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The Story of Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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In the literary work, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, it depicts multiple deaths and the recurring idea of revenge. The story of Hamlet dates from at least the 1100s. Keeping this in mind, Hamlet and Laertes are a great example of a foil. Laertes possess traits that emphasize the distinctive characteristics and qualities of Hamlet while illuminating the meaning of the work, how revenge comes with sacrifices. Hamlet is probably the most celebrated piece of literature in the Western tradition. Hamlet is the most self-conscious literary figure ever created. Bradley commented that Hamlet was the only Shakespearean character who could have written Shakespeare’s play.

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Laertes is a foil to Hamlet because Laertes experienced the same event that has happened to Hamlet, the murder of their father. However, the reaction of Laertes emphasizes the distinctive characteristics of Hamlet. When Laertes’ father was murdered, he was rash and gave no thought on killing Hamlet. Laertes isn’t willing to think before he acts. For example, in Act IV, Claudius asks Laertes what he would do to show that he was really his father’s son in which he responded that he would kill someone in church. This reveals a lot about Laertes’ character because it shows how he is willing to kill someone in what is considered a safe haven of God. 

This is different to Hamlet’s view on killing in church since he didn’t want to kill Claudius when he sees him praying earlier on in the play. Compared to Laertes, Hamlet is more calculating and more thoughtful about his revenge since he thought about his revenge on Claudius thoroughly. It became so much so that one can say he is terrible with time management since he takes his time to complete a simple task given to him from his father. This is supported when the ghost of his dead father needed to remind him to remain focused on his task and to complete it fast and simple as possible. However, he is constantly thinking about the details of the revenge, and is willing to take his time to make sure it goes off quietly and perfectly.

A little background check ,the play’s own infinitude has prompted more discussion than any other piece of secular literature. In 1992 alone, 479 books and articles were written about it. It is an inspirational piece. Harold Bloom calls Hamlet ‘one of the most intelligent characters in all of literature’ and ‘the most aware and knowing figure ever conceived”. Most people when speaking on this tragic play speak very highly about it. It is also said that Hamlet is one of the most self conscious literary figures ever made. However, some people such as Harry Levin opinion on the play is the most problematic play ever written by Shakespere himself or any playwright.

In Act 1 ‘Who’s there?’ was asked by the sentinel Barnardo as scene 1 opens. There is a practical reason for these opening words, as spoken in darkness just after the stroke of midnight, Barnardo is there to relieve another sentinel, Francisco, and the men must confirm each other’s identity in the course of duty. Symbolically, this question created a fitting opening for Shakespeare’s great tragedy. The causes for the nervousness about who is there, will soon become visible. Let’s start with, a ghost who is haunting Elsinore, the royal seat of Denmark. This ‘dreaded sight’ had been witnessed twice by Barnardo and his partner in the watch Marcellus, who arrives with the skeptical Horatio. Barnardo, Marcellus, and Horatio discuss the ghost together, it appears that and said it ‘spreads his arms.’ Horatio urges this apparition to stay and speak, but it goes away. Horatio is forced to admit its likeness to the recently deceased King Hamlet.

In one of the later scenes, scene 5, the ghost speaks to Hamlet or so Hamlet thinks it does. It talks and persuaded Hamlet, that it has to come from a realm resembling the Roman Catholic notion of the state of purgatory, where the ‘foul crimes done in my days of nature, are burnt and purged away.’ The ghost reveals that he is Hamlet’s father and was murdered and he makes Hamlet to get revenge against the king for the crime. Hamlet was not going to let this go after hearing everything the ghost had said to him. His brother Claudius, the ghost says, poured poison in his ear as he slept in his garden. The spirit’s claimed that it has validated Hamlet’s general suspicions, ‘O my prophetic soul!’ Surprisingly, the ghost prohibits Hamlet from taking revenge on his mother, who is to be left ‘to heaven’ and her own remorse. If she is guilty, the extent of her guilt seems much more different from Claudius.

Moving onto Act 2 Hamlet burst into Ophelia’s room and startled her by grabbing her wrist and studying her facial features. Ophelia ended with an intense image of Hamlet dragging himself away from her: ‘With his head over his shoulder turned, He seemed to find his way without his eyes.’ Shakespeare chose to convey this emotion encounter here as third party report. It says much about the on going power of Hamlet that critics barley would like to comment or acknowledge this fact. The question of the matter, why was he studying her face so deeply? It was almost as if he was having a miniature battle with himself to see if he can trust her or not. He might have thought if he informed her of what was going on he would scare her off because she thought he was mad. Ophelia was frightened either way by the princes behavior, if she could

help it would do no good because she wouldn’t understand or know how to help. After things wrapped up in act 2 with Ophelia frightened and confused. 

In the next act, act 3, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are reporting their observations of Hamlet to the king and queen as Polonius and Ophelia stand by. Claudius and Gertrude are pleased to hear of Hamlet’s interest in the players. All leave except Claudius and Polonius, who continue to plot to spy on Hamlet, and Ophelia. Polonius plants his daughter in the court lobby to trap the prince and try to get him to show his own exploitative, duplicitous behavior. However the text does not say whether Ophelia is visible or not. Does he notice her? Maybe even direct his next speech in the most famous in all of dramatic literature to her? The decision belongs to a director and to the reader’s personal vision. Like one of the most famous sayings goes, ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question,’ Hamlet says. He now acknowledges Ophelia, and the two have an awkward, breakup talk. Ophelia, started the confrontation, wishes to return letters and other ‘remembrances’ from Hamlet, given during their better days. Suddenly Hamlet turns to Ophelia, questioning her honesty and her fairness.

Hamlets throwdown in scene four with Gertrude is one of the most emotionally explosive scenes in the play. Immediately the mother and son accuse each other of offending the dead king’s memory. Hamlet forces Gertrude to sit, her fear that he will murder her because of his frenzy. At this, Polonius screams out from his place of hiding, and Hamlet, thinking it is the king, shoves his dagger through. Claudius made himself as the intended victim and announces that Hamlet will be sent to England by sunrise. As the two go to find Hamlet and the body belonging to Polonius’s body. Hamlet responds by warning them that Claudius will use and then throw them away. As Hamlet goes to the ship he tells King Claudius helpers where the body can be found. The king reveals, alone, that his agents sent letters to the king of England ordering the immediate execution of Hamlet. Later on after Hamlet boarded the ship, the queen finally saw Ophelia. Ophelia was mad and singing about her dead father and then her lost lover Hamlet.

Claudius convinces Laertes that Hamlet is to blame for Polonius’s death. When a messenger gives Claudius letters reporting Hamlet’s return, the king and Laertes plan the prince’s death. Claudius arranged a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes. The latter will use an unblunted foil, and with it he will kill his opponent. Laertes declares that he will poison the tip, and Claudius adds that he will poison a cup of wine for Hamlet to drink. Just as the plan is almost complete, Gertrude enters to announce the drowning of Ophelia. Hamlet accepts the challenge after the tussle with Laertes.. Horatio urges the prince to refuse to fence, but Hamlet stays stubborn. 

The battle between the two begins. Hamlet asks Laertes’ forgiveness and Laertes pretends to accept his apology. Claudius sets out a stoop of wine, and the bout begins. After Hamlet scores the first point, Claudius drinks to him and then poisons the cup while seeming to drop a pearl into it. When Hamlet scores the next point as well, the queen drinks to Hamlet but poisons herself. Laertes then wounds Hamlet with the envenomed foil. Hamlet realize what happened and couldn’t believe it that he grabs Laertes’ sword and wounds him with it. 

Gertrude collapses because of the wine and Claudius tries to lower the suspicions by saying that she swoons at the sight of blood. The dying Gertrude was obvious that the wine had been poisoned. Laertes confesses that the foil is poisoned, too, and blames the king for all that had happened in the battle. Hamlet then stabs Claudius and pours the rest of the poisoned wine down his throat. The king dies. Laertes pardons Hamlet and asked for his forgiveness then dies. Sensing his end, Hamlet asks Horatio to clear his name. Horatio refused at first and then he tried to kill himself by drinking what was left of the poisoned wine, but Hamlet stopped him.

All the events in Hamlet connects back to the theme of how revenge comes with sacrifices because many lives were needed to be sacrificed. In order for Hamlet to accomplish his father’s request, by killing King Claudius. Everyone’s death was more of a collateral damage for Hamlet to get to the finish line. Death is a major component in the play due to the fact that the only way he was able to complete the task and having peace with himself was by having innocent lives of his people and his loved ones being taken away.      

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