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"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

Updated on August 8, 2015

According to Webster’s dictionary, being dramatic is to be vivid and exciting. Therefore, drama is anything that shows vividness and excitement. In it’s darkest moments, drama is also at its most emotional. There is yelling, tears, and, overall, the reader or viewer is shown a reason of what it really means to be human. Humans are meant to do what is necessary in order to survive.The decisions the characters in Hamlet made, such as Gertrude’s decision to rush into a marriage with her brother-in-law, were made in the name of self-preservation. The drama genre itself is about people preserving themselves, sometimes even at the expense of others.

Hamlet is so torn up in this play because no matter what he does, he won’t be preserved. If he carries out his father’s orders and kills Claudius, then he himself would be killed. However, if he doesn’t kill Claudius, then he’ll forever be driving himself crazy with the knowledge he holds, and a person who is truly insane is as good as dead. I

n Act 2, Scene 2, Hamlet believes that his situation makes him a “rogue and peasant slave” (Shakespeare, pg. 134), as he feels he has next to no control in this situation, and he is right. Hamlet has become a slave, his predicament his master. Since the prince has no hope for preservation, he substitutes it for an attempt to control his end (i.e. setting up the play and trying to get Ophelia to go away).

Ophelia’s way of preserving herself was being adored by others. However, she didn’t care if the attention she received was positive or negative. At first, when Hamlet is romancing her, she agrees to obey her father, Polonius, and deny Hamlet’s affections. However, when Hamlet denies her, she practically loses her mind. Ophelia just needs to be noticed. If she’s not being given attention, then in her mind she’s losing her place in the lives of the people around her, and therefore her place in the world. She ultimately kills herself because she believes she has lost everyone. Hamlet has been sent away, her father is dead, and her brother is preoccupied, so she is alone and insane. There’s no reason for her to continue living.

For Gertrude, marrying Claudius was more a thing of business than love, maybe even all business. Following King Hamlet’s death, she was a lonely window after all those years of being the married Queen of Denmark. It seems from her next action that Gertrude preserves herself through the most important man in her life at a given time. Before she got married, it was most likely her father. After her husband’s death, her brother-in-law, the most powerful man in the country most likely comforted her and made her feel like she wasn’t alone. So when he asked her to be his wife, the obvious answer was yes. In this way, she would once again be queen, and she’d have a man to take care of her.

Claudius felt that the way to preserve himself was to get rid of those who opposed him. His brother stood in his way of becoming king, so he killed him. For Claudius, killing his brother was just a means to an end. When Hamlet started acting wild, he sent him to England, and then sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to kill him. After Hamlet’s play, when he realizes that the prince knows what he did to the previous king, Claudius starts praying, and he wonders if God can forgive him since he is “possessed of those effects for which I did the murder- my crown, mine own ambition, and my queen (Shakespeare, pg. 184,186).” At this point he knows the chances of his preservation are very slim, and so he turns to the only being who would be able to save him in any way, God. King Hamlet’s description of Claudius, the snake, really is true. He slithers his way around the people in his life to get what he wants at all costs, all a part of his endgame.

King Hamlet, or rather his ghost, was the biggest player in the whole play. Why couldn’t he just stay resting? Why come back and set Hamlet on a path that would end in the deaths of the entire royal family? If the dead king had never asked his son to avenge him, then all of the deaths in the play would’ve been avoided. For the king, even though he was already dead, there was still room for preservation. His preservation was his brother’s death in his name. It would’ve been interesting to see how King Hamlet felt about his need for revenge resulted in so many deaths,. This could’ve been done maybe with a soliloquy by him as the ending scene.

Hamlet, a highly dramatic tale of a competition where there are no winners, mainly focuses on survival, and the lengths some go to in order to achieve it. All of the characters wanted their life to go a certain way, and they were okay with messing over others to get what they wanted. However, what this play proved is that if too many people are trying too hard to survive, then no one will. Sometimes you just gotta let nature take its course, and see what happens.



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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Great summary. Do you purposely pick a photo of Edwin Booth portraying Hamlet (brother of John Wilkes Booth)? Voted up.

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