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Hamlet Notes On Theme And Character

3089 words - 12 pages

The play develops several important themes, the major ones being DISEASE, CORRUPTION, REVENGE, PROCRASTINATION, MADNESS, and POISONING. The following is a set of notes on each of these topics.1. DISEASE AND CORRUPTIONThrough Hamlet the character, the Shakespearean audience experiences the frustration and sadness of a state gone to ruin because of the evil conniving of Claudius. As for Hamlet himself, he suffers a lack of purpose and self-confidence that can't be rectified unless the influence of the evil king is removed. Unfortunately, the agent which is prompting Hamlet to seek his removal is a ghost, and Hamlet himself is reluctant to act because of the possible mischief that the ghost represents. In his anger at failing to put revenge into effect, he curses himself and rails at what fate has allowed to transpire: "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I"[II.ii.543]; "O cursed spite,/ That ever I was born to set it right."[I.v.187-88]; and "Why, what an ass am I!.../ Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words, .../And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,/ A scullion! Fie upon't! foh!"[II.ii.578-583]This self-reproach of Hamlet presents a sickening image to the audience, one of a young man who should be as capable of revenge as any other person of his stature. In fact, young Fortinbras is presented to us early in the play as the model of what a young soldier-prince should be. The killing of Old Fortinbras in single combat by Hamlet's father has bloodied the mind of Young Fortinbras who can barely be restrained in his desire for revenge on Denmark. It is this desire which has put all of Denmark on edge at the beginning of the play, and which Hamlet will come to envy in Young Fortinbras in Act IV, after the latter has been re-directed in his revenge to fight the Poles instead of the Danes. Note that Young Fortinbras never enters Claudius' kingdom except to pass through it.In the meantime, Hamlet has accomplished little other than put on a play, break his mother's heart and kill the wrong man, Polonius. Until his strange decision to "put an antic disposition on", Hamlet had been known by one and all as the "rose and expectancy of the fair state"[III.i.155], but in Act IV, he seems to have been most correctly described by Guildenstern as possessing a 'crafty madness'. The audience are certainly in doubt as to the genuine nature of his 'act', and have no doubts at all that he is a prisoner of conscience in that he for one reason or another can't act against anyone except fitfully against the women of the play and rashly against one not-so-innocent eavesdropper. Such ill-considered actions and lack of chivalry...The ghost had told Hamlet specifically to leave his mother to heaven's judgement...are revolting to witness in the 'courtier', whose standard of conduct exceeded all others in Shakespeare's England.Ophelia and Laertes are the models of male and female deportment at the Renaissance court. Nonetheless, the obedience of Ophelia results in her...

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