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A Razor Sharp Tongue

Categories Book Review, Books And Reading, Literature, Shakespeare

Essay, Pages 5 (1191 words)

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Essay, Pages 5 (1191 words)

The utilization of spoken language at the hands of a skilled manipulator of words can inflict unexpected harm upon one’s enemies. It can destroy good intentions; demoralize the opposition and spread fanaticism to others. Such a theme of cruel or manipulative words as a kind of poison is inherent within Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet”. The play reflects upon the downfall of Hamlet, caused by the grief over his father’s death and his disgust towards the incestuous relations of his mother and uncle.

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These two factors culminate to form a complex vehemence within Hamlet, which subsequently leads him to lash out against those close to him. Hamlet uses words as metaphorical “daggers” both as a tool to attain his wishes, as well as an emotional response to his grief, respectively directed towards Claudius and Gertrude. Hamlet’s antagonism towards Claudius manifests itself into violent language meant to draw out Claudius’ guilt. One of these moments in the tragedy is the performance Hamlet presents to Claudius.

Hamlet intentionally produces a speech within the play to confound the audience and extract Claudius’ guilt . He first mentions his intentions to one of the players when he asks: “You could for need study a speech of some dozen lines… Which I would set down and insert in’t… ” (Shakespeare II. ii 476-478). Later on in the scene, a soliloquy unheard by the other characters in the play sheds light upon Hamlet’s intentions. Hamlet wishes the player to “Cleave the general ear with horrid speech,/ Make mad the guilty and appal the free/ Confound the ignorant and amaze indeed” (II.

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ii 498-500).

Thus, it is revealed that Hamlet wishes to use the play to reveal Claudius’ crime: the murder of King Hamlet. His words “Make mad the guilty” reference to his attempts to draw out a confession from Claudius, while “appal the free” means to simply make others aware of Claudius’ wrongdoings. Within the aforementioned speech is a stage direction that involves one of the actors pouring poison into another actor’s ear (III. ii 253). This is indubitably a clever allusion by Shakespeare meant to compare Hamlet’s use of words to a kind of poison, which he uses most slyly to wheedle out Claudius’ guilt.

Horatio confirms this guilt to Hamlet when he says to Horatio: “I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst thou perceive? ” Horatio responds by saying “I did very well note my lord” (III. Ii 278-280). Thus, Hamlet manipulates the lines of the play to form a palpable tool with which to reveal Claudius’ transgression. Hamlet’s deep emotional repugnance of his mother’s incestuous relations with his uncle manifests itself into cruel words against her. One such indication of this is within Hamlet’s first soliloquy in which he says:

O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason/ Would have mourned longer, married with my uncle/ My father’s brother (though no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules) Within a month… / O most wicked speed! To post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets… (I. ii 150-157). Hamlet’s disappointment is made abundantly clear. His feelings over his mother’s quick marriage have left him in a state of utter despair, which eventually stems into anger and frustration at his mother. In reference to speaking with his mother, Hamlet states “Let me be cruel, not unnatural:/ I will speak daggers to her but use none./ My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites” (III. ii 386-389).

From the use of the word hypocrite, Hamlet alludes that he wishes to cause his mother physical harm, though he decides to use restraint and use “daggers” solely in the form of words. Hamlet confronts his mother in act three where the following exchange takes place: “‘Now, mother, what’s the matter? ‘/ ‘Hamlet thou hast thy father offended. /’ ‘Mother you have my father much offended. /’ ‘Come, come you answer with an idle tongue. /’ ‘Come, come you answer with a wicked tongue.'” (III. iv 7-11).

This exchange reveals Hamlet’s heated anger and resentment towards his mother for her actions, a direct response to his grief. To say such things to one’s mother is not a thing done lightheartedly, but rather done in times of intense feeling and pain. Thus, Hamlet’s resentment towards his mother’s haste in marrying his uncle displays itself in words of cruelty against her. Hamlet’s attitude against Claudius and Gertrude is inspired in many ways by his encounter with the ghost of his father.

It is through this encounter that Hamlet learns of his father’s murder at the hands of his uncle. The encounter also deepens Hamlet’s already robust resentment of his mother. The ghost beseeches Hamlet to “-Revenge his most foul and most unnatural murder” (I. v 25). He proceeds to tell Hamlet that it was his own brother that killed him, and instructs him to avenge his death by slaying Claudius. Additionally, the ghost hints that his wife Gertrude may have had an affair with Claudius before King Hamlet was killed. He says “The will of my most seeming-virtuous Queen./ O Hamlet, what falling off was there,/ From me whose love was that of dignity/ That it went hand in hand even with the vow/ That I made to her in marriage” (I. v 47-50).

The ghost asks what it was that drove Gertrude to forget him so easily, and possibly, to break their marriage vows. While the ghost of Hamlet is extraordinarily upset by the actions of his wife, he asks Hamlet to “Taint not thy mind nor let thy soul contrive/ Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven/ And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge/ To prick and sting her.” (I. v 85-88).

Therefore the ghost does not wish Hamlet to directly hurt or insult his mother, but rather use her sins or “thorns” against her deceased husband to make Gertrude feel remorseful of her actions. Thus, through the advice of the ghost of King Hamlet, Prince Hamlet takes up the task of slaying Claudius and drawing out the guilt of his mother through his fierce intellect and control of language. Hamlet uses his ability to manipulate language to reveal Claudius’ guilt and to cause his mother grief for her sins against her dead husband.

He manipulates lines in the play he presents to Claudius to recreate his father’s murder, a clever and successful attempt to ascertain Claudius’ guilt. Additionally, he uses sharp and cruel words to cause his mother intense compunction of her wrongdoing. Both of these actions are commanded unto Hamlet by his father’s ghost who entreats Hamlet to avenge his death and in doing so, cause his mother to feel culpable.

By the conclusion of the play, Hamlet succeeds in his father’s wishes by slaying Claudius to avenge his father, while simultaneously causing his mother to feel guilty over her incestuous relations. Thus, Hamlet succeeds in ascertaining his father’s wishes through his skill in manipulation, and the utilization of a sharp and witty tongue. Therefore, Shakespeare uses Hamlet’s utilization of words as “daggers” as a testament to the power of words, and the unknown possibilities of those who possess eloquence and rational.

Cite this essay

A Razor Sharp Tongue. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/razor-sharp-tongue-2409-new-essay

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