March 18, 2004


English 1B

Many believe that Hamlet, by William Shakespeare is one of the greatest plays of all times. Hamlet is about the compelling tragedy of the tormented young prince of Denmark. This play continues to capture the imaginations of modern audiences worldwide. Hamlet represent the everyday family life that most do not like to talk about. There is self‑conflict, distrust in women, pain and incest that young Hamlet experiences throughout the play. Hamlet demonstrates the difficulty of knowing the truth about other people. Stripped down to its most compelling elements, Hamlet is the tragedy of a family where some are deceitful and dishonest just to make it to the top.

There are many instances in life, where individuals are encouraged to deceive or

be dishonest with each other. In a competitive world, people may turn to dishonest

means to be successful, especially when the stakes are high. In the world of the Danish

court, Hamlet is often a victim of deceit and dishonesty. In turn, this dishonest lifestyle

leads Hamlet directly to his ultimate demise. At the beginning of the play, the first act of

deceitfulness in the game, is the discovery of Claudius’ brutal murder of his brother,

Hamlet. We are shown this, when Hamlet's ghost comes back from the afterlife. Young

Hamlet has a suspicious feeling about the ghost's visitation, "My father’s spirit in arms?

All is not well. I doubt some foul play, foul deeds will rise" (I, iii, 277‑279 pg. 39). The

spirit of Hamlet’s father has come back to explain the circumstances surrounding his

tragic death, "‘Tis given out that sleeping in my orchard, a serpent stung me. So the

whole ear of Denmark is by a forged process of my death rankly abused. The serpent

that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown"(I, v, 42‑45 pg. 59). Hearing all this

deception you would expect a great reaction; however, there is no anger in Hamlet’s

response, no furious resolution or revenge. Hamlet has to decide whether or not to take a

stand against this type of lifestyle, or let it continue further.

Secondly, the next betrayal at court occurs when Hamlet finds out about

Claudius’ seduction of Gertrude. Hamlet’s ghost accuses Claudius of seducing

Gertrude, "Ay that incestuous, that adulterate beast, with witchcraft of his wit, with

traitorous gifts, O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power so to seduce! — won to his

shameful lust the will of my most seeming‑virtuous queen" (I, v, 49‑53 pg.59). First

Hamlet finds out about the circumstances surrounding his father’s murder. Then he

discovers that his mother had an adulterous affair with his uncle Claudius. As noted

previously, Hamlet’s reaction is not initially angry or vengeful. Rather, he feels himself

collapsing and his mind fainting away from the knowledge, "O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart

and you, my sinews, grow not instant old, but bear me stiffly up" (I, v, 100‑102 pg. 61 ).

On the other hand, the Ghost's primary reaction is that of outrage at his wife's

unfaithfulness and his brother’s treachery. As well, his pride is hurt because the queen

chose a man of inferior quality over him. "...A wretch whose natural gifts were poor to

those of mine" (I, v, 57‑58 pg.61). The spirit of Hamlet’s father is angry, and his anger

remains a force in the atmosphere compelling Hamlet to seek revenge and supporting his

cause against Claudius.

Although we never see for ourselves the relationship between Hamlet and

Claudius, we learn of its false nature from the ghost of Hamlet. This occurs when

Hamlet’s ghost tells Hamlet, "with traitorous gifts . . . Thus was I, sleeping, by a

brother’s hand, Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched" (I, v, 81‑82 pg.61). By

saying this, Hamlet’s ghost is expressing one of the strongest bonds between family

members is that of the relationship between brothers. The ghost believes Claudius’

treacherous nature roots from breaking the alliance formed by his blood relation;

however this is because of Claudius’, jealousy of his brother Hamlet and Claudius’

greed for power. From this point on in the play, the succession of tragic events follows.

Upon hearing of his uncle's treachery, Hamlet begins to construct his own approach to

retribution and he decides not to trust