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The Role Of Duty In William Shakespeare's Hamlet

767 words - 3 pages

The Role of Duty In William Shakespeare's Hamlet

 

Killing a person is not something that anyone can take lightly.  In the

story of Hamlet, the uncle of the play's focus character, Prince Hamlet of

Denmark, has murdered the prince's father, stolen the crown, and weds his

mother.  The ghost of king Hamlet comes to the prince and tells him that he

must avenge his murder.  The play follows Hamlet's quest of revenge against

his murdering incestuous uncle.  The question that's left to the reader to

answer is whether or not the final killing of Claudius was an act of duty

or desire for young Hamlet.  Some may suspect that the reason he went

through with his act of revenge was because he wanted to, but the majority

of readers seem to come to the conclusion that his final act was an act of

duty.

 

Hamlet's first thoughts on the revenge he has to perform went as follows:

 

        I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, all saws of books,

        all forms, all pressures past, that youth and observation

        copied there; and thy commandment all alone shall live.

        (A1, S5,L99-103)

 

This statement makes it perfectly clear that Hamlet views what he has to do

as a job that he has to do for his father.

 

In act 2, scene 2 Hamlet meets an actor who easily displays intense emotion

and passion on matters that have just come to his head.  Hamlet asks

himself in the soliloquy that followed if he was a coward for not

completing his task yet.  This makes it obvious that killing Claudius isn't

something that Hamlet wants to do.  Hamlet is so weary of killing his uncle

that he questions the intentions of the ghost.  It was said earlier in the

play that the ghost may only be the devil in a pleasing form.  Hamlet

decides to test his uncle's guilt by reenacting the murder in a play that

is to be performed, thus delaying the execution, and proving once again

that Hamlet does not want to kill Claudius.

 

In the next scene, Hamlet even questions life itself.  He contemplates

suicide in the following lines:

 

        "To be or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis

        nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of

        outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of

        troubles, and by opposing...

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