the most important female in his life.
He therefore uses mockery phrases like “such dexterity to incestuous sheets” and “frailty, thy name is woman”. Such phrases illustrated how disgusted and disappointed he was towards his mother and women as well as depicting how isolated he was as a young man.
The theme of madness has also played major role in the development of the plot. Insanity was used in many revenge tragedies like in the first revenge tragedy of Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus. Unlike in the case of Hamlet where the madness is ambiguous, other revenge tragedies in the character have been unambiguous.
In the source of Shakespeare’ plot in Hamlet, the main protagonist feigns his madness to be in the position to revenge without being suspected by the king (Claudius) whom he plots to kill. In the play, Hamlet’s madness tends to distract him from accomplishing his mission as it is depicted in the play as being with very little interest in accomplishing the mission of the ghost even after proving that Claudius is guilty (act 4 scene 2).
Hamlet therefore acts like a mad person in the play since he is aware in a bizarre manner that he should act as a mad man to accomplish the role of revenge in Hamlet. He knows the role that he is supposed to play even though to some extent he does not attain it satisfactorily.
This in return built Hamlet as a character who wants to revenge. Ophelia is another character who plays the part of a mad person but in her case, she is innocently mad. Ophelia loses her senses of self-knowledge and composure completely and therefore insane.
Suicide is another theme that has been used by Shakespeare to develop the plot in Hamlet. The play has been shaped using Ophelia as well as Hamlet. Hamlet deeply contemplates about the issue of suicide and this is seen in his soliloquies. He keeps on asking himself questions about the act of murder.
Hamlet had the fear to kill because of his social as well as religious morals. He views suicide as a crime in the societal view and even before God who gives life. He also had the fear of what happens to the person after he has departed from this world and going to the world of the deaths.
Ophelia’s death also arouses many issues where some people say that she died a natural death while others say that she committed suicide. According to Hamlet’s mother, Ophelia’s death was accidental because she drowned while on the other hand, the priest and the gravediggers said it clearly that Ophelia killed herself. This therefore left the people feeling that Gertrude’s narration was just a story to cover up the whole issue of murder since it was viewed as an immoral act in the society (act 5).
In Hamlet, Shakespeare has used women characters in the development of the plot. In the play, women are seen to play minor roles but very essential in development of the plot. In the play, Gertrude and Ophelia are the two women in direct relationship with the main protagonist. The writer develops the theme of love in the play using Gertrude who is the main protagonist’s mother. This is seen when Gertrude tries to stop the death of his son because Hamlet never loved her as a mother.
This is because; he felt that her mother was involved in the murder of his father. She is concerned about the well-being of her son, which proves the reason why Claudius could not inform her about the plot of killing his stepson. Ophelia is portrayed as loving because after the death of her father she became insane.
This is evident when she started using abusive language in public without fear as she used to behave in the previous scene, where Hamlet could abuse her and she could not respond due to the fear she had as woman who was under the power of a man.
The theme of patriarchal is built around the two women to show how they were not allowed to make decisions on their own. For example, in the case of Ophelia, she is forced by the father (Claudius) and her brother Laertes not to love Hamlet because the brother feels that Hamlet is playing with her feelings.
Trying to satisfy the wants of the father and brother, Hamlet blames her and even insults her, but since Ophelia does not have power to explain to him what was underlying the whole issue, she ends up suffering. The husband on the other hand see Gertrude as a less repressed person but Claudius married her so that he can be able to promptly take over the throne after Hamlet’s death and pretend that he is good just like the previous king by remarrying his wife.
Ophelia has been used to develop the stylistic device of symbolism in the play towards the development of the plot. The symbolism of her language in the play increases the range of meanings depicted in the play.
For example, Ophelia is emotional after hearing about the death of her father and throws flowers in every place around her as a sign of purity (act 4 scene 4). On the contrary, this symbolizes her deflowering as a person, on the other scene of her madness.
Lastly, the two characters have contributed in the development of the plot and again helped the writer to portray the fate of his heroes in the play. When Ophelia rejects Hamlet, Hamlet’s disgust his mother’s remarriage, taints the opinion about all women hence making him an isolated man. The madness death of Ophelia fortifies her brother’s determination of revenging on Hamlet, which results to the final catastrophe in the play. Gertrude cared for his son but could not control the tragedy from taking place.
The writer has used Hamlet who is the main character in the play to build other themes hence the development of the plot. After the death of Hamlet’s father, Hamlet plots on how to kill Claudius after the spirit confirmed to him that Claudius is the one who killed his father.
However, in the play Hamlets avenge on Claudius. “… I, his son, do this same villain send to heaven, why, this is hire and salary, not revenge” (Act 3 scene 3 78-84).
Honor is another theme portrayed through Hamlet the main protagonist. This theme is best depicted when Hamlet takes order from the ghost to revenge on Claudius as if the order came from God. “… With wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love may sweep to my revenge” (1.v.35-37).
The writer develops the plot using Claudius, Hamlet’s brother the king who later marries Gertrude his brother’s wife. In the play, he is Hamlet’s major avenger who is portrayed as lustful because he took his brother’s wife, Shrewd. He takes the throne that does not belong to him and allows his son revenge on Hamlet.
Due to these characters, he stands out as a man with contrasting characters from other men in the play. The ideas of Hamlet are just, honest and full of revenge but Claudius ensures that his power is maintained. In conclusion, the writer has also used other elements in correlation like the setting of the play to bring out the meaning in Hamlet.
Shakespeare therefore does not present various elements of literature as single entities in the play but he uses his concept of unity to express them as a single entity. Therefore, in this case, he uses characters in the play to develop themes and stylistic devices as well as using the themes to create the characters hence the clear development of the play.
Hamlet’s Relationship with His Mother Gertrude Research Paper
William Shakespeare, the famous playwright, has addressed the issue of relationships in most of his plays, especially as of family ties. He has in most of his books and in particular, The Tragedies exposed the good and the bad side of family ties, especially between parents and their kids, including oedipal complex issues.
In Hamlet, the must-read chef-d’oeuvre, Shakespeare brings to light the connections between members of a family, namely Hamlet, who is a prince, his late father, his mother Gertrude and his stepfather Claudius. This paper seeks to address Hamlet’s relationship with his mother as brought out in the play though the analysis of the characters.
Hamlet and His Mother’s Relationship
In this play, Shakespeare uses a woman called Gertrude, who is among the few women featured in the masterwork. Through her relationship with her son Hamlet, Shakespeare paints a picture of betrayal. Gertrude marries the brother of Hamlet’s father and this why Hamlet is upset with his mother. In his opinion, remarriage is a tremendous act of betrayal.
In the whole book, Hamlet dedicates most of his time and energy trying to take revenge for the death of the king, his father, whom he believes was cruelly treated by those for whom he cared. Therefore, he suffered during his whole lifetime. Hamlet feels that Gertrude hurts the king more by not mourning during the king’s burial.
She instead delights in her new marriage depicting some freedom from oppression that she went through in her former marriage, as the reader can insinuate. As a result, Hamlet develops significant irritation towards her mother, which he manifests through his monologue and dialogue with other people as depicted in the play.
Hamlet is made to change his perception of love after his mother marries his late father’s brother, two months after the death of his father (Shakespeare I.ii.138). As a result, Hamlet concludes that his father truly loved his mother, yet his mother never loved him.
He fails to understand how his mother could so much dangle on his father (Shakespeare I. ii. 140, 143) then marry Claudius so soon after his father’s death. He refuses to admit Gertrude and Claudius’ relationship. He, therefore, resolves that woman’s adoration is so frail and can be changed so easily depending on the situation that the woman finds herself. Faulkner calls women “frail beings not because of their physical abilities but because of their weak emotions” (146).
Hamlet’s Relationship with Ophelia
According to Hamlet, his mother betrayed not only his father but also the love and the marriage his parents shared. Gertrude’s unrefined actions change Hamlet’s perception of love towards others. He reaches the level of hating Ophelia, the girl who truly loves him fearing that she might be in possession of his mother’s betrayal character.
Because of Gertrude’s evil plans of betraying her once-beloved husband, Hamlet’s love for Ophelia, the woman who he loved and one who gave back an equal share of the love changes, and is significantly affected.
When with her and watching a play, Ophelia comments that the prologue is very brief and Hamlet likens the briefness to a woman’s love (Shakespeare III. ii. 137-138). As time goes by, the gap between Hamlet and Ophelia widens to the level of Hamlet declaring that he does not love Ophelia at all and is not ready to love her anymore (Shakespeare III.i.119-120).
However, after Ophelia’s death, the reader realizes that Hamlet was not sincere with his previous words concerning his faded love to Ophelia since he later on confirms to Laertes that he loved her so much and no amount of love could match his love for her (Shakespeare V.i.254-256).
The reader realizes the reason behind Hamlet’s words that though he knows very well that Ophelia loves him, he fears that it might take after that between his mother and his late father, which was in no doubt fake.
Hamlet’s Relationship with His Mother: How Does Hamlet Treat His Mother?
Gertrude’s actions instil a lot of anger to Hamlet who in turn reaches the level of killing any man who seems to take up the position of his late father.
Hamlet ends up believing his mother conspired with his uncle into killing his beloved father. He is filled up with so much rage and hatred until he kills Polonius in his mother’s bedroom after seeing him and thinking that he is Claudius.
His temper is fueled by the conviction that his mother by conspiring to kill the king and then marrying the killer caused an offence too great to be forgiven. After mistaking Polonius for Claudius and killing him, his mother calls the action “a bloody deed to which Hamlet replies that a bloody deed is killing a king and marrying the brother” (Shakespeare III. iv. 26-28).
Hamlet’s mother is shocked at this accusation, and the shock is so big until Hamlet begins to doubt if she really killed his father. From this point, though still convinced that she betrayed his father, he changes and starts warning her of her evil actions instead of accusing her. He comes to the full conclusion that his mother never killed her father.
The unacceptable marriage of his mother to his uncle continues to antagonize him. He, therefore, decides to only “speak daggers to her but use none” (Caxton 366).
With this, he speaks to her harshly addressing her as the queen, wife to the king’s brother. He asks her where her shame is and proceeds to compare his father, who he refers to as a combination and a form indeed and his uncle who he calls a ‘mildewed ear’.
Of course, Gertrude becomes defensive, orders him not to speak to him in that manner but he continuous, and warns her to repent her actions and prevent that which is to come (Shakespeare III. iv. 141). He even cautions her against going into her uncle’s bed. He tries to make her mother realize she is not doing the right thing and should feel sorry and stop her unrefined actions.
The conversation between Hamlet and his mother brings back Gertrude to her senses where she feels guilty and ashamed of her actions (Caxton 80).
It is at this point that she realizes that all along, she had been doing what was not right, and it was a great act of betrayal to her late husband. She admits that though she had never consciously been aware that Claudius had killed his brother, she had never fully approved of her actions.
Gertrude admits that when she looked into her soul, she was shocked by what she saw. Meanwhile, Hamlet has been acting very madly, where he discloses to his mother that it is just but a feigned state, but he will not reveal it to anyone. From this point henceforth, as Horatio points out, Hamlet and Gertrude’s relationship is restored (14). Together now, they begin to seek revenge for the king’s death.
Hamlet continues with his feigned state of madness while Gertrude continues to make Claudius trust that the condition is real, and these actions become of great importance later (Shakespeare IV. i. 6-7).
Claudius hence comes to believe the prince’s simulated state, and he starts fearing what he may do to him. During the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, Gertrude shows that her allegiance is with the prince and not with the king for she gives her son her napkin and tells her that she rejoices in his fortunes.
Mother of Hamlet goes on to drink from the poisoned cup that was meant for him and though her new husband warns and orders her to stop drinking it, she continues and finishes it. This shows where her full allegiance is, and despite there still being intense feelings between them, they find their relationship becoming better before she finally dies.
Does Hamlet Love His Mother?
It is noted throughout the play that even though Hamlet is hurt by her mother’s act of betrayal of marrying her husband’s brother a short time after her husband’s death, he never wishes to hurt her. His main aim all along is to avenge his father’s death. His quest for vengeance does not compromise his love for his mother, and all through the play, his love for him is evidently displayed.
He tries and succeeds at convincing her to realize that her actions were wrong and together, they undertake to avenge the king’s death. So despite the tense relationship between Hamlet and his mother at the beginning marked with feelings of anger and rage (Friedlander 3), their relationship is restored at the end, and Hamlet finally achieves his objective of avenging his father’s death. It is all a message of hope.
Caxton, Charles. Commentary on Hamlet. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2006.
Faulkner, William. The Hamlet Commentary. New York: Thumshire publishers, 2008.
Friedlander, Gibson. Enjoying Hamlet by William Shakespeare. London: P. Press, 2010.
Horatio, Joseph. Enjoying Hamlet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet: The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1997.
Further Study: FAQ
? Who is Hamlet’s mother?
Hamlet’s mother is the Queen of Denmark. Her name is Gertrude. She quickly overcame the death of her husband and married Hamlet’s uncle King Claudius. She is a caring and loving person, though may look the opposite.
? How does Hamlet feel about his mother?
Hamlet feels betrayed and irritated by his mother. He is upset because she married his late father’s brother Claudius. Hamlet thinks that remarriage in such circumstances is unacceptable. Through Hamlet’s disappointment with his mother, his anger is increased towards Claudius.
? Is Hamlet in love with his mother?
It is true that, despite, Hamlet’s pain and anger, he still feels love towards his mother. But no one can say for sure, whether he has any romantic feelings towards her. It’s up to the reader’s interpretation.
? How does Hamlet treat his mother?
Hamlet is angry at his mother for marrying Claudius. However, he still loves her, which is shown in the ways he treats her. Hamlet regularly visits her and tries to protect her from his plans to kill Claudius.
A Critical Analysis of Hamlet’s Constant Procrastination in Shakespeare’s Hamlet Essay
It is of diminutive doubt that Hamlet is one of the most controversial characters ever created by William Shakespeare. Due to his complexity in persona, critics have over the years ever since the play’s premier varied in opinion over the true essence of Hamlet. More importantly, procrastination, which was Hamlet’s most conspicuous flaw, has had its predisposition debated over since it was first observed.
The reasons for the procrastination vary within different schools of thought with some arguing that it is due to “Oedipal Complex”, a theory conceptualized by Sigmund Freud who considered Hamlet to be in love with his mother. A supportive argument is based on the fact that Hamlet is provided with numerous opportunities to slay Claudius but always passes them on even when ordered to do so bearing in mind he deeply loathes Claudius.
Thus it is highly likely that Hamlet advertently keeps Claudius alive so as to buffer Hamlet’s predilection towards his mother. Others critics argue that he is never availed with the opportune moment to revenge of his father’s murder since he is usually preoccupied whenever such a scenario presents itself. Either way, Hamlet’s procrastination to a variable extent identifies his unstable mental condition which leads to a detrimental finale not only for Hamlet but those surrounding him as well.
Claudius is guilty of killing Hamlet’s father king Hamlet, who is also his own brother in order to gain access to the throne by marrying Gertrude, mother to Prince Hamlet.
Claudius is successful in his ambition and Hamlet is left with the decision on whether or not to kill his uncle so as to avenge his father’s death (Burnett 49). Hamlet finds himself in a dilemma that ultimately leads to his procrastination because he is aware of the fact that if he kills Claudius, his companions will avenge Claudius death by killing him.
Claudius is also a member of his family and so the monarch remains in possession of the throne and the crown and killing him would amount to treason, a serious crime. On the other hand, Hamlet is influenced by the urge to avenge his father’s death which further aggravated by the appearance of his father’s ghost that asks him to kill Claudius (Johnson 265).
Hamlet however doubts the actuality of the ghost and is confused on whether it was the spirit of his late father or just an evil spirit. “Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d, Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked or charitable, Thou com’st in such a questionable shape” (Johnson 262).
Hamlet is left with a tough decision to make that ultimately puts him at a crossroads between upholding morality or standing up for his father’s legacy (Neal 1). Such a decision becomes difficult for Hamlet to make and ponders over it for a long time leading to several incidents of procrastination with reference to the murder of Claudius (Burnett 53).
Hamlet is attracted to his mother Gertrude but the presence of Claudius condenses the possibility of intimacy with his mother. Even though Hamlet believes in the vengeance of his father’s death by executing Claudius, he is afraid that the void that would be left would inevitably lead to a mutual closeness between him and his mother.
The fear of such an occurrence leads Hamlet to procrastinate the death of Claudius through self deception. He begins by investigating whether or not Claudius was responsible for killing King Hamlet not so much to find the answer since he already knew, rather to pass off time. Once he is satisfied that Claudius was indeed his father’s murderer, he embarks on a pious duty to kill him but even when presented with an opportunity, he finds a reason not to kill Claudius (Burnett 52).
During his first attempt he finds Claudius in prayer and avoids killing him alleging it is not devout to kill one in prayer. The only occasion when Hamlet does not waver to kill is when he is in the bedroom with Gertrude and stabs the man behind the curtain. Unfortunately it turns out that Polonius is the man behind the bedroom curtain (Neal 1).
It is likely that Hamlet stabs Polonius impulsively because he is in the presence of his mother and is still possessive over her. Hamlet is able to postpone killing Claudius in all other instances due to the fact that he lacks an emotional driving force at that moment akin to his mother.
Good vs. evil
Hamlet is a noble and sophisticated prince who allows his deceptive attitude corrupt his mentality. Being a man of thought rather than action, Hamlet focuses his thoughts on evil leading him to become suspicious of everybody around him, and doubt every decision he makes (Johnson 262).
Deep within him Hamlet is of high moral standards and entirely despises evil but the death of his father exposes him to the need to become evil. He attempts in numerous occasions to suppress his decency and the constant conflict between his mind and conscious precipitates the procrastination evident in his demeanor.
Consequences of procrastination
The resultant outcome of Hamlets procrastination is diverse in its reach and effect thus many individuals surrounding Hamlet are negatively affected by his inaction (Johnson 264). Hamlet at the outset is able to conceal his true affection for Ophelia hence postponing the appropriate moment to declare his true affection for her. Hamlet tries hard to identify with a mad and careless character overlooking the affection and adoration Ophelia has for him (Burnett 55).
To stay in character, Hamlet rejects her and this breaks her heart which consequently leads to Ophelia’s insanity and eventual suicide. He rejects those he claims to love including his mother whom he shouts at. Hamlet’s mad man charade arouses the curiosity of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who keep on enquiring about the logic behind the play as they endeavor to find out hermit’s long term ideology (Neal 1).
Hermit is however not pleased with the questions and he becomes highly suspicious of them, which culminates into intense rage when he discovers their true motives. He holds this against them for a long time and finally has them killed in England as a result of his built up rage and malevolence.
Hamlets deferment to kill Claudius puts Polonius in harms way when Hamlet stabs him in Gertrude’s bedroom on suspicion that he is Claudius.
Hamlet’s procrastination could have been attributed to either his obsession with his mother, his way of thinking, his father’s death or all of the above. However, the fact is that the habitual deferment of his duties eventually led to the death of most of the people who closely associated with him. His attempt to be an evil person predisposed him to a different kind of reasoning that transformed him to be more comfortable with evil which eventually culminated in his demise.
Burnett, MarkThornton. Ophelia’s False Steward’ Contextualized: The Review of English Studies. New York: Oxford publishers, 1995. pp. 48-56.
Johnson, Bruce. Hamlet: voice, music, sound. Popular Music. London: Cambridge University Press, 2005. pp 257-267.
Neal Thakkar: Why Procrastinate: An Investigation of the Root Causes behind Procrastination. Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal. Vol.4 (2009): 33-35. Print.
Urquhart, Alan. Hamlet and a revenge tragedy: A reappraisal. April 2004. Web.
Oedipus Rex and Hamlet Compare and Contrast Essay
The present paper focuses on the comparison and contrast of the two literary characters who seek the murderer of their father: King Oedipus and Hamlet from two most famous classic dramas, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
In Sophocles’ play, King Oedipus appears a persistent seeker of the truth who disregards the dangers this truth might bring to him. Shakespeare’s drama discloses Hamlet as a doubting philosopher whose search for truth destroys his inner balance and necessitates a change in his personality. Oedipus and Hamlet shall be compared in this essay.
From the summary of the play, it is obvious that King Oedipus is a type of character who initially attracts by his desire to solve the problems of his state at any cost. When he hears that the reason for the terrible plague epidemic in Thebes is the unfound murderer of the previous king Laius, Oedipus reasonably wonders at why the perpetrator has not been found yet.
Since the Sphinx curse has been solved, Oedipus decides that it is time to settle the present troubles, “… I will start afresh and once again / Make dark things clear” (Sophocles 12). In his speech to his brother-in-law Creon, the proud king voices the desire to find the murderer to secure not only the wellbeing of his state but his safety as a ruler as well.
In the compare and contrast essay on Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, it is necessary to mention that, on the way to discovering the truth, King Oedipus demonstrates remarkable persistence. He uses every chance of finding out the details that might lead to the answer and interrogates every possible witness to the case of Laius’ murder. First, he questions the blind prophet Tiresias, then he hears his wife Jocasta’s story of Laius’ murder, and finally has the courage to let a shepherd tell the true story of his origins.
Hot-tempered and decisive, King Oedipus appears not to possess any political duplicity since he strives for the truth, even facing the danger of losing the throne and his life. Unaware of the terrible curse put on him by gods, he is sure that he is doing the right thing by trying to reveal the truth and thus acting according to his conscience.
In a dialogue with the chorus warning him about the circumstances of Laius’ murder, King Oedipus states that “Words scare not him who blenches not at deeds” (Sophocles 19). This utterance demonstrates the assuredness of his righteousness and the desire to know the truth since the truth cannot harm the innocent.
In Hamlet vs. Oedipus comparison, it is clear that in contrast to King Oedipus’ persistence in seeking the truth and his active life position and attitude to solving the existing problems, Hamlet appears a much less energetic character. It is not that he does not want to find out the truth; on the contrary, he desires it strongly since he suspects something is not right with his mother marrying so soon after his father’s death. However, Hamlet is more a philosopher than a warrior, and therefore he precedes his actions with much contemplation and reflection on the events.
He uses much of his intuition in approaching the answer to the question torturing him; in one of the monologues, he voices a suspicion that things are not as smooth as they seem, “nor it cannot come to good” (Shakespeare 116). This foreboding of evil appears to be confirmed in the astonishing truth about the murder that Hamlet learns from the ghost of his father.
While King Oedipus demonstrates decisive action in his search for truth, Hamlet chooses to find out the real state of events in a bypass way. He checks the veracity of the ghost’s words not by inquiring about the truth directly (like a man of Oedipus’ character would have done) but via observing his murderous uncle’s reaction to the play acted by visiting comedians.
Unlike the bold and straightforward King Oedipus, who does not give much about insinuating words that help to find out the truth, Hamlet appears rather inventive in his search for the real murderer. Still, there are some similarities between Hamlet and Oedipus.
Staying on his own before the play, Hamlet builds an ingenious psychological strategy to reveal the perpetrator: “I’ll observe his looks; / I’ll tent him to the quick. If he but blench, / I know my course” (Shakespeare 173). In doing this, Hamlet presents himself as a rational person, able to stepping aside and taking a balanced decision despite the emotional breakdown he is experiencing.
The critical situation Hamlet finds himself in provokes a major change in the prince’s personality. Spurred by the ghost of his murdered father to revenge the crime, the young philosopher renounces all the learned books he has studied and lets his actions be guided by the oath he gives to his father: “And thy commandment all alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain“ (Shakespeare 140).
Apparently, in this situation, Hamlet is led not by his ideas and aspirations but mostly by the solemn pledge he has undertaken to restore justice and punish the murderer of his father. In order to fit the requirements of the situation, the young scholar has to demonstrate a new, more active attitude to life and conquer his fear of struggle and conflict.
In a monologue, Hamlet confesses, “Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave, / That I, the son of a dear murdered, / Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, / Must like a whore unpack my heart with words / And fall a-cursing like a very drab, / A scullion!” (Shakespeare 173). Those words reveal the deep inner tragedy of the young philosopher who is struggling with his true personality to fulfill the oath to his father.
United by their desire to reveal the truth and punish the perpetrators, King Oedipus and Hamlet demonstrate various approaches to the search. The active and energetic personality of the one and the philosophic, pensive, and doubting personality of the other lead both to the achievement of their aims. However, the finger of fate foreordains a tragic end to them both. After revealing the truth and accomplishing their task, Oedipus and Hamlet are crushed by the severity of their doom.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Robert Hapgood. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Print.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Minneapolis, MN: Filiquarian Publishing LLC, 2006. Print.
Further Study: FAQ
? Who if either showed greater resilience: Oedipus or Hamlet?
Hamlet and Oedipus are both resilient characters, but Hamlet expresses it better. The core of this quality is to set back and recover from sudden difficulties in a short amount of time. Hamlet succeeds in it as he is patient with his revenge.
? How are Hamlet and Oedipus tragic heroes?
Hamlet and Oedipus are tragic heroes because they share six qualities of one. The prominent characteristics are them being protagonists in a piece where they meet a tragic end. Their tragic flaws led to their respective downfalls.
? How are Oedipus and Hamlet similar?
Both Hamlet and Oedipus are tragic heroes who were deceived by their parents. They seek revenge and share the determination to kill the King, expressing their worries and fury in the long monologues.
? Does Hamlet have stature of a tragic hero such as Oedipus?
Hamlet doesn’t have the stature of a tragic hero as Oedipus due to his fate. As opposed to Oedipus, Hamlet doesn’t have his destiny predetermined. He sealed his tragic end himself via his decisions and mistakes.
Blindness in Oedipus Rex & Hamlet Research Paper
In literature, writers use different literary elements to expound their work. In Sophocles’ Oedipus (the initial name of the play is Oedipus Tyrannus) and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, blindness is deeply explored. People may be physically blind wherein they cannot see their surroundings; on the other hand, people may have physical sight but be ‘blind’ towards truth or reality.
Interestingly, those with physical blindness, in many cases have a special gift of seeing invisible things that those sighted cannot see. In most cases, physically blind can see future events. Ironically, sighted people are in most cases “blind” to the future or the realities and truths of the present. This paper aims at researching blindness in Oedipus Rex and Hamlet as there are both physical blindness and inability to see and accept the truth amongst the sighted. Thus, there are two types of blindness, figurative and literal.
Blindness in Oedipus Rex
The theme of blindness in Oedipus Rex is one of the main tragedy’s underlying themes. As aforementioned, the play by Sophocles explores blindness from two angles, physical blindness and inability to see the truth for the sighted. Teiresias is physically blind and happens to be a prophet; he stands for truth. On the other hand, king Oedipus is sighted; however, he cannot see the truth as the play starts even though he makes himself physically blind as the play ends. Similarly, Jocasta is physically sighted but blind to the truth. Even after knowing the truth, she deliberately rejects it.
Therefore, in this play, the sighted like Oedipus and Jocasta are ‘blind’ to the truth whilst the blind like Teiresias can see the truth. Physical sight comes at the expense of truth whilst knowing the truth comes at the expense of sight. Oedipus confirms this when he gouges his eyes after knowing the truth. It appears that truth and physical sight cannot coexist. Nevertheless, King Oedipus is the biggest victim of ‘truth’ blindness, which is used as the symbol of escaping and refusal to admit the reality.
Oedipus the King: Summary
As the play opens, Oedipus is doomed to tragedy. His life starts on a bad note after a prophecy reveals that he would marry his mother after killing his father. “An oracle foretold that the child born to him by his queen Jocasta would slay his father and wed his mother” (Johnston 2). However, his parents, Laius and Jocasta, are metaphorically blind to this truth and to escape reality, they deport him to mountains where they hope Oedipus will die hence nullify this prophecy.
Luckily, for Oedipus, a shepherd rescues him and takes him to Polybus and Merope for adoption. After Oedipus discovers his prophecy, he escapes from his adopted parents thinking they are his true parents. Unfortunately, on his way, he meets his real father, Laius, and kills him instantly. Oedipus then goes on to become king of Thebes. It is in his capacity as the king that he marries only to realize later that he married his own mother.
The theme of fate and free will develops as the prophecy is fulfilled; ignoring the facts does not change them. As time goes on, a tragedy strikes Thebes, and Oedipus consults Teiresias, the blind prophet who notes that the Theban woes come from a polluter within the Kingdom. Ironically, Teiresias notes, “…Thou the accursed polluter of this land” (Sophocles Para. 45). The king is the polluter. Oedipus’blindness comes out clearly at this point as he refuses to accept this truth.
Oedipus cannot contain such an oracle. He says, “Vile slanderer, thou blurtest forth these taunts” (Sophocles Para. 46). This heralds more ‘blindness’ towards the truth. He learns the truth, and that is why he decides to blind himself; Oedipus Rex stabs his eyes out and becomes physically blind. From this short synopsis, it is true that Oedipus is blind in many ways.
First, he is blind to the fact that Polybus and Merope were not his real parents, Laius and Jocasta were. He was so blind that he could not withstand anyone claiming that Laius and Jocasta are his parents (Bates Para. 6).
Some critics argue that this is not blindness because Oedipus did not know. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Oedipus is blind, for he cannot see the truth. It does not matter whether he knew and ignored the truth or not, he could not see or realize the truth, hence blind. As the play rolls on, Oedipus starts realizing the truth, and finally, it dawns on him that he is the polluter.
The character of Oedipus is clearly seen when he realizes that he killed Laius, his father, and married Jocasta, his mother, and this is the genesis of Thebes’ problems. As this dawns on him and truth takes precedence, he takes away his sight. This explains why physical sight does not coexist with acknowledgment of truth in this play. Oedipus’ physical blindness is of great significance in this play.
This play is a Greek tragedy and every Greek tragedy “was supposed to end with the main characters experiencing their own personal tragedy” (Foster, 111). Oedipus’ physical blindness signifies his personal tragedy as part of this Greek tragedy. In discovering the truth and the eventual physical blindness, this Greek tragedy comes to fulfillment.
According to Dawe, this act was to confirm Teiresias’ prophecy that Oedipus came to Thebes as a sighted man but would leave it as a blind man (3). Oedipus’ physical blindness restores his sight for the truth. By keeping him away from seeing his sins and mistakes, physical blindness gives Oedipus time to reflect on what he has done, how it connects to Teiresias’ words and knows the truth. In physical blindness, Oedipus has time to reflect on Laius’ death, Jocasta’s marriage, and other things that he has done in life.
Nevertheless, Oedipus’ two forms of blindness are connected. His physical blindness, the result of an act of weakness, causes him pain, just like his previous blindness to the truth. First, the physical pain he inflicts on himself is so great, just like the pain he is causing himself due to his inability to see the truth. Jocasta, on her part, has sight, and she knows the truth; however, she deliberately chooses to ignore it.
Another example of blindness is Jocasta’s knowledge of the truth about Oedipus’ prophecy; however, she thinks and believes that he is dead. Even though at first she does not know that, her new husband is her son Oedipus, after realizing it, she chooses to ignore it altogether. This is blindness to the truth. After realizing that she has participated in the whole saga, she dismisses the entire issue as ‘hoax.’ Nevertheless, she falls into another form of blindness viz. eternal blindness.
Upon realization that the prophecy about Oedipus has happened, she chooses to kill herself; therefore, she enters into eternal blindness. “Jocasta’s blindness eventually led to her disgrace” (Bates Para. 14). In death, she cannot see or make choices. The symbolism of blindness continues to unveil, just as Oedipus loses his sight after knowing and acknowledging the truth, Jocasta loses her life after admitting the truth. At the end, Oedipus gets banished from kingdom, which becomes his final punishment.He places curses on his two sons and leaves.
On his part, Teiresias is physically blind; he cannot see his surrounding; however, he can see into the future and link it to the past. His physical blindness presents him with the gift of having visions. Due to this gift, he knows that Oedipus is the polluter of Thebes. He knows that Oedipus killed Laius, and Jocasta is Oedipus’ mother. Sophocles sought to insinuate that when it comes to knowing and acknowledging the truth, the sighted have no advantage over the physically blind.
The sighted Oedipus characters can see everything else except truth; the physically blind can see nothing else except the truth. Even after knowing the truth, people have the tendency to ignore it; however, as aforementioned, ignoring the facts does not change them. This truth dawns on Jocasta as she realizes she cannot overlook the truth anymore; death is the only secure way out, unfortunately. Thus, the acute theme of sight vs blindness in Oedipus the King is displayed throughout the whole play.
Blindness in Hamlet
The characters in this play are blind to the truth. Shakespeare emphasizes on sight and blindness. As the play opens, issues pertaining sight dominate the scenes “Look where it comes again… Looks like not the king… See it stalks away” (Shakespeare Para. 6-9).
Interestingly, despite the fact that these characters are emphasizing on seeing, they act blindly. For instance, Horatio refuses to agree to what cannot be asserted until he sees with his eyes something that he fails to accomplish. Throughout the play, many characters are seeing but cannot see the truth. Nevertheless, the most affected character in failure to see the truth is Hamlet.
Due to his afflictions coupled with melancholy, Hamlet cannot see the truth or reality though he is physically sighted. This element makes him, “to be the more exact and curious in pondering the very moments of things” (Bright 99).
Hamlet’s ‘blindness’ makes him pretend to establish the absolute truth behind every truth, something that obsesses him and fools him into thinking he can perform an ocular test on everything to determine the absolute truth in every truth. The desire to establish the absolute truth through visual tests passes as Hamlet’s blindness, and this leads him to inactivity on many occasions.
After Claudius’ murders his father, hamlet fails to avenge this death because he cannot find empirical evidence to prove Claudius guilty. Many scholars have branded Hamlet, “a man without eyelids – unwilling to see, yet unable to close his eyes” (Aronson 415). Actually, it appears that Hamlet is eyeless.
This comes out clearly, after Ophelia meets him and concludes, “Hamlet seems to find his way without his eyes” (Shakespeare Para. 99). This statement points out clearly to the nature of Hamlet. He does not seem to see with his physical eyes; on the contrary, it appears that he uses the eye of his’ mind’ to see. This is true, not regarding the fact that he continually claims to use his physical eyes. He is merely obsessed with establishing visual proofs through his “mind’s eye” (Shakespeare Para. 201).
This obsession enslaves his physical eyes to the mind’s eye, for he cannot ascertain anything through his physical eyes without letting it pass through the ocular test of his mind’s eye. Therefore, in principle, Hamlet is physically blind. Those who cannot see using their physical eyes have no advantage over those who cannot see at all. Hamlet falls in this category, though he has eyes, he cannot see sufficing his blindness.
As the play closes down, it is apparent that Hamlet has lost a considerable amount of his sight. Nevertheless, Shakespeare sought to expose another form of blindness.
According to Hoy, as the play opens, Hamlet possesses sound judgment with proper knowledge of what can hinder someone from making sound decisions (214). He says, “Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not ‘seems/’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good-mother, Nor customary suits of solemn black, Together with all forms, moods, shows of grief, That can denote me truly.
These indeed ‘seem,’ for they are actions that a man might play, But I have that within which passeth show –, these but the trappings and the suits of woe” (Shakespeare Para. 21-6). From this conversation, it is clear that Hamlet can tell what ‘seems’ from what ‘is.’ What ‘seems’ can be true or false; however, what ‘is’ remains the reality; the truth. Something, therefore, must have gone wrong for this prince to lose this insight of differentiating truth from illusion.
Hamlet’s meeting with the ghost can explain the emergence of this sudden blindness in making judgments. The ghost points out that Hamlet is “by a brother’s hand, of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched…sleeping within his orchard…that one may smile and smile and be a villain” 59-109).
These utterances change Hamlet’s ability to see physically. According to Greenblatt, the ghost makes Hamlet realize his external state is not a direct reflection of his internal self, and this sets him on the path of proving everything he sees to make sure it complies with what he knows (98). He wants to unite the external with the internal, and this marks the end of the usefulness of his eyes, thus becoming ‘blind.’
Hamlet’s Blindness and Its Impact on His Judgement
This blindness robs his judgment; for instance, he can see the picture of his dead father in his mind, and he cannot believe it when a friend tells him that he saw Hamlet’s father the previous night. He does not differentiate between mental images and reality. He takes what he sees in his mind’s eye to be the truth.
For instance, he is convinced that his father is living in the form of a ghost even before he sees the ghost because, in his mind’s eye, he has already seen the ghost. Therefore, this mind’s eye continually replaces his physical eyes, and instead of using his physical eyes to make a judgment, he relies on this mind’s eye, thus making his physical eyes useless hence, blind. As aforementioned, there are some instances when Hamlet portrays his blindness by preferring his mind’s eye to his physical eyes.
In probing his father’s death to establish Claudius’ guilt, he stages a show whereby, “players / Play something like the murder of his father” (Shakespeare Para. 361-3). In this play, he hopes that his uncle will appear suspicious, thus betray him for murdering Hamlet’s father. This is inconsequential as Hamlet fails utterly in his bid to prove Claudius’ guilt empirically.
He deceptively thinks that the inside is connected to the outside and hopes that Claudius would bring forth that which is hidden in the inside. This does not happen; nevertheless, the issue of blindness comes out clearly, because Hamlet cannot see the reality. He even doubts his sight, and he calls Horatio to observe how Claudius behaves during the play. Shakespeare uses this element deliberately to show that even though people have sight, they misuse it on many occasions, for they see what they want to see, not the reality.
Finally, Hamlet’s inability to see the reality comes out clearly in scene three of the play. Even though he sees Claudius kneeling down to pray and asks for forgiveness of his sins of killing Hamlet’s father, he chooses to reflect on the issue and concludes that Claudius cannot be killed at that moment.
Aronson points out, “to see is to perceive evil just as not to see is to be at the mercy of evil” (424). Hamlet refuses to see because he cannot see evil in Claudius, for he cannot prove him guilty. Therefore, his sight becomes only useful in seeing evil, otherwise, he does not see. “Although the prince exhibits an intense preoccupation with establishing visual proof of his uncle’s guilt, he is the equal of a man without eyes since he is unable to truly see” (Byrne Para. 9).
Blindness in Oedipus Rex & Hamlet: Conclusion
The theme of physical blindness and blindness to truth comes out clearly in the plays Oedipus the King and Hamlet. Oedipus cannot see the truth. He does not know his true parents, marries his mother, and kills his father because of this blindness. After gaining sight of ‘truth,’ he gouges his eyes, becoming physically blind.
Jocasta, on her part, knows the truth but chooses to ‘blind’ herself towards the same; she kills herself as a result. Teiresias is physically blind, but he can see the truth, which is the paradox of blindness. In Hamlet, Hamlet can see, but he chooses to use his mind’s eye instead of his physical eyes. Consequently, his physical eyes become useless, thus becoming blind. Sighted people can choose to be blind to the truth and reality.
Aronson, Alex. “Shakespeare and the Ocular Proof.” Shakespeare Quarterly, 1970. 21(1) 411-29.
Bates, Alfred. “Oedipus the King.” Three Plays of the Absurd. Web.
Byrne, Tammy. “Hamlet and the Ocular Proof.” Web.
Dawe, Reid. ed. “Sophocles: Oedipus Rex.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Foster, Thomas. “How to Read Literature Like a Professor.” New York: HarperCollins 2003.
Greenblatt, Stephen. Introduction; The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1997.
Hoy, Cyrus, ed. “Hamlet: An Authoritative Text, Intellectual Backgrounds, Extracts From The Sources, Essays in Criticism.” New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1963.
Johnston, Ian, ed. “Oedipus the King.” Virginia, Richer Resources Publications, 2007.
Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.” Web.
Sophocles. “Oedipus the King.” Athenaeum Library of Philosophy. Web.
Further Study: FAQ
? Why did Oedipus blind himself?
Oedipus blinds himself as a symbol of self-realization and insight. It is an irony because he chooses to be physically blind after seeing everything he has done. He realizes that he was figuratively blind throughout the play, therefore he punishes himself by blinding himself.
? What did Oedipus use to blind himself?
To blind himself, Oedipus uses Jocasta’s golden brooches. He gorges his eyes out both to punish himself and take responsibility for his actions.
? What does Oedipus’ blindness symbolize?
Oedipus’ blindness symbolizes his lack of sight throughout the play. He couldn’t comprehend his mistakes and avoid his destiny, which was sealed. The act of blinding himself also reflects Oedipus’ increased knowledge at the end.
? Who is the blind prophet in Oedipus?
A blind prophet called Teiresias is the one who tells Oedipus that he is Laius’s murderer. He also explains to him that Oedipus will regret pursuing this knowledge, that he will go blind and get exiled.
Father-Son Relationships in Hamlet – Hamlet’s Loyalty to His Father
Loyalty becomes a euphemism for blind obedience in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A curious relationship exists amongst the main pairings of fathers and sons therein. Though grown men, the sons in Hamlet essentially do exactly what their fathers tell them to do, without so much as a word of protest.
These boy-men adopt their fathers’ arguments, vendettas, and wars as their own, and seemingly guide their actions entirely by paternal approval. In the case of Hamlet, he surrenders his own life and future to the will of his father, albeit following significant hesitation, not to mention the passage of an entire play. Nonetheless, this essay examines the core action Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras share in Hamlet: the absolute subjugation of their own personal ambitions and desires to paternal rule.
Let us begin with Hamlet. His case begs particularly close scrutiny when we consider that the elder Hamlet has passed away. At the beginning of the play, Hamlet receives the dictum of action from the ghost of his father, demanding revenge against his treacherous brother, Claudius, with a decidedly passive aggressive manipulative tactic: “List, list, O, list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love – …Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”
(Shakespeare 1744). Interestingly, at no point in this initial exchange between father and son does the elder Hamlet ask his son if he might be agreeable to the challenge. The ghost simply indicts the king. “Now, Hamlet, hear: ‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark, Is by a forged process of my death, Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth, The serpent that did sting thy father’s life, Now wears his crown” (Shakespeare 1744).
The ghost then employs heavy handed tactics to remind Hamlet of his station and duty: “If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not; Let not the royal bed of Denmark be, A couch for luxury and damned incest” (Shakespeare 1745).
Significantly, the ghost reminds Hamlet not to exact revenge on Gertrude herein: “But, howsoever thou pursuest this act, Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive, Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven” (Shakespeare 1745).
The significance of these lines lies in the ghost’s assumption that the deed has already been accepted. In essence, the ghost takes for granted that his son will avenge him, by virtue of his role as a son, while reminding him not to hurt his mother. Hamlet’s father, apparently, still rules the roost from beyond the grave. Tellingly, he meets with no complaint from Hamlet.
Laertes exhibits a little more freedom and self-direction when compared to Hamlet, however, he too directs his life according to the approval of Polonius, as evidenced by his return to Denmark after Polonius’ death. Laertes’ vulnerability to dutifully honor and obey his father becomes his undoing in the masterful hands of Claudius.
Laertes bursts into the castle, after nearly exciting a riot, and demands revenge for the death of his father: “And so have I a noble father lost; A sister driven into desperate terms, Whose worth, if praises may go back again, Stood challenger on mount of all the age, For her perfections: but my revenge will come” (Shakespeare 1786).
Claudius, spotting another boy-man and thus, easy prey, smoothly uses Laertes’ anger to his own purpose, using the same calculated appeal to obedience that we saw earlier with the elder Hamlet.
Claudius makes use of the same masculine weaknesses which Hamlet falls prey to so effortlessly and consistently. “Laertes, was your father dear to you? Or are you like the painting of a sorrow, A face without a heart?…Not that I think you did not love your father; But that I know love is begun by time;…There lives within the very flame of love, A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it;…that we would do, We should do when we would; for this ‘would’ changes, And hath abatements and delays as many, As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents; …Hamlet comes back: what would you undertake, To show yourself your father’s son in deed, More than in words?” To which Laertes, ever the good son, replies, “cut his throat i’ the church” (Shakespeare 1788).
Fortinbras, for the purpose of this essay, represents the man whose actions appear the most practical and explicable, in that they exist beyond the realm of emotion.
He seeks revenge not for the sake of his father, but to recover the lands and inheritance that the elder Fortinbras forfeited in the battle. “Our last king, Whose image even but now appear’d to us, Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway, Thereto prick’d on by a most emulate pride, Dared to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet – For so this side of our known world esteem’d him – Did slay this Fortinbras; who by a seal’d compact, Well ratified by law and heraldry, Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands, Which he stood seized of, to the conqueror: … Now, sir, young Fortinbras, Of unimproved mettle hot and full, Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there, Shark’d up a list of lawless resolutes,… But to recover of us, by strong hand, And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands, So by his father lost” (Shakespeare 1733).
In Hamlet, the vengeance that Fortinbras undertakes against Denmark and the elder Hamlet is essentially self serving, and less colored by emotion and obedience than that of Hamlet and Laertes. However, it is vital to note that Fortinbras praises the manner of Hamlet’s death at the end of the play, which suggests that he also values and acts by paternal rule. “Let four captains, Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage; For he was likely, had he been put on, To have proved most royally” (Shakespeare 1803).
Why do these men feel so beholden to this idea of surrendering to the will of their fathers, even if they should die in the attempt? Identity. Though both Hamlet and Fortinbras are named after their fathers, only Fortinbras’ action directly benefits him. Hamlet’s loyalty to his father cost him his life. Both, however, are princes, and dutifully accept the limitations of public office.
In the brilliantly prophetic scene between Laertes and Ophelia, Laertes asserts that Hamlet’s blind compliance to his father’s will stems from his position as the Prince of Denmark; his role is to obey and serve the dictums of royalty, regardless of his personal wishes. “His will is not his own; For he himself is subject to his birth: He may not, as unvalued persons do, Carve for himself; for on his choice depends, The safety and health of this whole state” (Shakespeare 1740). The relationship between fathers and sons in Hamlet seems to suggest that in Shakespeare’s time, sons of kings were little more than pawns to the larger will of the paternalistic monarchy.
Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet.” The Annotated Shakespeare. A.L. Rowse, ed. New York: Greenwich House, 1988. 1731-1803. Print.
Recurring Theme of Revenge in Hamlet Essay
Up to date, Hamlet remains a mystery to many people. In the play, Shakespeare has connected many themes to bring out the final story, which has remained a source of great interest for scholars. Although there are many themes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, revenge plays a significant role.
In the play, there are several characters who are determined to revenge the wrongs that they feel have been committed against them. However, each character goes about their revenge mission in his or her own way. In the play, some characters rely on the advice of their friends to determine the best way of revenge while others go about it on their own.
On another level, some characters exert their revenge instantly while others defer their revenge to a time that they deem appropriate. Despite these variations in the method of execution, revenge still becomes one of the most dominant themes in the play. (Shakespeare Navigators)
From the time the play opens, both Hamlet and Laertes seek retribution on each other for their father’s deaths. On one hand, Hamlet places the blame on Laertes for being the king’s accomplice in opposing his father to become the next king. On the other hand, Laertes has proof that Hamlet killed his father without intending to do so but out of anger.
Additionally, Laertes holds Hamlet responsible for treating her sister in a bad manner thus leading her to commit suicide. The drama and action that surround both Hamlet and Laertes only serves to increase the level of resentment against each other. Even though this resentment is based on different things, the result is the two exerting revenge on each other.
All throughout the play, Laertes intentions to carry out revenge against Hamlet is evident in his speech. Soon after learning of the death of his father, Laertes claims that “Conscience and grace to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation. To this point I stand, that both the words I give to negligence, let come what comes; only I’ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father.”(Shakespeare 75) Laertes utters these words just a few moments after the king and queen notify him of his father’s death.
At this point, all that Laertes expresses is surprise for the madness that leads to the death of his father. At this point, the audience is able to see just how much Laertes is angered by this act. Actually, Laertes is not only angry but also determined to exert revenge against whoever was responsible for the death and this is clear to the audience. (Shakespeare 76)
Later on, Hamlet defends himself before Laertes by claiming that he was not responsible for the murder of his father but instead blames the madness inside him for the act. The most difficult part in this scene is that Hamlet and Laertes are best friends and no one wants to show distaste for the other.
However, both men are consumed by a deep sated hatred for each other that they do not want to expose. When Hamlet tries to apologize, Laertes tells him “I am satisfied in nature, whose motive in this cause should stir me most to my revenge. But in my terms of honor I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement Till by some mastels of know honor I have a voice and precedent of peace.
To keep my name ungored.”(Shakespeare 97) In this passage, Laertes is trying to pretend that he is not angered by his fathers murder but he is instead looking for an opportunity to carry out revenge but still keep his reputation untarnished.
Apart from the death of his father, Laertes is also angered by the relationship that Hamlet has with Ophelia. This fact can be seen after Ophelia’s stage performance where she talks of a dead lover. After she leaves the room, Laertes tells the king “And I so have I a noble father lost, A sister into desp’rate terms, Whose worth, if praises may go back again, Stood challenger on mount of all the age For her perfection, but my revenge will come.” (Shakespeare 79)
In this passage, Laertes is speaking of how he feels of his departed father and insane sister. According to critics, Laertes character is considered shallow and immature since he seems to think the worst of any situation.
This can best be demonstrated when he tells Ophelia not to trust the love that Hamlet has for her and in the rhetorical manner in which he exaggerates his sisters insanity. All this is done in a bid to paint Hamlet in bad light and to make the people lose faith in him. This is one way for Laertes of seeking revenge. (Rozakis 182)
Apart from the “mental revenge,” Laertes gets to a point where he decides to carry out physical revenge on Hamlet. With the assistance of the king, Laertes challenges Hamlet into a fencing duel with the intention of killing him. The king provides Laertes with a sharp sword that has been dipped in poison to ensure that any small cut kills Hamlet. This is what happens and Laertes succeeds in killing Hamlet thus exerting his revenge. Just like Laertes, Hamlet is also on a revenge mission for his father whose death was plotted by the king.
The king knows this and that is why he tries to come up with ideas to ensure that Hamlet does not get to carry out his revenge. Now on his deathbed, we are left with the impression that Hamlet will not get a chance to avenge his father but this is not the case. Just before he dies, Hamlet forces the king to drink a poisoned drink, which was actually meant for Hamlet in the event that the sword failed to kill him.
Hamlet does this to also avenge his mother who mistakenly took the king’s poisoned drink. At the end, both Laertes and Hamlet are able to revenge on each other and against other people whom they had grudges. Revenge therefore becomes a dominant theme in the play. (Shakespeare Navigators)
The theme of revenge forms a centre stage in Hamlet. In fact, the progression of the play is based on people trying to look out for the best possible means to carry out revenge. From the start of the play, Hamlet has a hunch about the king’s role in the death of his late father. He then embarks on a mission to look for evidence in order to avenge his father.
In the process, he kills Laertes father who in turn begins looking for an opportunity to carry out revenge on Hamlet. On top of this, Laertes wants to revenge the insanity and subsequent death of his sister, which he blames on Hamlet. At the end of the play, both Laertes and Hamlet get their revenge but they lose their lives in the process.
Rozakis, Laurie. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Shakespeare. Penguin, 1999. 181-192. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Classic Books Company, 2001. 1-120. Print.
Shakespeare Navigators. Revenge, n.d. Web. <https://shakespeare-navigators.com/hamlet/Revenge.html>
Compare Laertes and Hamlet: Both React to their Fathers’ Killing/Murder Compare and Contrast Essay
Hamlet and Laertes are characters that William Shakespeare used in his play entitled Hamlet. The setting of this play is in Denmark. The main characters in the play include Claudius (king of Denmark), Hamlet (also known as prince Hamlet and the son of the deceased king Hamlet and Queen Gertrude), Gertrude (queen of Denmark), Polonius (Lord Chamberlain), and Laertes (Polonius’ son).
The other characters who also contribute to the plot of this play include Ophelia, Horatio, Voltimand, among others. The protagonist of this tragedy is prince Hamlet. Both Hamlet and Laertes are angry with the murderers of their fathers and are determined to revenge.
Shakespeare’s work brings out the theme of revenge. Both Hamlet and Laertes are determined to revenge for their fathers’ killing (Schulman, para.3). They act out of anger and rage and are determined to find satisfaction and peace of mind through revenge.
Even if they both seek revenge, they have different characteristics and convictions that make them differ in the way they treat the issue. One night, outside the Elsinore Castle in Denmark, the guards spotted the ghost of the deceased old King Hamlet and they informed prince Hamlet about its whereabouts.
Thereafter, the prince makes a decision to go and see the ghost himself. The ghost reveals himself as the spirit of king Hamlet (Bloom, Pg. 16). King Hamlet’s ghost then informs prince Hamlet of the person who killed him; consequently, Hamlet accepts the ghost’s demands, swears his accomplices to secrecy and reveals to them his intention of killing the king to avenge his father’s murder.
The ghost revealed that King Claudius of Denmark had murdered his brother King Hamlet secretly, inherited his throne as king, and married his queen Gertrude (Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 2, pg 3, line 68-69).The thought that someone killed his father makes Hamlet to harbor the spirit of revenge.
Shakespeare used the character of Hamlet to show that the effects of revenge may lead to disastrous results and some of them may be unintended. This is shown by the fact that Hamlet wanted to execute the revenge plan regardless of its consequences.
Foremost, he decides to prove whether his uncle Claudius is guilty of the offence and pretend to be insane. Armed with prove (Act 3, Scene 2), Hamlet goes to kill Claudius but gets him praying and stops because he believes that killing him while he is praying will send his soul directly to heaven.
He then leaves to confront his mother in her bedchamber where Polonius is hiding. Taking note of some movements from behind the tapestry, Hamlet thinks it is the king concealing himself there and thrusts his sword through the fabric killing Polonius instantly, and because of this murder, Claudius becomes afraid of Hamlet and sends Him to England where he plans for his murder. Here, the hatred of Claudius is also revealed.
However, Hamlet succeeds to come back. Laertes, Polonius’s son, who has just returned from France rages because of his father’s murder and demands for justice. The king tells him that Hamlet killed his father and the two combine efforts to kill Hamlet. In the end, the three of them die.
Hamlet agrees with the request of his father’s ghost to avenge his death but he does not execute Claudius immediately. He takes time to prove whether his uncle Claudius is guilty of the offence. He also blames Laertes for being the king’s accomplice in crime during his father’s reign.
However, Hamlet did not kill him. Hamlet is slow to act even when he has enough evidence that his uncle killed his father. His procrastination causes his downfall because he is killed at the end. Hamlet decided to kill Claudius only when he realizes that he is about to die and it is his only chance to revenge for his father’s murder.
Laertes on the other hand acts with rage when he hears that his father is dead. He organizes an army and comes to Denmark threatening to overthrow the king if he does not produce his father or his killer.
When Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet killed his father, he is in a rush to revenge by killing Hamlet. This is what makes him to organize for a fencing match with Hamlet in order to set a chance of killing him. His hurry to execute his revenge mission without contemplating on the king’s motives leads to his downfall because Hamlet kills him during the match.
From this play, it is clear that both Hamlet and Laertes are seeking to revenge on each other for their fathers’ deaths. Hamlet knows that Laertes was a major partner to King Claudius in crime during the reign of king Hamlet. In anger, he also seeks to kill Claudius an issue that makes him to kill Polonius by mistake. Laertes on the other hand is aware that Hamlet killed his father by mistake and out of anger. Nonetheless, he still blames him for not only killing his father, but also holds him responsible for his sister’s death.
Even though Hamlet and Laertes are justified to avenge their fathers’ deaths, their reactions are not right. At first, Hamlet seeks to get evidence that his uncle killed his father.
This seems to be a wise step for him to take but then he takes too long to establish the truth. After getting the truth, Hamlet still engages in unnecessary procrastinations in order to find specific evidence, which is not necessary. He also does this due to some philosophical and moral convictions, which at the end lead him to damnation. Laertes on the other hand is filled with rage and acts out of his anger rather than out of reason.
His reason for wanting to kill Hamlet is that he killed his father. In addition, he wanted to do this because Hamlet had a love relationship with his sister. He feels that he must revenge for his father’s death in order for him to have peace and to keep his reputation untainted (“Hamlet’s revenge,” para. 1). His hurry in doing things also leads him to damnation just like Hamlet.
In conclusion, some of the themes presented in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet are revenge, rejected love and madness. The murder of the fathers of Prince Hamlet and Laertes grieve them and they set out to revenge. King Hamlet’s death makes Hamlet to get out of school and come back to Denmark to mourn his father’s death.
The marriage between his mother and king Claudius disturbs him. In one night, the ghost of Hamlet’s father walks to Elsinore and reveals to hamlet that Claudius is the one who killed him. Out of the ghost’s demand, Hamlet sets out to revenge but he is held back by his beliefs and convictions. His anger makes him to kill Polonius, Laertes’ father, who in turn seeks revenge.
Hamlets’ love towards Ophelia, Laertes’ sister creates more hatred between Hamlet and Laertes. Hamlet’s philosophical beliefs make him to doubt his course of action and lead him to delay in his revenge. Laertes is in hurry to revenge and maintain his reputation their behavior puts them in problems and they both die. This gives a message that people ought to act out of reason and in due time.
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Broomall, PA.: Chelsea House publishers, 2000. Print.
“Hamlet’s revenge.” Greenspun.com. Greenspun, January 11, 2003. Web. http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00APLj
Schulman, Arlene. “Shakespeare – Hamlet vs Laertes.” AllExperts. About, Inc., 2 March 2007. Web.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet: a tragedy. London: W. Oxberry and Co. Printers, 1818. Print.