Sub-plots in Hamlet
There are many things that critics say make Hamlet a "Great Work," one of which is the way that Shakespeare masterfully incorporates so many sub-plots into the story, and ties them all into the main plot of Hamlet’s revenge of his father’s murder. By the end of Act I, not only is the main plot identified, but many other sub-plots are introduced. Among the sub-plots are trust in the Ghost of King Hamlet, Fortinbras, and the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia. These three sub-plots are crucial to making Hamlet the master piece that it is.
In the times that Shakespeare lived ghosts were a readily accepted idea, but one had to be wary of them because it was difficult to decipher a good ghost from a bad one. Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, first brings that question into our mind when the Ghost is asking Hamlet to follow it. Horatio warned:
What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o’er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? Think of it. (68)
Hamlet disregarded Horatio’s warnings, followed the Ghost of his father, and heard of the murder that took place. This is where he learned of his quest to revenge his father, the main plot of the play. But Hamlet still wasn’t sure of the validity of the Ghost, so he decided to put the Ghost’s accusations to a test. "There is a play tonight before the King: One scene of it comes near the circumstance Which I have told thee of my father’s death. . . Observe my uncle. If his occulted guilt Does not itself unkennel in one speech, It is a damned ghost that we have seen" (156). By having a group of players reenact his father’s murder, he was able to tell from Claudius’ (the murderer of King Hamlet) reaction that the Ghost was not of the devil. To take this sub-plot out would have left the reader/audience with many questions, especially in Shakespeare’s time. People would wonder if the ghost was of good intent, and if Hamlet was wise in revenging his father.
In many versions of Hamlet, the character of Fortinbras is taken out. Fortinbras is the heir to Norway, but his father lost almost all of his inheritance to King Hamlet. Fortinbras wanted revenge, but he was told he could not take it because the land was lost fairly in an agreed contract. Fortinbras represents Hamlet after he has learned of his father’s murder, the only difference is that he does not take revenge because King Fortinbras was not murdered. Although what he contributes can easily be omitted from the play, many feel that it ruins the play at the end. After all of the heirs to the Denmark throne have been killed, Fortinbras comes to Denmark from a victorious conquer of Poland. In his dying breath Hamlet said, "But I do prophesy th’election lights On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice" (308). Because much of the Denmark land once was Fortinbras’...