Hamlet's Words Essay

2309 words - 9 pages

Custom Written Essays -  Hamlet's Words


"How pregnant sometimes his replies are!" (Pol. 2.2.204-5). Hamlet, that often times dreaded literary work by the great artist Shakespeare, is a play described by Frank Kermode as one that reveals a full presentation of the capabilities of Shakespeare (96). Hamlet portrays a young prince who has been cheated out of the throne and embarrassed by the swift marriage of his mother, the Queen, to the brother of the King, his uncle. It is eventually revealed that the King has been murdered by the uncle, now King, and that Hamlet is expected, according to the ghost of his dead father, to avenge the murder. Hamlet is faced with: mourning the death of his father; the hasty marriage of his mother to his uncle; the assigned task of revenge by a ghost; the betrayal of his friends and girlfriend; and trying to prove the case of the ghost to justify the assignment of revenge. Enough to drive a sane person crazy! In his attempt to juggle these quandaries he finds himself wielding "[...] wild and whirling words, [...]" (Hor. 1.5.133) that earn him the reputation of being mad. These words that Hamlet communicates are bursting with puns, sarcasm, and doubles often times causing those who dread this work to smile and smile in spite of themselves.


By definition a pun is a humorous word used in a way that suggests two or more interpretations. The young Hamlet of Denmark is a master at the art of using puns to accomplish many tasks in the play. Some puns are used to distinguish between different words, thus undoing the meaning of something someone else has said. As Lawrence Danson points out, in his essay "Tragic Alphabet", "Hamlet's punning carries with it the demand that words receive their full freight of meaning, [...]" (69). In some instances a distinction is called to be made between the literal and general definitions of words. In some cases the Latin root words are used to put an emphasis on the English version of that word, thus giving the words a double meaning that causes a bit of humor.


Hamlet's opening line of the play "A little more than kin, and less than kind." (1.2.65), is the response that he gives to his uncle, now stepfather, Claudius when he says, "But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son -" (1.2.64). Basically, Hamlet is telling his new father, in a way that is quick and witty, that he wishes he was not related to him and that he does not feel him to be a good person. Hamlet conveys that he is unhappy about the new role that Claudius has taken on, and he does so by "[...]disrupt[ing] the smooth surface of another person's discourse" (Ferguson 248). This very sentence tears apart the bond that Claudius has made between he and Hamlet, "[...] through its comparative `more' and `less', and also through the play on `kin' and `kind' which points, by the difference of a single letter, to a radical difference between what Claudius seems...

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