Hamlet's Relationships with Father Figures Depicted through Mythic Allusion
Many successful writers give some form of this piece of advice "The best way to become a better writer is to read." A writer needs to read or surround themselves with writing. Authors are encouraged to my informed and respectful of great writers before them, and their contemporaries. This idea can lead to specific allusion for a certain effect. The allusion becomes a tool to be used by a writer. During Shakespeare's time, ancient Greek myth and legend were of common knowledge for his audience. Throughout many of his plays, ...view middle of the document...
4.55-57). Hamlet is lavish in his praise of his father; he equates him with Apollo (Hyperion) the sun god, Zeus (Jove or Jupiter) the king of the gods, and Mars (Ares) the god of war. These are by no means personal descriptions. Not once does Hamlet recall a memory of his father nor does he describe him with traits based in reality. This conveys a sense of distance symbolic of the distance between mortals and the gods. Hamlet shows no sign of a correct father and son relationship. This type of relationship and distance has also led to idolization, hence the god like depiction. King Hamlet was more of a single sided hero figure in his son's life rather than a living breathing multifaceted father.
Furthermore, within the play Hamlet has multiple father figures. Each of these is represented in specific contrast to his biological father, King Hamlet. One of these is his Uncle Claudius who claims to treat Hamlet as his son, "But now my cousin Hamlet, and my son" (1.2.64). This is a false father figure and one that Hamlet uses mythological characterize calling him a "satyr" (1.2.140) and representing Hamlet's revenge on Claudius as the mythic Pyrrhus' revenge on his uncle Priam (2.2.426-473). There is no fatherly son relationship between these to, but in fact a distinct perversion and absence of that relationship is present. The other figure is that of the jester Yurik with whom Hamlet has a personal relationship with. This is evident in Hamlet's fondness of memories with him as he addresses his friend's remains, "Alas poor Yurik, I knew him…He hath borne me on his back a thousand times…Here hung the lips that I have kissed I know not how oft" (5.1.171-74). There is no mythological indication in his description of Yurik, only personal memories. This is central in that he has no distance between himself and Yurik as mortals do with Gods. These faux fathers are described in two ways that are different from the mythological references to Hamlet had a very personal relationship with Yurik, one that differs greatly with not only Claudius but also with his own father and thus their depictions by Hamlet differ.
In light of Hamlet's perception of his own father, Hamlet develops a perception of himself. The image is one of unworthiness and pity to the point of suicide. When comparing his uncle to his father he also describes himself, "but no more like my father, Than I to Hercules" (1.2.154). This is a specific denial of god like mythological description which is presumably reserved for only his father. Additionally, as he tries to rouse himself to the act of revenge he berates himself for using only words rather than action,
"Why, what an ass am I? Ay, sure, this is most brave, That I,
the son of the dear murdered, Prompted to my revenge by
heaven and hell, Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with
words And fall a-cursing like a very drab" (2.2.560-564).