Ambivalence And Death In Shakespeare's Hamlet

1294 words - 5 pages

In act IV, scene III, Shakespeare addresses the play’s themes and messages; those being ambivalence and how people are one and the same in the end of life. Hamlet speaks in an eccentric riddle form but there are underlying messages communicated through Hamlet’s craziness and Claudius’ confusion. The ideas are conversed through Claudius and Hamlet and convey the morals of the drama, Hamlet. Shakespeare also takes the liberty in this section to show how diverse and opposite the characters of Claudius and Hamlet are by differentiating their literary devices.
Although Hamlet and Claudius are related to one another by the law and by both of their needs to achieve self-fulfillment; In act IV, scene III, it is clearly conveyed how the two principal characters vary from each other by creating such a vivid foil. Shakespeare portrays this by having Hamlet speaking in elongated riddle, such as; “But if, indeed, you find him not within this month you shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby.” (39-41), or
“Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a / certain
convocation of politic worms are e'en at / him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we / fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves / for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is / but variable service, two dishes, but to one table: /
that's the end.” (23-28)
Hamlet’s riddles were using oddly matched words and phrasing and not giving the audience a clear view of what exactly he was talking about. In order to give the distinction between the characters of Hamlet and Claudius, Shakespeare writes Claudius’ dialogue in short and choppy phrases. Notice how “So is it, if thou knew’st our purposes.” (55) Or “Alas Alas” (29), is incredibly different from the way Hamlet’s “riddle talk” was written. On the other hand, to ask someone to explain what Hamlet truly means in lines 39-41, one would need to put some thought into it; it isn’t always apparent to the audience that this is a comical moment and that Claudius being told to go to Hell by Hamlet is actually quite hilarious.  In addition to the sentence length and the content, Shakespeare shows the distinct difference between Hamlet’s quick thinking wittiness and Claudius’ slow uncertainty. Shakespeare dictated in the script that Claudius was to talk with “[fiery quickness]” (48) during the dialogue where he is telling Hamlet off; this section of lines is inferring that Claudius’ lines have been delayed and not very powerful up to that point. In this particular scene, it is quite apparent that Claudius does not know what to make of Hamlet’s riddles. For instance, “(To the attendants) Go seek him there.” (41), states that Claudius is quite slow on the uptake. Hamlet just told Claudius that Polonius’ body was “up the stairs into the lobby” (40- 41) which was up in heaven or hell, whichever the reader chose. Since Claudius tells his servants to go find him there, it shows that he is not able to grasp...

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