Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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When do you know a work of literature has stood the test of time? When William
Shakespeare wrote it. But why are his works so respected and cherished? One of
his most famous works, Hamlet, is still a favorite among actors and occasional
readers, alike, but why? Why is Shakespeare’s work still able to challenge and
inspire people, four hundred years after it was written? The answer is simple.
Shakespeare’s work, though complicated, will never have just one meaning, it
will always be up to the interpretation of the people of the time that is
interpreting the drama. And with this reason, Shakespeare will always be
powerful and applicable to the day. One of the first reasons why Hamlet will
never lose importance is because of the incestuous relationship between
Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, and uncle, King Claudius. Even in Elizabethan
times, Hamlet was disturbed by his mother’s new love. In scene II of the first
act, Hamlet’s disgust with his mother’s incestuous relationship and pain
over his own father’s death is no more clear then in the lines of his speech:
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two: so excellent a king; that was,
to this, Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother that he might not beteem
the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth! Must I
remember? Why, she would hang on him, as if increase of appetite had grown by
what it fed on: and yet, within a month–let me not think on’t–frailty, thy
name is woman! –a little month, or ere those shoes were old with which she
followed my poor father’s body, like Niobe, all tear:--why she, even she–o
God! A beast, that wants discourse of reason, would have mourn’d
longer–married with my uncle, my father’s brother, but no more like my
father than I to Hercules: within a month: ere yet the salt of most unrighteous
tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes, she married. O, most wicked
speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheet! It is not nor it cannot
come to good: but break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue. (Act I, Scene II,
line 138-158) As shown by Hamlet’s words, his feelings are very clear. He is
ashamed of his mother’s bed hopping. However, what he’s most hurt by is the
fact that his mother was able to move on so quickly. To him, it appeared as if
one day she was living on his father’s each and every word, and then the next
sleeping with his uncle. The unusual thing about this situation though, was how
accepting the people of Denmark were to their new king. In today’s society,
there would be no difference in how the son of a mother might feel, but
definitely a distinct difference in how all other people would feel. Incestuous
relationships are taboo and not accepted as normal and healthy relationships.
Not only the son of the Queen of Denmark but the people as well would be much
less accepting of their Queen marrying her brother-in-law only two months after
the death of her husband, the King. There would be endless rumors and problems
arising from such a relationship, so the rest of the government would never
allow Claudius to become King. But since this play is staged four hundred years
ago, such modern inconveniences, like the media, and magazines, such as the
Globe, would not have to be considered when love decisions were made. Lucky for
us today, we do have these inconveniences, even though many people think
they’re useless and a waste of paper. If they existed four hundred years ago,
Shakespeare would never have been able to write such a play. The fact that
incest will never go away and always be an issue in whatever time Hamlet is read
in, people will never grow tired of the play and always argue about the incest
element to the play. Another reason why Hamlet will always be well read is the
character Hamlet’s indecisiveness. No matter who is reading it, the reader
will always have some type of memory in which he or she was indecisive and
because of his or her inability to make a decision, a whole string of events
occurred that never should have. In Hamlet’s case, the fact that he had a
chance to murder Claudius but didn’t, could be seen as a huge mistake and the
climax of the play. If Hamlet had been able to make the decision to murder his
uncle there, instead of waiting until later on in the play in which ultimately
every one of the main characters died, the whole play would have ended before it
truly had begun, hence that would have been the climax of the play and no one
else would have died. Now might I do it pat, now he is praying: and now I’ll
do’t. And so ‘a goes to heaven; and so am I reveng’d. That would be
scann’d: a villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this
same villain send to heave. Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge. (Act III,
Scene IV, 73-79) But Hamlet, true to his character, was unable to make that
decision fearing his Uncle going to Heaven instead of Hell where he felt he
deserve to be. The instance where Hamlet is deciding between murdering his
uncle/father or not murdering him is not the only time he was indecisive. Even
in the last scene of the first act, Hamlet show’s his deathly flaw. Angels and
ministers of grace defend us! Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damm’d,
bring with thee airs from heave or blasts from hell, be thy intents wicked or
charitable, thou com’st in such a questionable shape that I will speak to
thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet, King, Father, royal Dane: O, answer me! (Act I,
Scene IV, Line 39-45) In this speech by Hamlet, it is quite clear that he is
unable to make a decision. Even though this spirit is right in front of him and
has done nothing to either Horatio or the other men who have seen him, Hamlet is
still unable to automatically assume that this spirit is a good spirit. Even
though the spirit comes in the form of his own father, he still questions the
validity of the spirit, which sets the precedent of how Hamlet will react to all
the situations of conflict that arise in the play. Many people today, can relate
to Hamlet’s indecisiveness. In today’s society, many people do not rely on
their instincts, but go against them. It always depends on the case whether or
not this practice of not being able to decide what is right and wrong is good.
In Hamlet’s case, he waited too long to make a decision and readers and actors
can learn from Hamlet’s mistake and apply it into their own lives. If you wait
too long to make a decision, you can usually cause more bad then good. However,
if you wait a little while just so you are able to reflect back on the situation
before making your decision that usually will end up helping you. The other side
of the coin, making a decision too quickly, is also a very clear reason why this
play is so cherished. In the play itself, three very important characters made a
decision too quickly. The first, and most disastrous one, would be the Queen’s
marriage to her brother-in-law only two months after King Hamlet had been
murdered. Because of this marriage, all the other events occur. The other two
characters were making the same decision, with very different outcomes, because
of similar situations. Laertes and Fortinbras both wanted to avenge their
father’s deaths without truly thinking about the consequences of their
actions. In the play, Laertes ends up being killed because of his need to avenge
his father’s death, which brought him into a death dual with Hamlet.
Fortinbras risks his own life to come to Denmark to fight for his land back, a
decision made without the backing of his own government, no less. Both of these
men, made decisions without really thinking about them. They acted on emotions,
instead of intelligence. In Laertes case, he ended up being murdered by Hamlet
because of his foolishness. In Fortinbras case, however, he ended up getting his
land back, as well as having his father’s murderer killed, but all of this was
only because of the fact that the King, Hamlet, was murdered by his brother;
which all leads back to Claudius and his jealousy of his brother, which is also
another very prominent theme in this play. All of these issues of either
indecisiveness or making decisions without intelligence, will never go away, no
matter what time their discussed in. Hamlet, the play, is a wonderful outlet to
teach readers that your decisions or inability to make decisions can really
cause more problems then good. If you read through the play, you will always
find something to take from it. Whether it’s a lesson on how to behave when in
a tough situation or a new found love for Shakespeare’s ability to intertwine
so many different themes and ideas into one play. Or, its just the fact that
something written so long ago, could still be cherished today, is all your own
interpretation of his work. It is amazing how all of Shakespeare’s works have
stood the test of time, the test of people, and the test of the present. But, do
you really see a reason why they wouldn’t have? I honestly, don’t.
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