Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet Meaning

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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Within the play Hamlet there exists many puns and phrases, which have a double
meaning. Little ploys on words which tend to add a bit of entertainment to the
dialogue of the play. These forked tongue phrases are used by Shakespeare to
cast an insight to the characters in the play to give them more depth and
substance. However, most importantly these phrases cause the reader or audience
to think. They are able to show a double meaning that not all people would pick
up on, which is the purpose of the comments. Little is known about Shakespeare's
life, other than he was a great playwright whose works serve to meld literary
casts for ages to come. This was his occupation, he wrote and directed plays to
be performed. This was his sole form of income that we know of, it was his way
of putting the bread on the table. If people did not like what Shakespeare
wrote, then he would not earn any money. If the people didn't like what they
saw, he became the starving artist. Shakespeare wrote these dialogues in such a
manner as to entertain both the Nobility, as well as the peasants. The
Shakespearean theater is a physical manifestation of how Shakespeare catered to
more than one social class in his theatrical productions. These Shakespearean
theaters have a unique construction, which had specific seats for the wealthy,
and likewise, a designated separate standing section for the peasants. This
definite separation of the classes is also evident in Shakespeare's writing, in
as such that the nobility of the productions speak in poetic iambic pentameter,
where as the peasants speak in ordinary prose. Perhaps Shakespeare incorporated
these double meanings to the lines of his characters with the intent that only a
select amount of his audience were meant to hear it in either its double
meaning, or its true meaning. However, even when the tragic hero Hamlet's
wordplay is intentional. it is not always clear as to what purpose he uses it.
To confuse or to clarify? Or to control his own uncensored thoughts? The energy
and turmoil of his mind brings words thronging into speech, stretching,
over-turning and contorting their implications. Sometimes Hamlet has to struggle
to use the simplest words repeatedly, as he tries to force meaning to flow in a
single channel. To Ophelia, after he has encountered her in her loneliness,
"reading on a book," he repeats five times "Get thee to a
nunnery," varying the phrase very little, simply reiterating what was
already said by changing "get" to "go." This well known
quote, to this day cannot be deciphered in its entirety, for nunnery is a place
where nuns live, yet it is also a brothel. Hamlet seems to knowingly cast a
shade of confusion into the minds of the audience or is it in fact clarity
within confusion. That is, the audience is able to better understand the
thoughts and inner struggle of Hamlet via these conflicting terms. After Hamlet
has visited his mother "all alone" in her closet and killed Polonius,
after she has begged him to "speak no more", and after his father's
ghost has reappeared, Hamlet repeats "Good night" five times, with
still fewer changes in the phrase than "Get thee to a nunnery" and
those among accompanying words only. So Hamlet seems to be struggling to contain
his thoughts even by use of these simple words, rather than enforcing a single
and simple message as a first reading of the text might suggest; and the words
come to bear deeper, more ironic or more blatant meanings. It is from these
phrases, which even manage to confuse the complex mind of Hamlet that we begin
to get a glimpse into the intentions of Hamlets mind, and seeing just exactly
the way he ticks. Much of the dramatic action of this tragedy is within the head
of Hamlet, and wordplay represents the amazing, contradictory, unsettled,
mocking nature of that mind, as it is torn by disappointment and positive love,
as Hamlet seeks both acceptance and punishment, action and stillness, and wishes
for consummation and annihilation within a world he perceives to be against him.
He can be abruptly silent or vicious; he is capable of wild laughter and tears,
and also playing polite and sane. The narrative is a kind of mystery and chase,
so that, underneath the various guises of his wordplay, we are made keenly aware
of his inner dissatisfaction, and come to expect some resolution at the end of
the tragedy, some unambiguous "giving out" which will report Hamlet
and his cause aright to the unsatisfied among the reader. Hamlet himself is
aware of this expectation as the end approaches, and this still further whets
our anticipation for what is to become. A commonly recurring theme throughout
the play is that of honesty. It is introduced in the beginning of the play and
as the play continues, its use becomes more and more common, as well as more and
more ironic. This theme within the play itself is ironic, for as Marcellus said
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" and this corruption we
see so exhibited in the play is far from honest. When Hamlet applies the word
honest to the main characters of the play, his use of becomes undeniably ironic,
and much of the dark humor of the play derives from Hamlet's wordplay. Polonius
marks that though Hamlet's insults seem to make no sense, "yet there is
method in 't." In Act II, it is Polonius that is the first target of
Hamlet's irony of the use of honest. Hamlet calls him first a
"fishmonger" which it has many meanings, including the implication
that Ophelia is a whore and Polonius is her pimp. And of course, Polonius has
employed his daughter in his plot to discover the depth of Hamlet's
"madness." When Polonius says he is not a fishmonger, Hamlet replies
"Then I would you were so honest a man." In other words, he wishes
Polonius was as honest as a simple fish seller, or even more insulting, as
honest as the pimp Hamlet insinuated he was. In this scene, Hamlet also uses
this ironic meaning of honesty against Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when he
tells them "...I will not sort you with the rest of my servants, for, to
speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended." He seems
to mean that he cannot speak to them with honesty, because they themselves are
dishonest in their intents. Honesty resonates as a theme in Hamlet because
nothing is, as it seems in Denmark. The King deceives the world and pretends a
legitimacy he does not have; Hamlet deceives the court by feigning madness;
Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern all try to deceive Hamlet into revealing
why he is distraught, and no one knows what is truth and what is a lie. The
world has not grown honest, as Rosencrantz claims, but dishonest, and no one who
lives in it can keep his honesty pure from the corrupting air. Hamlet seems to
be the character that uses the majority of such puns and phrases in the play.
These phrases, which have double meaning, could represent the inner turmoil,
which seems to be tearing Hamlet apart. By seeing a definite double meaning to
many phrases in the play, we are able to easily see that all is not as it should
be. Hamlet's personality is thrown into chaos. He is in mourning the death of
his father, and then his mother marries his uncle. He is enraged at her, and on
top of all of this he sees the ghost of his father commanding him to avenge his
wrongful murder. Yet, amongst all this turmoil, I believe that Hamlet was only
playing the part of being crazy. He speaks in riddles and plays on words in
order to create a certain suspicion about his sanity. This abnormal activity
gives him the ability to sneak a few insults by without having to directly
confront his enemies. It seems to be quite a bit worse if the person who was
insulted isn't exactly sure whether or not they were just insulted. Hamlet is
able to interject these insults without even the other character noticing, which
is the art of insult it is this unpredictability of action, this sporadic bouts
of insanity and sanity, the inner turmoil brewing within Hamlet, which keeps the
audience's interest. Nobody is really sure whether or not Hamlet was insane.
Many have theories and beliefs, but Shakespeare never came out and said he
definitely is or definitely is not sane, he only hints. There are valid
arguments on either side, for Hamlet Himself said "I am mad but
north-northwest"; that is he is only mad about one thing in particular. The
wordplay in Hamlet is a representation of the complexity of the minds of the
characters that Shakespeare created. It is a depiction of the inner turmoil
within a character struggling with sanity. However, more importantly it is
necessary to keep in mind that Shakespeare was a playwright and that the play on
words did one thing in particular, which is why Shakespeare lived to write so
many plays, Hamlet, because of its wording is entertaining and that made all the
difference. Within the play Hamlet there exists many puns and phrases, which
have a double meaning. Little ploys on words which tend to add a bit of
entertainment to the dialogue of the play. These forked tongue phrases are used
by Shakespeare to cast an insight to the characters in the play to give them
more depth and substance. However, most importantly these phrases cause the
reader or audience to think. They are able to show a double meaning that not all
people would pick up on, which is the purpose of the comments. Little is known
about Shakespeare's life, other than he was a great playwright whose works serve
to meld literary casts for ages to come. This was his occupation, he wrote and
directed plays to be performed. This was his sole form of income that we know
of, it was his way of putting the bread on the table. If people did not like
what Shakespeare wrote, then he would not earn any money. If the people didn't
like what they saw, he became the starving artist. Shakespeare wrote these
dialogues in such a manner as to entertain both the Nobility, as well as the
peasants. The Shakespearean theater is a physical manifestation of how
Shakespeare catered to more than one social class in his theatrical productions.
These Shakespearean theaters have a unique construction, which had specific
seats for the wealthy, and likewise, a designated separate standing section for
the peasants. This definite separation of the classes is also evident in
Shakespeare's writing, in as such that the nobility of the productions speak in
poetic iambic pentameter, where as the peasants speak in ordinary prose. Perhaps
Shakespeare incorporated these double meanings to the lines of his characters
with the intent that only a select amount of his audience were meant to hear it
in either its double meaning, or its true meaning. However, even when the tragic
hero Hamlet's wordplay is intentional. it is not always clear as to what purpose
he uses it. To confuse or to clarify? Or to control his own uncensored thoughts?
The energy and turmoil of his mind brings words thronging into speech,
stretching, over-turning and contorting their implications. Sometimes Hamlet has
to struggle to use the simplest words repeatedly, as he tries to force meaning
to flow in a single channel. To Ophelia, after he has encountered her in her
loneliness, "reading on a book," he repeats five times "Get thee
to a nunnery," varying the phrase very little, simply reiterating what was
already said by changing "get" to "go." This well known
quote, to this day cannot be deciphered in its entirety, for nunnery is a place
where nuns live, yet it is also a brothel. Hamlet seems to knowingly cast a
shade of confusion into the minds of the audience or is it in fact clarity
within confusion. That is, the audience is able to better understand the
thoughts and inner struggle of Hamlet via these conflicting terms. After Hamlet
has visited his mother "all alone" in her closet and killed Polonius,
after she has begged him to "speak no more", and after his father's
ghost has reappeared, Hamlet repeats "Good night" five times, with
still fewer changes in the phrase than "Get thee to a nunnery" and
those among accompanying words only. So Hamlet seems to be struggling to contain
his thoughts even by use of these simple words, rather than enforcing a single
and simple message as a first reading of the text might suggest; and the words
come to bear deeper, more ironic or more blatant meanings. It is from these
phrases, which even manage to confuse the complex mind of Hamlet that we begin
to get a glimpse into the intentions of Hamlets mind, and seeing just exactly
the way he ticks. Much of the dramatic action of this tragedy is within the head
of Hamlet, and wordplay represents the amazing, contradictory, unsettled,
mocking nature of that mind, as it is torn by disappointment and positive love,
as Hamlet seeks both acceptance and punishment, action and stillness, and wishes
for consummation and annihilation within a world he perceives to be against him.
He can be abruptly silent or vicious; he is capable of wild laughter and tears,
and also playing polite and sane. The narrative is a kind of mystery and chase,
so that, underneath the various guises of his wordplay, we are made keenly aware
of his inner dissatisfaction, and come to expect some resolution at the end of
the tragedy, some unambiguous "giving out" which will report Hamlet
and his cause aright to the unsatisfied among the reader. Hamlet himself is
aware of this expectation as the end approaches, and this still further whets
our anticipation for what is to become. A commonly recurring theme throughout
the play is that of honesty. It is introduced in the beginning of the play and
as the play continues, its use becomes more and more common, as well as more and
more ironic. This theme within the play itself is ironic, for as Marcellus said
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" and this corruption we
see so exhibited in the play is far from honest. When Hamlet applies the word
honest to the main characters of the play, his use of becomes undeniably ironic,
and much of the dark humor of the play derives from Hamlet's wordplay. Polonius
marks that though Hamlet's insults seem to make no sense, "yet there is
method in 't." In Act II, it is Polonius that is the first target of
Hamlet's irony of the use of honest. Hamlet calls him first a
"fishmonger" which it has many meanings, including the implication
that Ophelia is a whore and Polonius is her pimp. And of course, Polonius has
employed his daughter in his plot to discover the depth of Hamlet's
"madness." When Polonius says he is not a fishmonger, Hamlet replies
"Then I would you were so honest a man." In other words, he wishes
Polonius was as honest as a simple fish seller, or even more insulting, as
honest as the pimp Hamlet insinuated he was. In this scene, Hamlet also uses
this ironic meaning of honesty against Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when he
tells them "...I will not sort you with the rest of my servants, for, to
speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended." He seems
to mean that he cannot speak to them with honesty, because they themselves are
dishonest in their intents. Honesty resonates as a theme in Hamlet because
nothing is, as it seems in Denmark. The King deceives the world and pretends a
legitimacy he does not have; Hamlet deceives the court by feigning madness;
Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern all try to deceive Hamlet into revealing
why he is distraught, and no one knows what is truth and what is a lie. The
world has not grown honest, as Rosencrantz claims, but dishonest, and no one who
lives in it can keep his honesty pure from the corrupting air. Hamlet seems to
be the character that uses the majority of such puns and phrases in the play.
These phrases, which have double meaning, could represent the inner turmoil,
which seems to be tearing Hamlet apart. By seeing a definite double meaning to
many phrases in the play, we are able to easily see that all is not as it should
be. Hamlet's personality is thrown into chaos. He is in mourning the death of
his father, and then his mother marries his uncle. He is enraged at her, and on
top of all of this he sees the ghost of his father commanding him to avenge his
wrongful murder. Yet, amongst all this turmoil, I believe that Hamlet was only
playing the part of being crazy. He speaks in riddles and plays on words in
order to create a certain suspicion about his sanity. This abnormal activity
gives him the ability to sneak a few insults by without having to directly
confront his enemies. It seems to be quite a bit worse if the person who was
insulted isn't exactly sure whether or not they were just insulted. Hamlet is
able to interject these insults without even the other character noticing, which
is the art of insult it is this unpredictability of action, this sporadic bouts
of insanity and sanity, the inner turmoil brewing within Hamlet, which keeps the
audience's interest. Nobody is really sure whether or not Hamlet was insane.
Many have theories and beliefs, but Shakespeare never came out and said he
definitely is or definitely is not sane, he only hints. There are valid
arguments on either side, for Hamlet Himself said "I am mad but
north-northwest"; that is he is only mad about one thing in particular. The
wordplay in Hamlet is a representation of the complexity of the minds of the
characters that Shakespeare created. It is a depiction of the inner turmoil
within a character struggling with sanity. However, more importantly it is
necessary to keep in mind that Shakespeare was a playwright and that the play on
words did one thing in particular, which is why Shakespeare lived to write so
many plays, Hamlet, because of its wording is entertaining and that made all the
difference.
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