Hamlet and Trifles: Aspects of the Past Relevant to the Present
The Elizabethan Era under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I in England not only produced an expansion of growth in the suburbs and a more unified nation, but also introduced the world’s most famous playwright of all times, William Shakespeare. During this period of greatest artistic achievement, Shakespeare, who produced about thirty- seven plays as well as many other great works, created what is considered his greatest achievement, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Surprisingly, this particular five-act play depicts numerous aspects which are relevant to today’s society, four hundred years later. Some of these aspects of human values are not only questioned, but also rigorously criticized, as well as generously supported throughout this play. These aspects include family loyalty, revenge, honesty, understanding, deception, and most notably value of human life, and gender roles. While many writers do not often compare to Shakespeare, a few, including Susan Glaspell, in her play, Trifles, compares yet contrasts greatly in dealing with similar lessons and values. Through the analyses of both literary pieces, it is clear that while some aspects in Hamlet directly compare, some contrast with those of Susan Glaspell’s shorter play, Trifles, and both demonstrate values relevant to today’s society.
Shakespeare uses a variety of characters in his famous play, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, who effectively demonstrate family loyalty, one of the values relevant to our society. The play focuses on the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions of this young prince, Hamlet, seeking revenge for his father’s death. When Hamlet decides to act on the information the angered ghost provides him that the murderer is the new king, Hamlet’s uncle, who is also married to his mother, he states, “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift / As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge” (I. v. 29-31). Hamlet’s words of hatred directed towards the new king alone describe the emotion he has begun to experience, in order to restore his family loyalty, and honor his father’s memory, but at the same time, he is unsure of the consequences of such a revenge. In the end, it is evident that the character, Hamlet, experiences many conflicting feelings and sights of death as a result of his choice to seek revenge on Claudius. As Rene Girard puts it in Hamlet, a book edited by Harold Bloom,
To shrink from revenge in a world that looks upon it as sacred duty is to
exclude oneself from society, to become a nonentity once more. There is
no way out for Hamlet and he shifts endlessly from one impasse to the
other, unable to make up his mind because neither choice makes sense.
It is made very clear that Hamlet’s choice to act on the spoken words of a ghost that is “as the air, invulnerable” (I. i. 145) may have created more problems...