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Shakespeare's Hamlet is a story of love, revenge, and politics all unfolding in a very intense drama that has won the admiration of many. Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his dead father which informs him that he was slain by his brother Claudius who has usurped the throne and married his widow (Hamlets mother) queen Gertrude. The ghosts task Hamlet with revenging him and disappears at the break of dawn. The writer uses dramatic irony here. The audience knows something about hamlets father's death he does not seem to understand Prince hamlet then sets to carry out this order through a well laid schemed revenge plot. But before he undertakes this mission he decides to find some evidence that indeed Claudius murdered his father. He achieves this by engaging a band of actors who were visiting Elsinore. He gets them to perform a scene that he suspects closely resembling the circumstances that led to his father's death. As expected the reaction by his uncle leaves no doubt as to his guilt. What follows is a bloody battle that leaves the entire royalty dead.
One of the most famous lines in the play is one spoken by Polonius. He says, "To thine own self-be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man" (1.3.1). It is ironical and almost absurd that word of such intense sense would be uttered by a nonsensical vain character that Polonius is. In act two scene two, for instance, he says he will be brief in his utterances and goes ahead to lay a long and opposite of one would expect to be short. He shows lack of truthfulness to himself and others. This hypocrisy is also portrayed in the kind issues that the royalty is concerned about.
Hamlet plays the most central role in the play. He is the protagonist. It depicts him as a character that is not true to himself or others. This cannot be clearer than in the scene where his father's ghost appears to him. The seemingly harmless spirit charges him with the task of avenging its death. Hamlet adopts a cautious character, is adamant at first. He questions his sanity at first then questions the genuineness and the credibility of this demon. Eventually, after proving that indeed the ghost of his father was correct and that the new king had murdered him, the Danish prince does not immediately jump at the murderer's throat but takes time to plan and contemplate on his next move. Later his interventions do not reach the king; he moans "My words fly up; my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go." (Shakespeare, 3.3, 97-8). A literary device known as a metaphor is employed in this instance to highlight Hamlets disregard the importance of life he considers sad and miserable. He also employs double entendre when he names the play "Mousetrap". It can also be argued that the ghost appearance is a foreshow of the tragedy that would befall the royalties at the end of the play.
A character that remains true to self consistently in the play, though not much is written about her, is Ophelia. She is a very young pretty woman torn between her feelings for Hamlet and her loyalty to her father and brother. She is convinced that the prince loves her as much as she loves him (Hamlet later denied that she ever loved her). Her father and brother are however confident that Hamlet only wants to add a notch in his belt, add to the number of his conquests by taking her virginity. To them, Ophelia is a pure vessel whose predetermined purpose is to be a dutiful wife and a steadfast wife. Unable to reconcile these differences between her most exact feelings and what is expected of her she is driven into an agonizing mental state.
Other characters worth mentioning are Laertes and Horatio. The former is a steadfast man bound to his convictions and duty. He is character closely mirrors that of Hamlet albeit in an opposite manner. While the prince is calculative and slow to acting, Laertes makes decisions and hastily spring to action to carry them. He decides to avenge his father and sister and faithful to himself and the love he had for them; he duels the person he blames for their tragic deaths. Horatio is an intelligent and loyal friend. He sees the need to avoid needless confrontations. He is true to himself and those around him. The writer uses symbolism to portray the inward conflicts and turmoil that the characters in the play go through. For example, he uses gardens and flowers to symbolize vanity in temptation and lust. Laertes tells Ophelia to think of Hamlet as "a violet in the youth of primary nature"(Shakespeare 1.3.7).
In conclusion, the play contains a myriad of character some true to themselves some not so. This variety is what makes the play a piece worth indulging oneself. The fact that this statement was from Polonius does not in any way affect the gravity of its truthfulness. After all, every dog has its day.
Hamlet, Shakespeare W. "Prince of Denmark." The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene ii. London and Glasgow: Collins (1960): 1141.
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