Literary Analysis of “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is thought to be one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all times. This play contains a lot of things which make it amazing work. Hamlet by William Shakespeare portrays a lot of characters and things which reveal the atmosphere of uncertainty, horror, death, mystery, and instability of the nature of all the characters. There are many symbols in Hamlet which played a big role in the play.

There are some things and images in the play which make it unique and unusual. They are the symbolic image of Hamlet’s father – the ghost of the King, the flowers and Ophelia, the skull, and the grave of Yorick. All these images are important in creating an atmosphere of uncertainty, mystery, and instability in the play.

One of the main and the most unusual characters of Hamlet is the Ghost of King Hamlet, the father of Hamlet. Since ancient times the ghosts were meant to symbolize something unfinished. In this play, it is shown that the death of the King is unclear and needs revenge. The ghost of the dead King made Hamlet understand that he was killed by his brother. The appearance of the ghost started the whole action of the play. The ghost said to Hamlet in their first meeting:

I am thy father’s spirit,

Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,

And for the day confined to fast in fires,

Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature

Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid

To tell the secrets of my prison-house…

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. (Shakespeare, I.V.)

These words made Hamlet think that his father was killed. He decided to find the murderer and to take revenge for his father’s death. It also created an atmosphere of mystery and uncertainty of the play.

The episode on the grave of Yorick has a big symbolic meaning. Here Hamlet faces the death. He took the scull of Yorick and said: “Alas, poor Yorick… a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy… hath borne on his back a thousand times” (Shakespeare, V.I). Here the line between life and death, happiness and horror are drawn.

Wearing masks gives the play an atmosphere of uncertainty. All the characters are shown as two-faced people. And sometimes some characters believed in their masks which became their real nature. Both the inner and outer features of the characters can be observed during the whole play. Both Ophelia and Gertrude wear so-called lion skins to be right persons for their relatives.

Ophelia tried hard to protect her inner world from the cruelty of Hamlet. She tried to believe that he loved her, but because of his actions (killing her father) and his words, she drove crazy and committed suicide.

Gertrude, in her way, didn’t want to believe the real truth of her husband’s death. She wore the mask that put her in her little world, which didn’t allow her to see the real truth even at the moment of her death. She created her image of happiness, and she didn’t let anyone destroy it.

Claudius is that very character who was trying to be the other man than he was in reality. He was cruel; he killed his brother to become the King. But he did everything possible to hide his real nature and the fact of his terrible actions. He protected himself until the last minute of his life and tried to prove his innocence. He said:

And what’s in prayer but this twofold force, To be forestalled ere we come to fall, Or pardoned being down? Then I’ll look up; My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer Can serve my turn? ‘Forgive me my foul murder?’ That cannot be; since I am still possess’d Of those effects for which I did the murder— My crown, own mine ambition, and my queen. (Shakespeare, III, III)

Hamlet himself wore a lot of masks in order not to show his real face. His mask of madness made a lot of people suffer. The biggest example is the suicide of Ophelia. And sometimes it is hard to differentiate whether the mask or the real nature of Hamlet. Or maybe that very mask became his real face. His inner struggle made a great role in the play. It gave the play an atmosphere of uncertainty. The best display of this struggle can be the following words of Hamlet:

To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them. (Shakespeare, III.I)

Hamlet became one of the greatest masterpieces of all times. The amazing describing of characters, their inner world, actions, and interactions with other characters made this play unique in its way. Symbols played one of the biggest parts in Hamlet for creating an original atmosphere of uncertainty, mystery, and instability.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Los Angeles: A.R. Braunmuller, University of California, 2002. Print.

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