Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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The story of Hamlet comes from a long line of revenge tragedies in which a
character attempts to avenge the murder of a family member. Just as revenge is
present in literature, it is also present in today’s society. It is always
there, lurking in the darkness of the human mind, watching, waiting for an
opportunity to lash out at the surrounding world. Shakespeare suggests in Hamlet
that revenge is a debilitating force, and the pursuit of it can infect the most
noble of all souls. Once tainted by this infectious disease, no weak minded
individual can be cured of it. Revenge is an unavoidable power moving the mind
closer towards destruction. In order for revenge to truly corrupt Hamlet, he had
to be an innocent and noble character from the onset of the play. Without this
innocence and respected status, Hamlet would have nothing to lose, revenge would
have no affect on him because the evil would already exist. There has to be a
shift from good to evil in order for Hamlet to be a tragedy, and it is the
darkness of revenge that provides this shift. It is from Ophelia that a reader
gets their description of Hamlet’s character before it was corrupted. She
reveals everything about Hamlet that would make him a noble man. It is in their
first meeting in the play, that Ophelia states, “O, what a noble mind is here
o’er-thrown! The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword;
th’ expectancy and rose of the fair state, the glass of fashion and the mould
of form, th’ observ’d of all observers” (III.I.142-146). First of all, she
herself states that he has a noble mind. Then Ophelia comments on how he can
relate to everyone in some small way. This ability makes Hamlet the pride of
Denmark, and the most loved. He is also considered to be a model for all men,
thus meaning that people admire him and look to him for guidance. One can base
the entire notion of Hamlet’s nobility on this one quote. What else does a
person need in order to be considered noble? He is admired, he is loved, and he
is a role model, thus Hamlet is noble. The nobility of Hamlet was corrupted by
the power of revenge. Hamlet , although saddened by his father’s death and the
marriage of Claudius and Gertrude, was not consumed by it. These were in no way
the sources of his diseased soul, rather it was the desire for murderous revenge
that slowly turned his heart black. The deterioration of his righteous mind
began when he first learned of his father’s foul murder and and vows swift
revenge. “Hold, hold, my heart; and you, my sinews, grow not instant old, but
bear me stiffly up” (Shakespeare I.v.93-94). Hamlet not only vows revenge, but
he hands his mind, soul, and everything he holds dear over to it. He is no
longer loyal to his father, but to revenge alone. It is at this exact moment
that Hamlet and all his actions become truly dark; revenge has begun to consume
him. The destructive force that revenge possesses comes from its consummation.
Once an individual stands in the light of revenge, there is no turning back;
revenge is unavoidable. It is impossible to commit a crime or ponder the thought
and not be affected by it in some way. Hamlet can try and justify his cause with
the belief, “An eye for an eye,” but it is no use. Murdering his uncle is
not his decision nor his duty. There is no such thing as an appropriate sin, or
“sinning elegantly”. All sins are immoral no matter what the intention.
Hamlet is too intent on the damning of Claudius’ soul. “Then trip him, that
his heels may kick at heaven, and that his sould may be as damn’d and black as
hell, whereto it goes” (Shakespeare III.iii. 93-95). Just because Hamlet’s
father was murdered does not mean that he has the right to murder Claudius, much
less damn him in the process. It is Hamlet’s decision to damn Claudius, that
exposes the ultimate degredation and destruction that revenge has brought upon
Hamlet’s soul. Revenge is negative, but the affects that revenge produces can
be far worse. In the case of Hamlet, the results were catastrophic. The first
victim was the unsuspecting Polonius. The death of Polonius and young Hamlet’s
desire for insatiable need for revenge sparked a chain reaction that soon
engulfed everything and everyone around the young prince. Hamlet’s relentless
pursuit not only caused the death of many people, it triggered the downfall of
an entire kingdom. Hamlet warns that revenge is a force not meant to be tampered
with. The struggle to achieve revenge, will not relieve a person of pain, it
will only cause more. In writing Hamlet, Shakespeare demonstrates that revenge
is not the answer, and that it in the end solves nothing. By doing this,
Shakespeare leaves the audience with the moral dilema of how to live there own
lives. If the path that Hamlet chose was unfulfilled, then what path is the
audience supposed to take? Forgiveness. The act of forgiveness is the only path
to true happiness and salvation, not only because it spares the soul of the
individual affected by the crime, but also because it delivers the offender from
eternal damnation.
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