The Hero of Hamlet
Hamlet, the hero of Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, stands head and shoulders above all the other characters in the play – he is that noble in thought and action. This essay will portray the true and complete Hamlet.
As the future king of Denmark, the hero is expected to maintain a good working relationship with the present king, Claudius. But this is not so. Even before the apparition of the ghost, Hamlet has a very sour relationship with his uncle and stepfather, Claudius. Marchette Chute in “The Story Told in Hamlet” describes this attitude on the part of the protagonist:
Hamlet is still wearing black in mourning for his father’s death, and his uncle chides him gently for what he feels is an undue show of grief. But the king can get no answer from Hamlet, who throws him one brief sentence and then addresses all his remarks to his mother; and it is his mother, the queen, who persuades him not to go back to the university again but to stay at Elsinore (35-36).
Chute describes the opening scene of the drama: “For two nights in succession, just as the bell strikes the hour of one, a ghost has appeared on the battlements, a figure dressed in complete armor and with a face like that of the dead king of Denmark, Hamlet’s father. [. . .] The hour comes, and the ghost walks” (35). Horatio and Marcellus exit the ramparts of Elsinore intending to enlist the aid of Hamlet. There is a social gathering of the court, where Claudius pays tribute to the memory of his deceased brother, the former king, and then conducts some items of business. Hamlet is there dressed in black, the color of mourning, for his deceased father. His first words say that Claudius is "A little more than kin and less than kind," indicating a dissimilarity in values between the new king and himself. Hamlet’s first soliloquy emphasizes the frailty of women – an obvious reference to his mother’s hasty and incestuous marriage to her husband’s brother:
Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle [. . .] . (1.2)
Soon Horatio, the hero’s closest friend (“Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man / As e'er my conversation coped withal.”), and Marcellus make contact with Hamlet and escort him to the ramparts of Elsinore. Philip Edwards in “The Ghost: Messenger from a Higher Court of Values?” explains that “Hamlet is galvanized into activity by the news of the appearance of a ghost that resembles his dead father”(Edwards 66-67). At one a.m. the ghost reveals to the protagonist that King Hamlet I was murdered by Claudius, who had a relationship with Gertrude prior to the murder; the ghost requests revenge by Hamlet: “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” ...