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Character of Hamlet Essay

In: Shakespeare free essays

Character of Hamlet Essay

Throughout the play Shakespeare presents Hamlet as a weak man who is bitter towards the women in his life. This is mainly due to his mother, Gertrude betraying Hamlets father soon after his death. Hamlet is disgusted in his mother's behaviour and as they were living in a patriarchal society this sort of behaviour was deemed unacceptable. Hamlet's frustration is not only directed towards the women around him but women kind as a whole.

At the beginning of the play Hamlet is distraught at the death of his father and his mother's re-marriage to Claudius, Hamlet's uncle. Women at the time were expected to be obedient and obtain an extended period of mourning, and Hamlets mother did not. King Claudius, Hamlet's uncle flaunts his and Gertrude's relationship publicly, “Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen”, which Hamlet dislikes as he idolises his father and he believes his mother should not have re-married, especially not “within a month”.

Queen Gertrude is presented by Shakespeare as a cold woman as she tells Hamlet it is common and “all that lives must die” and explains to him that he should not be so upset. Gertrude criticises Hamlet for his response to the situation because she has to make her own actions valid. Hamlet then directs his frustration towards his mother saying, “These but the trappings and the suits of woe”, showing that he feels it is easy for someone to put on the act of grieving - but he is actually grieving.

King Claudius does not want Hamlet to grieve so much in case he wonders how his father died. To try and stop Hamlet grieving Claudius says that, “tis unmanly grief” so that Hamlet feels like he is in the wrong. Shakespeare shows the audience that Claudius has done as much wrong as Gertrude so that they question why Hamlet blames his mother and not Claudius.

A key section in the play is Hamlet's soliloquy. This section is important as Hamlet is on stage by himself so the audience focus on him and what his true feelings are. Here, Shakespeare shows that Hamlet thinks his mother is “rank and gross” conveying strong images of disgust to the audience. He also shows that Hamlet idolises his father, “so excellent a king”, the two things are a contrast between his feelings of his two parents.

Also, Hamlet states: “Frailty the name is woman!” shows that Hamlet believes women are easily corrupted and this is where the audience begin to see Hamlet's rejection towards women kind as a whole take place, and the exclamation mark shows how strong his feelings are. Hamlet says a “beast…would have mourned longer” than his mother which creates an image of how horrible his mother is. Shakespeare makes Hamlet use such language to show the extent of his hatred for her and to portray to the audience Hamlet's madness. He has very strong opinions of his mother, “o, most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” which shows how strong his hatred for her is. The use of the word “wicked” portrays Hamlet's madness to the audience as it is such a powerful word to describe someone, especially his own mother.

It is not only Hamlet who finds his mother's and uncle's relationship strange as Horatio mentions the wedding and Hamlet replies, “the funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables”, implying that the wedding was so quick after his father's death. Also, in this section Hamlet's love for his father is mentioned again, “I shall not look upon his like again” which shows Hamlet believes his father was one of a kind. At the end of this scene a rhyming couplet, “Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise, though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes” show what is going to be revealed to Hamlet about his father's death. Hamlet is the product of a patriarchal society and therefore he idolises his father.

In Act 1, scene 3 Laertes and Polonius try to tell Ophelia that Hamlet is not interested in her and that she is behaving inappropriately with regards to the way women are supposed to behave in a patriarchal society. The scene begins with Laertes talking to Ophelia; he tries to show her that Hamlet's affection towards her is “not lasting”. He explains that Hamlet “may not, as unvalued persons do, carve for himself”, meaning that others make his decisions for him. Shakespeare shows Laertes concern at Ophelia's feelings for Hamlet through a metaphor, “The canker galls the infants of the spring, too oft before their buttons be disclosed”, like a plant that blooms too early, showing he feels she has made a mistake because she is young. Also, “canker” shows that something is diseased so this shows that Laertes thinks Ophelia is behaving inappropriately.

Then, Lord Polonius tells Ophelia that she is not following the conventions of the society as she accepting Hamlets affection freely, “he hath very oft of late given private time to you”. Polonius also calls Ophelia “a green girl” which is comparing her to a young plant that is not ready for this relationship and says “you have ta'en these tenders for true pay” showing that he believes she is naïve and that she believes everything Hamlet says. Polonius also explains that “when the blood burns” Hamlet will say anything to Ophelia. But he further explains that their passion is like a “blaze” which shows that it is there and then gone. In this section Polonius uses saintly language such as “unholy” to show the extent of his emotion. Ophelia, replies “I shall obey, my Lord”, showing that she listened to her father, as he is in charge in the patriarchal society in which they live.

Another key section in the play is Hamlet's response to the ghost of his father. This is where Hamlet's father reveals that it was Claudius who killed him, “The serpent that did sting thy father's life now wears his crown”. The use of “serpent” shows that Hamlet's father believes it is Claudius who has behaved inappropriately. The ghost then states “seeming-virtuous queen”, which shows he feels that Gertrude appeared to be loyal and good but she is not. The ghost tells Hamlet not to blame persecute his mother, “nor let thy soul contrive against thy mother” as he believes it is Claudius who should be persecuted.

After the ghost leaves the pace on stage accelerates which shows the audience Hamlet's increasing madness. Most of Hamlet's anger is directed towards his mother, “O most pernicious woman!” shows that Hamlet is extremely angry because of his 'evil' mother and the exclamation could show he is on the verge, if not mad. As well as this Shakespeare presents the supernatural as a temptation and as unreliable as he does not agree with revenge. Shakespeare shows that the supernatural brings around the downfall of Hamlet and from this point onwards Hamlet's hatred for his mother and women kind increases.

A short section between Ophelia and Polonius shows that others are noticing the beginning of Hamlet's madness. Prior to this scene Hamlet has been wooing Ophelia and then he completely changes and becomes angry, Ophelia tells Polonius that, “he falls to such perusal of my face”, showing that Hamlet was trying to understand her. She also states, “He raised a sigh so piteous and profound as it did seem to shatter all his bulk”, this shows that he then concluded that all women were evil, including Ophelia which upset him. However, Shakespeare does not want us to believe that all women are evil as he encourages the audience not to trust Hamlet as he is crazy, which is shown by Hamlet's use of strong, description of his mother, “wicked” and Shakespeare's dramatic staging when Hamlet jumped in front of Ophelia as if he was crazy and when he walked off in a trance.

Due to Hamlet's increasing madness and anger, in Act 3, scene 1 he rejects Ophelia. By this point he believes all women are evil and he says to Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery, why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?” He believes women are inherently evil and born sinful, which can be related to Eve committing a sin in the garden of Eden, she was the first woman on earth and she committed a sin, so the rest of women kind must do the same in Hamlet's mixed up mind.

Furthermore, Hamlet believes that even if Ophelia does everything right she will still be evil as she is a woman, he sates: “for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them”, this shows he believes women can corrupt men. This statement is targeted at all women however his hatred for all women is related to his mother's behaviour. He believes that she corrupted Claudius so that he made bad decisions and that she was the one disrespecting his father. Hamlet blames the behaviour of women for his downfall, “it hath made me mad”. At the end of the scene Hamlets rage increases and he directs most of his anger towards Ophelia, at this point she realises that Hamlet has gone mad.    

An important section in the play is the conversation between Hamlet and Gertrude. Here, Shakespeare uses a lot of metaphorical language for Hamlet such as, “makes marriage-vows as false as dicers' oaths”, this is to portray to the audience the extent of his madness although it shows Gertrude that Hamlet strongly disagrees with her behaviour. As well as this, some of Hamlet's speech is in long paragraphs showing that he is rambling and pouring all his emotions out in a sense of anger such as the scene where he rejects Ophelia. In this section Hamlet has a long speech of nearly forty lines, which includes the statement: “you cannot call it love”, at this moment he is directing this rage at Ophelia but his true feelings of hatred are directed at his mother.

Later in the scene the ghost of Hamlet's father appears, but only to him. Gertrude cannot see the ghost and therefore she believes Hamlet is mad, which is important as Shakespeare tries to portray to the audience that Hamlet is mad and therefore this is one of the factors that confirms it. The ghost comes to protect Hamlet's mother, “is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose”, for a moment Hamlet is calmer and reasonable but in trying to get his mother to accept her unacceptable behaviour he is raised into another rage. He asks his mother to “assume a virtue”, as he wants her to change and he wants her to repent her sins.

In conclusion, I believe that Hamlet rejects women because of his mother's behaviour and her betrayal of his father. Hamlet is still young when his father dies, and the stress of his mothers inappropriate actions confuse him. My opinion is that Hamlet does over react to the situation but if his mother should have paid more attention to him rather than his uncle. The extremity of his views of all women being evil are a way for Shakespeare to portray to the audience that women are not actually evil and that Hamlet is in a state of madness.

Shakespeare shows that Hamlet's rejection of women is an over reaction to a situation that could be solved more easily. In Shakespeare's opinion the supernatural has a bad influence on people and it can contribute to somebody's madness. Also, Shakespeare presents the supernatural as unreliable so that it makes Hamlet seem crazier and because he idolises his father he would do anything for him. Overall, I believe Hamlet's rejection to women is due to the actions of his mother and the conventions of a patriarchal society where men are the leader of the house. Hamlet rejects Ophelia as she shows a few similar characteristics to his mother and he rejects women kind as a whole as the people around him have led him to believe all women are evil.

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