Essay, Research Paper: Term Paper On Theater


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In Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the death of a character becomes a frequent
event. Although many people lose their lives as a result of their own
self-centered wrong-doing, there are others whose death are a result of
manipulation from the royalty. This is the case of Polonius’ family. The real
tragedy of Hamlet is not that of Hamlet or his family but of Polonius’ family
because their deaths were not the consequence of sinful actions of their own but
rather by their innocent involvement in the schemes of Claudius and Hamlet. The
first character to die in Hamlet is Polonius. Although Polonius often acts in a
deceitful manner when dealing with Hamlet, it is only because he is carrying out
plans devised by the king or queen to discover the nature of Hamlet’s madness.
Being the king’s Lord Chamberlain, it is his duty to obey the king and
queen’s wishes and it is this loyalty that eventually proves to be fatal for
him. An example of how Polonius’ innocent involvement with the royalty results
in his death can be found at the beginning of Act III, scene iv, when Hamlet
stabs him while he is hiding behind the arras in Gertude’s room. This shows
how Polonius, a man unaware of the true nature of the situation he is in, is
killed by a member of the royalty during the execution of one of their schemes.
This makes Polonius’ death a tragedy. The next member of Polonius’ family to
die is his daughter Ophelia. Ophelia’s death is tragic because of her complete
innocence in the situation. Some may argue that Polonius deserves his fate
because of his deceitfulness in dealing with Hamlet while he is mad, but Ophelia
is entirely manipulated and used by Hamlet and the king for their own selfish
reasons. An example of how Ophelia is used by Hamlet takes place in Act II,
scene I, when Hamlet uses her to convince his family he is mad. Ophelia explains
to Polonius how Hamlet has scared her, causing Polonius to draw the conclusion
that Hamlet has an "antic disposition". Although this is the subject
to interpretation and many believe that this is simply Hamlet taking one last
look at Ophelia before he becomes engaged in his plan to kill Claudius, the fact
that he scares her and does not try to alleviate these fears points to the
conclusion that he is simply using her to help word of his madness spread
throughout the kingdom via Polonius. In Act III, scene iv, Hamlet kills Polonius
while he is hiding behind the arras in the Queen’s room. This event causes
Ophelia to become insane and leads to her eventual death in a river near the
castle in Act IV, scene vii. It can be seen how the combined scheming of
Hamlet’s scheme which brings about the death of Polonius which leads to
Ophelia’s death. The passing of Ophelia is a tragedy because she does nothing
deserving of death, she is merely used for other people’s personal gain. The
last member of Polonius’ family to die is Laertes, Ophelia’s brother and
Polonius’s son. Laertes’ death is tragic because, although he kills Hamlet,
he is avenging his father’s death, an act, with reference to the moral climate
of the 1600s, that would have been condoned by the people who saw the play. The
difference between Hamlet and Laertes is that Laertes does not use others to
attain his goals and his revenge is in part due to the pressure put on him by
Claudius. This makes Laertes’ murder of Hamlet excusable and his death a
tragedy. An example of how Claudius uses Laertes to try and murder Hamlet is
seen in Act IV, scene vii. Claudius and Laertes are discussing Hamlet when
Claudius says: Laertes, was your father dear to you? Or are you like painting of
a sorrow, A face without a heart? He is asking Laertes whether he is really
sorry about his father’s death or if he is just acting mournful without
feeling mournful. Claudius uses these lines to lead Laertes into a plan to kill
Hamlet, asking him what will he do to prove his love for his father in ActIV,
scene vii. Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake to show yourself in deed
your father’s son more than in more than words? It can be easily seen how
Laertes, influenced by Claudius in the heat of his anger, could conspire to
murder Hamlet and it is in this attempt that Laertes loses his own life to the
very poison he kills Hamlet with. Once again, a member of Polonius’ family
loses their life as a result of a conflict that they are oblivious to, making
Laertes’ death a tragedy as well. Contrary to popular belief, the tragedy
associated with Hamlet is not about Hamlet or his family. It is, however , about
the tragic fate of Polonius’ family , whose deaths are not the result of any
sins they omit but by their being manipulated by Hamlet and Claudius for reasons
they are unaware of. Although the death of Polonius’ family stands out as
being the most tragic, many other characters in the story are killed as well. In
fact, the death of a character in Hamlet almost becomes commonplace near the end
of the play.
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