The isuue of honor Shakespeare’s Hamlet
In the fourth act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, many lines are filled with character, plot and theme development. However, more importantly, this act has been sophisticatedly worded to build up the theme of honor, revenge and justice and foreshadows the disastrous end of the play. One line that is of great importance and mainly is of high relevance is spoken by Hamlet during a soliloquy, “Rightly to be great / Is not to stir without great argument / But greatly to find quarrel in a straw / When honor’s at stake.” These few lines spoken by Hamlet are exceedingly relevant to the core of the play and this soliloquy as they show a change in his attitude and makes the reader question his mental stability after his horrifying action of murdering Polonius.
The change in Hamlet’s attitude and character shows how he was once a person who feared to express his thoughts and was very quiet as he kept his emotions to himself. This quote depicts the advancement in his character as it shows that Hamlet is becoming very harsh and shows the attitude towards other people as he tries to justify his murder and says that he does not need a great argument or a reason to fight and murder as he is an extraordinary honorable man. Additionally, the expression of a quarrel in a straw shows that fighting can be justified and for honor no matter how small and insignificant it may be. Hamlet’s false believes and mindset of a child looking for revenge and honor further cause him to think that his family is not honorable and will only be so, after the murder of Claudius. These lines show how Hamlet goes through a transition phase and changes from being a depressed son in mourning to an irrational man chasing behind honor and revenge that could hypothetically lead to justice in his mind.
Although Hamlet is considered auspicious in his archiving his goal of killing Claudius in the fencing match, he is not successful in preserving his honor as in the process of killing Claudius; the whole royal family is also killed. In the process of retrieving honor back and seeking justice, Hamlet convolutes the concepts of honor, justice and revenge. The change in his attitude and process of thought leads to a disastrous ending in the play which is further amplified by Hamlet’s convoluted definition of honor and justice.
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