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
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.
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...