Hamlet is a revenge tragedy play, which was a very popular theme at the time Shakespeare was writing. Hamlet was written at the time Shakespeare was writing at his very best. Hamlet was written over 400 years ago and has outlived most other revenge plays but still continues to hold great appeal due to the effect it has on all those who see and hear it As Hamlet is self-titled we know Hamlet will die and this event will bring a close to the play.
Because we know how the play will end Shakespeare entices the audience by keeping us on the edge about when, where, how and why it will happen.
In this essay I have chosen to write about the death of Gertrude, Claudius and Hamlet. All three characters die in the last Act, Act 5. Hamlet is a play set in Denmark. His father at the start of the play has already been brutally murdered by his (Hamlet’s) Uncle Claudius.
– brother to the deceased king. The ghost of his father appears to him and reveals how Claudius so cunningly murdered him, and begs Hamlet to avenge his death. Ghost: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murther Hamlet is already furious with Claudius for marrying his mother within such a short time of his father’s death. Hamlet: …
for look how cheerful my mother looks, and my father died within’s two hours. This causes him to wonder if his mother had had any part in his fathers murder also. Hamlet within him vows to obey the ghost of his father. While all this is happening Fortinbras of Norway is invading Denmark with the aim of avenging his fathers death that was taken by the late king of Denmark, Hamlet’s father. Hamlet decides to have the players play a play similar to the death of his father to see the reaction of Claudius. Hamlet: I’ll have these Players, Play something like the murder of my father, Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his looks,…
He wants to be sure that the ghost was not evil and telling the truth. The play is a success and Hamlet can now be sure that Claudius is responsible for the death of his father. Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother along with everyone else are outraged by Hamlet’s change in character. Polonius, Lord Chamberlain, a good friend to the king believes Hamlet is mad as a result of his daughter Ophelia rejecting Hamlet’s love as he had ordered her too. Gertrude asks for her son to visit her in her bedroom. Here Hamlet mistakenly stabs Polonius who is hiding behind the curtains when he heard Hamlet’s footsteps approaching after having been talking to the queen.
Queen: O what a rash and bloody deed this this! Polonius’ children now change in character. Ophelia turns mad and drowns herself, while Laertes returns from studying in France and is also driven to avenge his father’s death. Hamlet’s madness causes Claudius to send Hamlet to England. However, Hamlet who seems always to be one step ahead of the king knows Claudius has sent a letter requesting Hamlets death and switches the note with his own for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, once friends of Hamlet’s, before they decided to betray him by becoming Claudius’ informants and so they are killed.
Hamlet: Why do you think I am easier to be played on, than a pipe? Later Hamlet returns to Denmark, to much surprise of the king to see Ophelia’s burial. Throughout the play the audience are kept in suspense about as to when Hamlet will strike Claudius. Hamlet can be seen as a hero or villain. Shakespeare makes the audience see Hamlet as a hero. Through Hamlet’s soliloquies the audience feel as though they come to know Hamlet. In this they experience what he is going through and feel his hurt and pain, which is not enough to justify his killing on Claudius but to understand why he feels he must.
Act 5 begins with the burial of Ophelia and shows the first confrontation between Laertes and Hamlet. Here Shakespeare allows the audience to acknowledge that both Laertes and Hamlet are suffering in the same way; although Laertes has lost both a father and sister, as Ophelia’s death was a result of her fathers. However, Shakespeare causes the audience to excuse Hamlet’s wrong deed and side with him. Scene two from this Act is the last in the play. Claudius falsely welcomes Hamlet home. However, Claudius and Laertes see Hamlets return as a suggestion to all their troubles, to kill Hamlet once and for all.
They cunningly plan a duel between Laertes the best fighter and Hamlet. What they do not know is that Hamlet has been practicing during his time in England. Hamlet: … since I went into France, I have been in continual practice; The fact that this is secretly revealed by Hamlet to Horatio, Hamlets good friend, reveals also a secret to the audience. At this point the audience cannot be sure if Hamlet will die, as the title suggests. The audience are at this point plagued with the fact that Laertes, Claudius and Fortinbras are all awaiting the day that Hamlet will die.
During the wager Hamlet is the first to make a hit. Laertes and Hamlet soon scuffle and wound each other. However, Laertes sword has poison on so that when he hits Hamlet he will die. This was the plan of the king and Laertes. The king who also put a poison pearl into the win glass ‘If Hamlet give the first, or second hit,.. ‘ is horrified when Gertrude drinks from the cup in honour of Hamlet giving the first hit. Gertrude soon dies. Queen: The drink, the drink, I am poison’d. The fact that we never truly knew until this point that Gertrude was an innocent party in her husband’s murder causes us to feel pity for her.
We also pity her as Claudius tried to have her son executed and pretended to love her in order to keep the thrown. The audience can now see that Gertrude was tricked from the beginning by Claudius, as well as he taking her husbands life he has also taking her own. This shoes that Claudius was only looking after himself. We pity her because Claudius could never have loved her especially not as her husband did as he was the cause of her death. The way in which she was killed causes the audience to experience horror because we did not expect Gertrude to drink the wine. Also because it was her husband that allows her to die.
Although he tries to stop her he does not try hard enough. King: Gertrude, do not drink. It horrifies us that Claudius was so eager to get rid of Hamlet that he even had two plans and so we fear what will happen next. Claudius is already aware that it will only be a matter of time before Hamlet will die as before Laertes did he had cut Hamlet. We also fear what Claudius has become and if he will stop at anything. Hamlet has now lost a mother and a father at the hands of Claudius. The audience are now fearful of the amount of hatred Hamlet must have for Claudius and fear how he will react.
The sudden death of Hamlet’s father and Gertrude leaves the audience disturbed as both had no time to repent their sins and we fear if Gertrude will become ‘Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night:… ‘ The plot of Hamlet thickens more and the audience at this point are left to wonder if Claudius will get away with his terrible deeds. However, during the scuffe hamlet picked up Laertes sword when it the scuffle it had been knocked forom his hand and Hamlet had wounded Laertes At this moment Laertes ‘exchange forgiveness’ with Hamlet and his last few words ensure that the king, ‘He is justly serve’d’. Laertes: …
the King, the King’s to blame. When Hamlet is sure that it was ‘Treason’ he stabs the king and he is only then ‘justly kill’d with mine own treachery’. The king is now dead. At this point it is hard to pity Claudius because he has been the cause of so many lives being taken away. In spite of this we pity him because he is human and he did attempt to stop Gertrude which he did not have to do. We can also pity him because Hamlet and his parents had a good family and wealth and friends all of which Claudius did not. The audience have been forced from the start of the play to believe that there is an after life and world, heaven and hell.
We therefore pity what will become of Claudius because he has been so bad. Ghost: My hour is almost come, When sulphurous and tormenting flames… This shows that the ghost of Hamlet’s father is going to hell, so we pity Claudius as we assume he will be here also. On the other hand we cannot forget what Claudius has done and are horrified by his actions. The numerous ways he has tried to kill Hamlet on several occasions and stopping at nothing, no matter who he hurt in order to achieve his aim. We are again horrified by Claudius allowing his wife Gertrude to die.
At this point it looks as though everyone with a path to the throne is dead. We now fear for the people of Denmark about who will save them from Fortinbras. Hamlet who was stabbed by Laertes with the poisonous sword is now feeling the effect of the poison and can feel it taking over him. Hamlet departs this life. Hamlet: … I am dead,… Shakespeare causes the audience to pity Hamlet because he has lost both his mother and father and lover. Claudius had been attempting to kill Hamlet for ages and because he kept failing the audience feel as though hamlet has outwitted Claudius until now and so maybe he would live.
The audience have become attached to Hamlet and it hurts them to see him die. We pity Hamlet because he may also go to hell when he was only trying to get even with Claudius the way he thought was right. The audience also pity Hamlet as if Claudius had let his father be, then the ghost would not have told him the truth and he would still be alive. Nevertheless, we fear for Hamlet in the next life, and are horrified that Hamlet dies and Fortinbras is left to take the throne without opposition. Hamlet is very much a revenge tragedy. The first murder of his father led to a string of killings after it.
In stating this it shows that certain deaths had to come first in order for others to occur. I think Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been such a success due to the truthful implications it deals with. Revenge is thought to be wrong, immoral, but in Hamlet Shakespeare expresses revenge as the natural human impulse that lies within us all. Hamlet is only acting out of the love he has for his father, which is undoubtedly the reaction each and every one of us would take. Although revenge was a popular theme during the time Hamlet was acted, Shakespeare takes it that great leap further which no author had began or even thought about doing.
Instead of hating the avenger and wanting him to die we appreciate his aim and hence feel sorry for him at his death. Shakespeare forces us to perceive Hamlet for the person he is and not for the vile act he commits. The concept of Claudius having destroyed his family as well as his life remains at the forefront of our minds whilst watching the play and causes us to feel immense pity towards Hamlet and we the audience can therefore not loathe him. What makes Hamlet all the more fascinating is that we are kept in suspense as to if Gertrude had a part in the murder of her Husband.
Throughout the play Shakespeare causes the audience to experience horror, pity and fear by making the next stage in the play all the more unpredictable. Just when we think we know what will happen due to what has been revealed to us through conversation and especially soliloquies does Shakespeare prove us wrong by adding an unexpected twist. I think Hamlet has also been such a success because it shows how life in this world is so short and puts fear into us about life in the next. It also shows how one incident can affect so many lives so much.
The fact that Hamlet is betrayal within a family causes the audience to feel that little bit more afraid. When the tight unity between families is broken then respect for anyone can hardly be possible, as the ability to trust and love another must be hard. Even so Hamlet did and still does love Ophelia. Hamlet: I lov’d Ophelia; forty thousand brothers Could not (with all their quantities of love) Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her? Shakespeare causes even more pity towards Hamlet, as through this quote it is inevitable that Laertes’ loss was also a loss of Hamlet’s.