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The Contagiousness Of Evil In Hamlet

2791 words - 11 pages

Alexandra RoccaAP EnglishBlock 2Contagiousness of Evil in HamletWithin William Shakespeare's masterpiece, Hamlet, a tragedy of revenge ("Background Information, Hamlet) about the star crossed Prince of Denmark, Shakespeare incorporates a theme of contagious evil. As the play progresses, then climaxes at its bloody closing, each significant character, besides that of Horatio and Fortinbras, ultimately develops an 'infection' and succumbs to the 'viral plague' of evil.The main antagonist (source of evil) in Hamlet is arguably, Hamlet's uncle Claudius. Referenced by the ghost in Act I, Claudius had killed his brother, King Hamlet, and seized the throne for himself. He also married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, the queen. In turn, the wicked effects of his malevolent actions spread to the other characters; they are either influenced to commit 'evil' deeds (not to the degree of Claudius' deeds, however) or become embodied in evil. A direct connotation indicating Claudius' perspective on his evil deeds is seen in his Act III, Scene III as he states:Oh, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven.It hath the primal eldest curse upon 't,A brother's murder. Pray can I not.Though inclination be as sharp as will,My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,And, like a man to double business bound,I stand in pause where I shall first begin,And both neglect. What if this cursèd handWere thicker than itself with brother's blood?Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavensTo wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercyBut to confront the visage of offence?(p. 165). Judging by these lines, Claudius recognizes his awareness of his evil actions. The recognition of his evil feats is revealed when he exclaims that his "offence is rank". Nevertheless, Claudius' ongoing evil intentions are specified when he asks, "May one be pardoned and retain th'offense?" and asserts that he will not relinquish his ferociously attained 'prizes' of: "My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen." (165).The main protagonist in Hamlet, is Hamlet himself. In The Facts About Shakespeare, Hamlet is described as a "hesitating avenger…the senti-mentalist, the idealist, the thinker at war with himself". (Neilson and Thorndike. 198. Print). He is the most important character therefore, according to Elizabethan tragedy; he is the individual that leads to violence and conflict. (Melani). Though Hamlet is the main protagonist, it is ironic that he is 'diagnosed' with the smallest 'infection' of evil. Throughout the play, Hamlet's main concern is to avenge his father's death and kill King Claudius. In Hamlet's era, avenging a death was not considered evil; therefore, when Hamlet finally kills Claudius in Act V, his act is not considered evil, but heroic in a sense. Aside from his controversial decent into 'madness', Hamlet nonetheless retains a slight 'infection' due to Claudius' spreading evil. For example, evil afflicts Hamlet's usual kind and affectionate persona towards Ophelia-his true...

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