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William Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

2738 words - 11 pages

William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Relationships between characters of the younger and older generations
is a main focus and central theme of Hamlet. The play differs from
convention in that older characters are generally found to be the ones
who have acted wrongly or who have made mistakes. The younger
generation, Hamlet included, tend to act according to what they
believe to be morally correct and appear to have a greater conscience
and sense of justice. Generally, productions of Hamlet present the
younger generation in such a way that the audience would feel sympathy
with them and disgust at the actions of the older generation. However,
there are exceptions to this and at certain places in the text,
sympathy could be drawn to the older generation. Parents and children
also have complex relationships in this play, something found
particularly between Hamlet and Gertrude. The way Hamlet behaves
towards his mother has caused much debate over the emotional
complexities of their relationship. Yet different interpretations of
the text are found and the way the relationships between parents and
children are presented varies.

The way Polonius behaves towards his respective children gives an
interesting insight into the different ways male and female children
were treated by their fathers in Elizabethan times. In Act 1 Scene 3,
we also see how Polonius feels about his daughter's response to
Hamlet's courtship and the way in which Ophelia reacts to his orders.
The scene begins with Laertes administering brotherly advice to
Ophelia on how she should handle Hamlet's advances. He tells her not
to be too keen or quick to accept a proposal of marriage from him.
Ophelia takes his advice to heart, but tells him to make sure he
himself lives by this advice. When Ophelia and Laertes' father
Polonius enters, he commences a long speech full of fatherly advice
for his son to heed before he goes away to university. He tells him to
do all things in moderation, to have fun but not to make trouble and
finally 'to thine own self be true'. This advice is very paternal and
administered in a loving way; he ends his speech by saying 'my
blessing season this in thee' which makes the speech seem affable and
helpful. The juxtaposition of this scene in which a traditional family
relationship is demonstrated, to the previous scene in which Hamlet
had been feeling a sense of detachment and mistrust of his family,
highlights the contrast between the two families and Hamlet's feelings
of discomfort in his new family structure. For example, in the
soliloquy in the previous scene Hamlet had said, 'how weary stale and
unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world' whilst reflecting
on the death of his father and his mother's marriage to his uncle.
Polonius' father son advice is also recapitulated in the next...

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