The Tragedy of Hamlet

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The Tragedy of Hamlet by Mind Map: The Tragedy of Hamlet

1. Character

1.1. Hamlet

1.1.1. Madness When Polonius is speaking with Hamlet, he speaks to himself saying, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” (II.ii.204). Polonius realizes that Hamlet is methodical in his madness and the crazy talk is his way of fulfilling a purpose. He thinks that Hamlet has an ulterior motive, which at the time, he suspected it has to do with Hamlet’s love for Ophelia.

1.1.2. Revenge After speaking with the ghost, Hamlet says, “My fate cries out / And makes each petty artery in this body / As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve” (I.iv.86-88). Hamlet refers to the invincible Nemean lion, from Greek mythology who could only be killed with the use of mortal weapons. Hamlet feels that nothing can harm him, but like the Nemean lion, he too has a weakness. Just as the lion was choked to death, Hamlet died of poisoning. Hamlet is set to seek revenge against Claudius, because he thinks that this is his destiny. When asked to visit his mother Hamlet says, “I will speak daggers to her but use none” (III.ii.371). The metaphorical representation of the dagger symbolizes the hurt Hamlet wants his mother to feel, as a means of getting his revenge on her, whilst at the same time respecting the ghost’s wishes to not hurt his mother. His words will do the wounding as intended because he feels she betrayed his father and himself, which to him is the ultimate betrayal. Hamlet contemplates killing Claudius, stating that he wanted to “trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven, / And that his soul may be as damned and black / As hell, whereto it goes” (III.iii.94-96). In the movie, Hamlet finds a perfect opportunity to seek his revenge when Claudius is in the confession box, but refrains because he thinks that he will end up in heaven if he does it right now. At the same time, his hesitation to kill Claudius also showed how Hamlet felt toward Claudius. Despite killing his father, Claudius is still a blood relative to Hamlet, so that relationship also plays a role in how he seeks revenge.

1.1.3. Inner Conflict In reply to Horatio’s concern, Hamlet retorts, “Why, what should be the fear? / I do not set my life in a pin’s fee” (I.iv.67-68). At the beginning of the movie, Hamlet lacks motivation and a purpose, seeing as he just lost his father, and his crown was unrightfully taken from him. His father died prematurely, and Hamlet desires not to see the ghost, but his actual father. He suppresses his feelings of death, by saying his life isn’t worth much, so neither would his death be. This is the reason why he feels comfortable in a potentially dangerous situation. When he is alone, Hamlet disgustingly wishes his “Too sullied flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew/ Or that the Everlasting had not fixed / His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter” (I.ii.129-132). In this scene, Hamlet is shown to experience his first thought of suicide. He wants to die, but due to his religious beliefs, cannot do the deed himself. In the movie, Hamlet is disgusted by his mother’s marriage to Claudius and cited he would rather die than see this marriage through. In that situation he is more passive, because he wants to run away from his problems by dying rather than face them. In response to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet says, “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (II.ii.246-247). Essentially, perspective is what determines whether an idea is positive or negative. Hamlet views Denmark as a prison because his freedom is being restricted, since his two best friends are spying on him and the king won’t give him privacy, just as prison guards will watch the prisoners closely. Hamlet’s character critically analyzes his situation, addressing his feelings are from his experiences, and it isn’t universal. Hamlet contemplates that he doesn’t want “To take [Claudius] in the purging of his soul / When he is fit and seasoned for his passage” (III.iii.86-87). Hamlet is conflicted on whether to take revenge at this point, because he wants to guarantee Claudius doesn’t end up in heaven, essentially playing God. Despite having the goal of revenge in his mind, Hamlet feels there is a time for everything including killing Claudius, and he chooses to wait for that moment. While Hamlet is aside, he says, “A little more than kin and less than kind” (I.ii.65). Hamlet is reflecting over his new relationship to Claudius because not only is he Hamlet’s uncle, but he is now his stepfather. Kind represents natural, so Hamlet is saying the relationship is less than natural, making references to his belief that the marriage is incestuous. In the movie, Hamlet wonderfully depicts his disgust through facial expressions, as Shakespeare would intend to.

1.1.4. Character Dynamic Hamlet angrily says to himself that “It is not nor it cannot come to good, / But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue” (I.ii.158-159). At the beginning of the play and movie, Hamlet feels that he must be quiet and accept Claudius becoming the King and marrying his mother. Despite his feelings of this marriage being incestuous, his character did not want to outwardly express his opinion, so he speaks to himself rather than Gertrude and Claudius. After speaking with the ghost Hamlet says: I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,       All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past That youth and observation copied there, And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain (I.v.99-103). Hamlet finds a purpose, when the ghost told him to seek his father’s revenge. He realizes that all other memories he had were trivial and no longer of importance to his cause. This is his first encounter with the supernatural, and feels he cannot ever forget what he has just heard. Despite this event, his sanity is still intact but is suffering from emotional trauma realizing his own uncle is his father’s murderer. Hamlet contemplates “whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, / And, by opposing, end them” (III.i.58-61). Hamlet is conflicted, whether living or being death is better in his circumstances. He doesn’t know whether to put up what has been thrown at him, or to end it by taking his life. This contemplation shows, the confusion felt by Hamlet at this stage, because he begins to question death and the moral side of it. Hamlet wants to “have grounds / More relative than this. The play’s the thing / Wherein [he’ll] catch the conscience of the king” (582-584). Hamlet’s reasoning here confirms he has not truly gone mad. Despite his earlier antic disposition, in which he convinces all that he is mad, he is logical in gathering evidence, that Claudius indeed committed murder. At the same time, Hamlet himself feels that he may have imagined the ghost, or the ghost is the devil, so this is a way for Hamlet to confirm his suspicions. After being mortally injured Hamlet says, “What a wounded name, / Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me” (V.ii.345-346). Before dying, Hamlet realizes he won’t remembered fondly, having a damaged reputation. At the end of his life, he shows regret and dissatisfaction in the movie, as Shakespeare intended, because people may not believe that he truly was the hero.


1.2. Gertrude

1.2.1. Guilt Gertrude exclaims, “You’re making me look into my / very soul, where the marks of sin are thick and black / they will never be washed away” (III.iv.90-92). Gertrude thus far had not shown any guilt for marrying Claudius so soon after King Hamlet’s death. But after being provoked by Hamlet, she feels the guilt she has been repressing and repents for it, by telling Hamlet how she now feels for doing what she has done. The emotion felt by Gertrude is shown in the movie, as she is weeping and yelling while speaking.

1.2.2. Power Hamlet states that: Within a month Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her galled eyes She married. O most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets (I.ii. 153-157). Hamlet thinks his mother’s haste to get remarried is wrong and she hadn’t properly mourned her husband. This can be inferred as Gertrude having ulterior motives. Gertrude would have lesser powers, being the widow of a King, so marriage was a way for her too stay in power even if it meant marrying her husband’s brother. The movie version of the play shows how comfortable Gertrude is being a Queen, so it must be hard for her to resist continuing having that power.

1.2.3. Role as a Mother Gertrude says, “Do not forever with thy vailèd lids / Seek for thy noble father in the dust” (I.ii.70-71). Gertrude doesn’t want Hamlet to mourn this long for his father, citing that he is gone and nothing can be done. As a mother, Gertrude doesn’t show sensitivity to the fact Hamlet is still grieving and coming to terms with not having his father, and instead of offering support, she tells him off for still grieving.

1.2.4. Dramatic Irony Replying to Hamlet, she says, “The lady protests too much, methinks” (III.ii.216). Gertrude doesn’t know that the actress’s role is based on, so it is ironic she thinks the actress is overdoing it. She is analyzing the faults in the actress without realizing those are her faults as well. Since the actress is vowing to remain loyal to her first husband, she could also be justifying her remarriage to Claudius. The movie shows the later, since it is clear from Gertrude’s expression that she knows who it is based on. Shakespeare intended to show both sides so the reader and viewer can formulate a perspective.


1.3. Polonius

1.3.1. Hypocrisy As a last piece of advice, Polonius told Laertes that “this above all: to thine own self be true” (I.iii.78). Polonius says that Laertes must look at his own interests first. But at the same time, when he is spying on Hamlet in Gertrude’s room, there is no personal interest for him. He had nothing to gain and it wasn’t part of his royal duty, he was simply being nosy. When he first spied, there was personal interest because it had to do with his daughter. If he had taken his own advice, he would not have perished at Hamlet’s hands. Polonius says, “Give thy thoughts no tongue, / Nor any unproportioned thought his act” (I.iii.59-60). When giving advice to Laertes, he says to not say what he thinking, and don’t act quickly. Despite giving good fatherly advice, Polonius himself does not take it. When in Gertrude’s room Polonius tells Gertrude that “I’ll silence me even here” (III.iv.4). When spying on Hamlet in Gertrude’s room, he says essentially I won’t interfere in the conversation. Despite this, he begins yelling when he thinks Gertrude is in trouble without first checking if she indeed is in peril. This goes back to the earlier advice he gave to Laertes about not say what one is thinking, because he chose not to take his advice. He acted quickly which showed that his hypocritical ways lead to his death. The movie depicted Shakespeare’s intentions because Polonius never checked whether there was any alarm, he spoke without thinking, which shows that he didn’t take his own advice.

1.3.2. Polonius:

1.4. Horatio

1.4.1. Loyalty Horatio says, “Here’s yet some liquor left” (V.ii.344). Seeing that Hamlet is about to die, Horatio didn’t want to live. He suggests that he kill himself, which shows the loyalty he felt to Hamlet and he couldn’t bear to part with Hamlet at death. Shakespeare depicted as Horatio as a loyal friend, showing that true friendship can withstand the test of time. With Hamlet dying, Horatio would rather die than loose his friend.

1.4.2. Duty After seeing the ghost, Horatio asks the other guards if they “consent we shall acquaint him with it, / As needful in our loves, fitting our duty” (I.i.171-172). Upon seeing the ghost of the late king, Horatio feels a sense of duty to share this piece of information with Hamlet, seeing that it was his father. Horatio could have debunked this as nothing significant, and Hamlet would not have found out his father was killed, but Horatio being a dutiful friend, let Hamlet decide this.

1.5. Ophelia

1.5.1. Madness Laertes exclaims “O heavens, is’t possible a young maid’s wits / Should be as mortal as an old man’s life” (IV.v. 160-161). Ophelia’s passive behaviour is what drives her mad. Without her father to telling her what to do, she begins going mad, and unable to cope with reality. Laertes wonders if going mad, is as worse as being dead.

1.5.2. Obedience Ophelia says: I shall the effect of this good lesson keep As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother, Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine, Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads And recks not his own rede (I.iii.44-50). After hearing her brother’s advice, Ophelia agrees to pay heed to it. Instead of protesting what he says of Hamlet, Ophelia is shown in the movie as being understanding and obedient toward her brother’s wishes. Shakespeare intends to show Ophelia as an obedient character, and the movie shows her personality with accuracy.

1.5.3. Tragic Love A letter written by Hamlet writes: Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move, Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love (II.ii.116-119). When Polonius reads the letter to Claudius, Hamlet’s love toward Ophelia is clear. Despite Ophelia’s belief, that Hamlet never did love, and used the pretenses to manipulate her, he did indeed care for her and loved her. The tragedy is that she never fully understood his love. Ophelia states that “Rich gifts poor when givers prove unkind. / There, my lord” (III.i.103-104). Ophelia tells Hamlet that expensive gifts are useless if the giver of the gift is mistreating. Hamlet doesn’t show his love and Ophelia believes he is simply using her, after being influenced by her father and brother, who portray Hamlet as a bad person. She gives the gifts back, showing their love is no longer worth the gift, so there is no point in keeping them. Shakespeare intended to show the breaking point of a relationship, which the movie captures with the body language of Hamlet and Ophelia.


1.6. Laertes

1.6.1. Loving brother At the funeral of Ophelia, Laertes says: Lay her I’ th’ earth And from her fair and unpolluted flesh May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest, A ministering angel shall my sister be When thou liest howling (V.i.222-225). Laertes is deeply hurt by the death of Ophelia, and wants nothing but peace for her. Despite her not being pure, he feels that she is worthy of her Christian burial, and will provide comfort from heaven, and not hell as everyone else believes. The movie shows the sorrow of a sibling’s death, as Shakespeare’s intent.


1.7. Claudius

1.7.1. Evil Claudius says that “obstinate condolement is a course / Of impious stubbornness, ‘Tis unmanly grief” (I.ii.93-94). While speaking with Hamlet, Claudius says that his grief is overly excessive. However, Claudius was the one who caused him this grief, by killing King Hamlet, showing Claudius’s evil intentions. He wants the King to be forgotten as soon as possible, so his crime can be hid away safely.

1.7.2. Power While addressing the royal court, Claudius says, “That we with wisest sorrow think on him / Together with remembrance of ourselves” (I.ii.6-7). Claudius addresses to the Royal Court, stating that his brother must be mourned but at the same time he needs to think of his future. He uses this statement to justify why he took the crown, and married Gertrude. His desire to get power is evident, as Shakespeare intended, as his monologue is trying to win the court’s favour that everything is back to normal.

1.7.3. Incest The ghost of King Hamlet explains to Hamlet: That incestuous, that adulterate beast, With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,-- O wicked wit, and gifts that have the power So to seduce!--won to his shameful lust The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen. (I.v.42-45). The ghost tells that Claudius does not care for the relation he formerly he had with Gertrude as her brother-in-law. He was selfish and used evil to convince her to marry him. The ghost’s monologue paints Claudius as a villain, which is Shakespeare’s intentions.

1.7.4. Ironic Death Hamlet yells at Claudius, saying “Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane, / Drink off this potion. Is thy union here” (V.ii.326-327). Claudius poisoned King Hamlet to kill him and then later attempted the same with Hamlet. But in the end, the same poison he used to kill both, ended up killing him. Irony is shown in the movie, when Claudius is running away from Hamlet, who had the blade with the poison, but his fate ended up catching up to him, ending him the same way he killed the King.


1.8. Fortinbras

1.8.1. Destiny When reaching the court, Fortinbras says, “I have some rights of memory in this kingdom, / Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me” (V.ii.391). All the apparent successors to the throne are dead, so Fortinbras is the only one with claim. He was destined to take back Norway for his family and take Denmark as well. Shakespeare intended to show Fortinbras as the true heir, which the movie depicts. Once realizing what has happened he gets straight to business, showing natural leadership and readiness to accept his destiny.

2. Theme

2.1. Death

2.1.1. The ghost says, “Murder most foul, as in the best it is / But this most foul, strange and unnatural” (I.v.27-28). The ghost recognizes that all death is bad, but murder is the worst form of all. However in the ghost’s case, it suppressed other murders because he was killed at the hands of his brother.

2.1.2. Hamlet says, “Oh, that that earth, which kept the world in awe, / should patch a wall t’ expel the winter’s flaw” (V.i.198-199). Hamlet realizes that no matter the status of a person in life, after death, everyone is the same. Someone who once ruled the world, will return to the dirt and could be used to fix a wall hole. Hierarchy is a concept only in life.


2.2. Revenge

2.2.1. Hamlet realizes that “A villan kills my father, and, for that, / I, his sole son, do this same villain send / To heaven” (III.iii.77-79). Revenge in Hamlet is shown as something that is not done rashly, but rather with strategy. Hamlet doesn’t want his uncle to go to heaven, so he would rather wait and guarantee Claudius ends up in hell, rather than kill right away. This leads there to be more people ending up dead. Shakespeare wanted to show that revenge can be meaningless and cause more harm than good and the movie visually depicts Shakespeare’s message.

2.3. Denmark as a Diseased Body

2.3.1. Marcellus says, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (I.iv.94). Disease imagery is used to show that Denmark is unwell. State refers to condition, and the death of the king, means there is chaos, and similarly when there is illness, there are symptoms.

2.3.2. Hamlet says, “Make you a wholesome answer. My wit’s diseased. But, sir, / such an answer as I can make, you shall command” (III.ii.299-300). Denmark being portrayed as a diseased body, is showing that members of the country are diseased as well. Hamlet thinks his mind has become ill, and unable to think normally. As well, Hamlet is the rightful King, so his state of mind reflects the whole state. Shakespeare uses Hamlet to represent the confusion that Denmark went through.

3. Setting

3.1. Denmark

3.1.1. Hamlet tells his friends that “Denmark’s a prison” (II.ii.241). To Hamlet, Denmark is holding him captive. The king doesn’t want him to be far from him, so that he can spy, but Hamlet cannot continue his studies, which is the only thing he enjoys now. Furthermore, just like a prison, which restricts freedom, Hamlet’s freedom in Denmark has been restricted. The movie uses Hamlet’s thoughts, to present lack of freedom Denmark is currently feeling. Under Claudius’s rule, there is less freedom for Hamlet, and Denmark because he seeks to control both.

3.1.2. Hamlet says, “A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons. Denmark being one o’ th’ worst” (II.ii.243-244). Hamlet is unable to escape Denmark, since his own friends are his wardens, on the behalf of Claudius. Denmark is supposed to be Hamlet’s home, the one place he is loved and accepted. However, Claudius wants him to feel alienated by treating him as a prisoner, so he will not gain power over him.

3.2. Orchard

3.2.1. The ghost says,“‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, / A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark / Is by forged process of my death” (I.v.35-37). Shakespeare makes a biblical allusion to the Garden of Eden. The Orchard in Hamlet represents the Garden of Eden, in which the King represents Eve. The serpent referred to by the ghost who is actually Claudius, but also refers to the Serpent who tempted Eve. When Eve gave in, the paradise of Eden was destroyed. Similarly, when Claudius the snake poisoned the King, the paradise of Denmark became chaos. The reference to the bible which Shakespeare intended, was shown in the movie. The movie showed the Orchard as a peaceful and serene place, using the colour white, to symbolize peace.


3.3. Royal Court

3.3.1. Claudius proclaims that “madness in great ones must not unwatched go” (III.i.188). The royal court symbolizes society as a whole. Public image, is what one presents to society. If the royal family’s son is mad, then their public image is they are crazy. The royal court will ridicule and question the king and queen’s power, seeking as they cannot fix their children. In the movie, both Gertrude and Claudius try to fix Hamlet and find the cause of his madness, in order to control Hamlet. Shakespeare intended for this motive, thus the film is successful is showing this.

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