Hamlet Textual Integrity Essay

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HAMLET In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet many of the values, attitudes and critical interpretations stem from his relationships and interactions with other characters such as Claudius, Gertrude and Laertes. This can be explored in the thematic concerns of the dichotomy of action and inaction, social corruption and vengeance with the critical interpretations of late 20th century psychoanalysis and comparison to conventions of a revenge tragedy, specifically Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy. The prevailing importance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is due to the textual integrity and universality of its themes to a modern audience.

The dichotomy of action and inaction is dependant on, and demonstrated through, Hamlet’s interactions with other characters. Hamlet’s obvious procrastination and distinct inaction are his fatal flaws and are demonstrated through characterization of Hamlet as a philosophical and thoughtful scholar, the cause of his attendance at the “school in Wittenberg. ” The dichotomy is displayed through slow narrative progression and Hamlet’s dramatic juxtaposition to the more assertive and purposeful characters of Laertes and Fortinbras.

The audacity and assertiveness of Laertes is demonstrated in Act 4 scene 1 when he proclaims “The drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard. ” Hamlet’s inaction is demonstrated primarily in soliloquies, his delay however is justified with his religious observance, “Now might I do it pat, now is a-praying… that would be scanned”. The gravity of the crime he is planning also results in him gaining confirmation of guilt, “The play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” before he takes action and kills Claudius in Act 5 scene 2.

This inaction though does support the value of religious observance and the action of filial honour and duty to a mostly Christian Elizabethan audience which would have defined Claudius and Gertrude’s relationship as incestuous despite them not being related by blood. The causation of Hamlet’s delay can be accredited to the righteousness of his character, his moral fibre and integrity and the severe implications of the sin he was planning as demonstrated when he says “thus conscience does make cowards of us all” Social corruption in Denmark is created and demonstrated through actions and interactions of the characters in Hamlet.

Visual imagery is strongly employed to portray the social corruption of Denmark and is mostly achieved through commentary by Hamlet both in soliloquies and dialogue with other characters. Hamlet maintains a spiteful, callous tone when describing Denmark an “ulcerous place” full of “vice” and “perversion. ” The strong negative connotation of this descriptive diction emphasizes the social corruption inherent within Denmark. Visual imagery is developed through the use of figurative language such as simile in “like a mildewed ear” which is an implied reference by Hamlet to the specific corruption of Claudius. Denmark’s a prison” is an example of a metaphor where Hamlet gives Denmark the confining attributes of a prison in an attempt to negatively portray it as restricting due to the depth of political corruption. Symbolism is also used heavily in “’tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature” in which the garden represents Denmark and is therefore corrupt. Pathetic fallacy is employed in “re-speaking earthy thunder” to show the subversion of the natural order due to the social corruption.

Foreshadowing is demonstrated early in the play when Marcellus states “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” is used to suggest to the audience early on that social corruption exists in Denmark. Stage directions “(Polonius hides himself behind the arras)” reveal that there is an inherent nature of deception and dishonesty in Denmark as its inhabitants are forced to spy on each other. Upon examining this theme with the conventions of a Kydian revenge tragedy we can see the importance of social corruption and political intrigue as common conventions of a revenge tragedy.

By setting the play in Denmark, Shakespeare would have been able to safely comment on the social licentiousness and political corruption of the monarchy in England. The Elizabethan audience would also view this theme with a belief in the chain of being. Claudius subverted the natural order when he committed regicide and patricide and this disruption would have contributed to the political corruption. It is not until Hamlet kills Claudius and Fortinbras ascends to the throne that order is restored.

This theme demonstrates the value of good political leadership and maintenance of the chain of being, a strong belief to the Elizabethan audience. The theme of vengeance is also a crucial one as the play is a revenge tragedy. The theme is demonstrated by the narrative progression and basic elements of the plot including the commission to revenge by the ghost “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” and through juxtaposition of the three avengers, Laertes, Hamlet and Fortinbras who each seek to avenge their fathers, which is shown through their dialogue “I’ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father” and “My revenge will come. The theme of vengeance is obviously a critical convention of a Kydian revenge tragedy but so is the morality of revenge which was shaped by the context of the composer and the audience. A predominantly Christian Elizabethan audience accepted that certain circumstances called for revenge by an individual such as when the justice system fails or is powerless and a filial duty is imposed against the son.

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However murder is nonetheless a sin and against God’s will and so in this case of moral contradiction the successful avengers, Hamlet and Laertes must be destroyed to satisfy the expectations of the Christian audience. This theme demonstrates the values of justice, filial duty and religious observance and adherence. Overall, the opinion formed of Hamlet is one which can be explored through the main themes of the play. Critical interpretation such as psycholanalylitical and Kydian help influence the reader to understand the complexity of his character and indeed the main message put forward in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Hamlet

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Textual Integrity in Hamlet

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“How has your understanding of the play’s structure, dramatic techniques and language helped you appreciate its textual significance and importance? ‘ Playwright William Shakespeare created the revenge tragedy Hamlet over 400 years ago and yet it remains still, a forerunner in its genre because it is more than just a revenge tragedy; it is the first existential play to dramatize the human condition in all its complexity and depth.

Through the play’s structure, dramatic techniques and language, Shakespeare deeply explores concepts of verisimilitude being the quality of realism in something, and morality in a world which has lost its ethical bearings. It is through analysis of these ideas that an appreciation of the texts significance and its importance to responders is evidenced, resulting in an appreciation of the play irrespective of time. The craftsmanship of dramatic techniques within ‘Hamlet’ provides a constructural gaze into the multi-faceted nature of humans thus exploring the concept of appearance versus reality.

Shakespeare is famous for dramatizing social identity in many of his plays. Just when a character seems to identify completely with their social identity, Shakespeare strips away the appearance of social status and order and then begins to unravel the psychological order, expressing, ultimately, the multifaceted face of corruption in his characters. “You are the Queen, your husbands brothers wife, And, would it were not so, you are my mother. Such scenes explore the deeper paradoxes of identity. Shakespeare challenges the significance of appearance through the constant distinction between appearance and reality by the unprecedented use of the aside and the soliloquy. The soliloquy is a continual reminder in Shakespeare that the inner life is by no means transparent to one’s surrounding world. This analysis of the multifaced nature of humans provides us with a window in which we observe our own nature, our own human traits.

This exemplifies the effect Shakespeare’s techniques have on the responder, establishing the play’s great importance and textual significance through analysis of the concept of appearance versus reality. It is through Shakespeare’s language that the true contradiction of ones appearance and their identity is challenged. Hamlet’s ironic refference to Gertrude as his “most seeming virtuous Queen” foreshadows the coming events of the play, thus through language planting the seeds of deception within the minds of the responder.

Hamlet later scrutinises Gertrudes true identity as he metaphorically sets her up a “glass” where she may see the “inmost part” of herself. Through a feminist view, Gertrudes weakness and inability to control her emotions and appearance, are reflective of views and beliefs of the Elizabethan period. Thus, as Hamlet penetrates Gertrudes regal facade, she confesses “Thou turn’st my eyes into my very soul, And there I see such blank and grained spots As will not leave their tinct”.

Shakespeare’s use of emotionally charged language, deepens and intensifies the scenes imaginative and dramatic impact on the responder. The disillusionment of Gertrudes persona presents to the responder, the ability of a person to hide such an interior even from ones self, by means of falsehood and deception. As Gertrudes facade falters and her true identity is revealed, we as the responder reflect on our own persona and question the authenticity of those around us. It is through a deep understanding of Shakespeare’s language that a great appreciation of the play and its concepts is achieved.

The importance of morality is made meaningful within ‘Hamlet’ through Shakespeare’s exploration of the consequences of a disrupted natural order. Within morally-corrupt Elsinore, Shakespeare plants the seeds of disease within the first act as Marcellus speaks “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. The use of “rotten” to describe Hamlet’s environment is symbolic of the decomposition of Elsinore and its moral bearings. As Hamlet becomes increasingly aware of his perversed surroundings, he exclaims in his soliloquy ” to be or not to be”.

From a humanist perspective the repetition of “to be” presents the complexity of the mind in sorting between rationality and morality. Hamlet’s morality deprived environment and disrupted natural order has led him to contemplate the purpose of life, death and existence. Thus one can see the true implications of such a morally disturbed world and the “disease” which emenates from such an environment. In observing Hamlet’s state the modern responder is able to identify and reflect on their wn morality and place in the cosmos, revealing the texts enduring significance. Shakespeare’s analysis of the significance of morality in such a morally-corrupt world is generated from the instinctual drive for revenge. The procrastination throughout the play, acts as a motif in reflecting Hamlet’s inner moral conflict in killing Claudius. In Act 1 Hamlet vows ” that I, with wings as swift/As meditation or the thoughts of love/May sweep to my revenge. ” Shakespeare’s use of simile presents the speed at which Hamlet will face morality and avenge his fathers murder.

However, this is later juxtaposed against Hamlet’s complete inaction until the final scenes of the play whereby Hamlet kills Claudius by means of circumstance and not as part of his own plan. Coleridge’s assertion that no intellectual argument can replace the need for action to acheive morality is reflective of interpretations taken from Hamlet’s moral and rational conundrum. It is through the responders scrutiny of Hamlet’s predicament that light is shed on morality, not just being black and white but also subject to circumstance.

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Thus Hamlet’s predicament becomes our own as the concept of morality transcends time proving the plays immortal influence. The timeless notion of themes in Hamlet create memorable and challenging ideas to the post-modern world, ideas that resonate within the responder, allowing them to objectify their own world, challenging the natural order. This is the essence of what makes Hamlet an immortal text, as its universal themes and enduring values ressonate throughout society irrespective of time. Hamlet stands between a medieval world of faith and a modern world of sceptical uncertainty. Hamlet’s dilemma is our own.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Hamlet

Textual Integrity in Hamlet

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