What evidence is there to suggest that Hamlet Essay
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What evidence is there to suggest that Hamlet would have become a successful leader of Denmark had he survived? In the final scene Forthinbras declares that Hamlet, “Was likely, had he been put on, To have proved most royal;” By examining traits of Hamlet’s character and comparing his to the characters of others in positions of power I will discuss whether this statement is correct. In Act 1 Scene 2 Shakespeare shows Hamlet has many leadership qualities. He is kind to Horatio when he tries to make out he is a truant.
“I would not hear your enemy say so.”
He has created a strong friendship with Horatio and the guards, Marcellus and Barnardo, respect him even though he has not become King. He can discuss his grief over his father’s death frankly and openly with them. This show of trust for, and respect from, his piers is very important in a prospective leader. Hamlet is bitingly witty when talking of his father’s funeral and mother’s wedding.
“Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats Did coldly furnish the marriage tables. ” This not only shows his bitterness but also his sharp intelligence. At other points in the play Hamlet’s intelligence and wit are shown in his feigned madness.
An example of this is when he is ridiculing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw. ” The meaning of this riddle is clear but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are clearly bewildered. This shows Hamlet’s intellectual superiority over his schoolfellows. In Act One Scene Two Hamlet goes on to exhibit his ability to question the men very shrewdly about the sightings of the Ghost. His questions are direct, penetrating and enable him to gain the information he needs. This is emphasised by the short, sharp sentences and the hard ‘f’ sounds used.
“Then you saw not his face? ” “What, looked he frowningly? ” This would be a valuable quality for a leader in a crisis when the details needed to be known. Hamlet is shown to have the positive resolution of a leader here as he determines to watch for the Ghost that night. However he never loses sight of reason by being caught up in the excitement and is still able to reflect on the need for caution. He tells the guards, “If you have hitherto concealed this sight, Let it be tenable in your silence still” Conversing with the devil goes against the laws of Christianity and so they need to keep the sightings a secret to protect themselves.
It is a mark of Hamlet’s leadership that the men obey him in this. Hamlet is very astute and cannot be easily deceived. He sees through the spies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, immediately despite their efforts at pleasantry. “You were sent for – and there is a kind of confession in your looks” A lesser person may have trusted them and revealed the whole situation to them but Hamlet does not endanger himself by doing this. He compares them to a sponge ‘that soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities. ” “When he needs you what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall be dry again.
” This is a very perceptive and truthful image of the way in which Claudius treats them. Shakespeare provides other examples of leadership within ‘Hamlet’ to highlight Hamlet’s own qualities or flaws. An example is Claudius, the current King of Denmark. In contrast to Hamlet he lacks the discerning nature needed in a leader. His failure to grasp the full danger presented by Fortinbras and his advancing army prove fatal to Denmark. Claudius chooses to rely on politics and negotiation to win his wars and so is fooled by the report brought by his ambassadors.
It is clear to the audience that Fortinbras has a strong motive for invading Denmark to revenge his father’s murder and the ground that he supposedly fights for in Poland “hath in it no profit but the name. ” Claudius also fails to understand Polonius’ character and places too much trust on his judgement in state matters. Polonius’ influence is shown. “Thou still hast been the father of good news” This misjudgement proves fatal for Claudius because the news Polonius brings of Hamlet’s madness being that of a distracted lover in Act Two Scene Two is incorrect.
Claudius is distracted from taking any steps to remove Hamlet because of this. Hamlet’s own perceptiveness is shown again in his understanding of Polonius as he aptly describes him as a “foolish, prating knave. ” However Claudius has qualities such as ruthlessness, that make him a good leader, and which, Hamlet is lacking. When Claudius has realised the full threat Hamlet poses to him he has no quibbles about having him sent to his death in England immediately. Hamlet only possesses this strength when he seals the letter to have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed. He declares,
“They are not near my conscience. ” Claudius has the character of a leader who wants to drink and party in the style of royalty with his people. This may make him popular with some but Hamlet takes this view against Claudius’ ‘custom,’ ” It is a custom More honoured in the breach than in the observance. ” Hamlet has uptight morals that are fitting for a leader who must set an example to his people. Hamlet understands politics and wants the people of Denmark to be respected by those in other countries and not ‘cleped drunkards’ as they are under Claudius’ rule.
Hamlet feels a greater responsibility for the reputation of his country than Claudius does and so is more kingly. A quality a political leader shown in both Claudius and Hamlet is their use of language to cover up their true meaning. Hamlet does so in his madness when he produces veiled threats against Claudius in his riddles. Claudius’ skill is more developed and successful in execution. His opening speech is full of rhetorical artifice; he is contradicting himself but the audience have to listen hard to pick this up. For example he says.
“With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage” He is talking about the incest that has occurred in his marrying his dead brother’s wife but his eloquent language and smooth, flowing speech hides the meaning well. Shakespeare uses young Fortinbras of Norway as an exact parallel to Hamlet’s character. His own father has been murdered and his uncle has taken his throne. However Fortinbras is opposite to the reflective, moralising Hamlet. He is a man of “umimprovi?? d mettle hot and full. ” Fortinbras is uninhibited and can boldly take action to revenge Denmark for his father’s murder.
His plan is simple but he easily tricks Claudius and achieves his aim as he takes control of Denmark in the final scene. Shakespeare shows in Act Four Scene Four that he considers Fortinbras’ direct active response is better then Hamlet’s reflective one as Fortinbras’ presence makes Hamlet conscious of his own failings. “Now whether it be Beastial oblivion, or some craven scruple Of thinking too precisely on th’ event-” Shakespeare shows how Hamlet moralises over the deed too much and ends up being cowardly. Hamlet cannot match the intrepid “delicate and tender price” that can lead twenty thousand men to war for the sake of a “straw.
” The presence of Fortinbras causes Hamlet to take up his fight with resolution. “My thoughts be bloody or nothing worth. ” Through the play we see this growth of Hamlet’s character – a progression to what Fortinbras is able to be. Hamlet overcomes his reticence in allowing Claudius to take his throne by asserting his right to it as he declares in Act Five Scene One, “…………. This is I, Hamlet the Dane” At this point Hamlet may truly be called royal and worthy of being King. Despite all Hamlet’s kingly qualities the view of Ophelia in Act Three Scene One must be considered.
She believes that through feigning madness Hamlet has destroyed all the virtues he was previously warrant to. “Oh what a nobler mind is here o’erthrown! ” This means that Hamlet has disqualified himself from the chance being elected to the throne as he has destroyed his own self. This may be a just argument but we must consider the true extent of Hamlet’s insanity and believe that Hamlet would be able to return to his intelligent and discerning self after Claudius’ death. In the final scene Shakespeare shows us that Hamlet couldn’t be successful leader of Denmark.
He still has not the tenacity to take his revenge. He only kills Claudius in retaliation to an attack upon himself and not because of any merit of his own. This procrastination would be a serious failing in a prospective leader because ruthless decisions and actions would need to be taken without the moralising that Hamlet’s character exemplifies. His other qualities, though still intact despite the feigned madness, would not compensate for his lack of resolution. Shakespeare highlights this flaw by including the characters of Claudius and Fortinbras who are both ruthless and decisive.