• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Hamlet has been read by various critics as dramatically a man with a fatal flaw, a misfit in a treacherous world or a weak revenger - In light of this, and using the soliloquies as a starting point,examine how an Elizabethan audience might have understood

Extracts from this document...


Hamlet has been read by various critics as dramatically a man with a fatal flaw, a misfit in a treacherous world or a weak revenger. In light of this, and using the soliloquies as a starting point, examine how an Elizabethan audience might have understood him and how that compares with your reading. Revenge tragedy was a popular theme when Shakespeare began his play writing career. The central feature of each revenge play was a hero who sought to avenge a wrong in a society where the law was unreliable. "Hamlet" is usually described as a revenge tragedy. The revenge in Renaissance drama emerged as a dominant genre. By modifying material sources Shakespeare was able to take an unremarkable revenge story and make it into one with fundamental themes and problems of the Renaissance. The Renaissance is a vast cultural phenomenon that began in 15th century Italy with the recovery of the classical Greek and Latin texts that had been lost in the middle-ages. "Hamlet", by Shakespeare, uses the traditional conventions which an Elizabethan audience would have expressed interest in because of their moral and social implications. Kyd's best known play " The Spanish Tragedy" was the most influential tragedy of the Elizabethan period inspired by the tragedies of Seneca, both of which served up a rich diet of madness, melancholy and revenge. ...read more.


In addition to revealing Hamlet's plot to catch the king in his guilt, Hamlet's second soliloquy uncovers the essence of Hamlet's true conflict. Hamlet is committed to seeking revenge for his father, yet he cannot act due to his revulsion towards extracting the cold and calculating revenge. Determined to convince himself to carry out the premeditated murder of his uncle, Hamlet works himself into a frenzy. He hopes that his passions will halt his better judgment and he will then be able to kill Claudius without hesitation. But Hamlet fails to quell his apprehensions and can not act immediately. The traditional revenge hero would be seen, by an Elizabethan audience, as one who sought to avenge a wrong in an unjust society. Hamlet reflects the Elizabethan views of revenge with his determined heart during the second soliloquy. The soliloquy leaves the reader feeling that Hamlet will keep his word and that revenge will certainly follow in the flowing act. However, Hamlet's determination begins to deteriorate as the play progresses suggesting Hamlet's ambivalence of avenging his father's death, through phrases such as "o cursed spite that even I was born to set things right" From this point onwards Hamlet fails to carry out the avenger's role, which would have defied an Elizabethan audience's tradition. ...read more.


He only thinks about his consequences after he has performed. This is evident at the end of the play when he asks for Hamlet's forgiveness when he says "I am justly killed with mine own treachery". He is too willing to believe the king's version of events, thus Claudius uses Laertes anger for his own benefit. Laertes only wants revenge and is not concerned with punishment. Shakespeare makes these contrasts to highlight Hamlet as a stereotypical "weak avenger", but an infinitely more interesting and complex character consumed by the moral complications of revenge, which reveal him as a hero blesses or cursed by the power of individual thought as opposed to a hero who follows unthinkingly the revenge tradition. An Elizabethan audience would see "Hamlet" as a weak avenger with a "fatal flaw" and a propensity to think too much, therefore not keeping within the dramatic conventions, which would have been greatly appreciated by an Elizabethan audience. However, a modern audience may sympathise greatly with Hamlet's inability to abandon or fulfill his role because making an epic decision is rarely straightforward. It seems that Shakespeare wants to present Hamlet as a tortured soul, influenced by Christian beliefs. The dilemma "Hamlet" faces is in some ways the dilemma faced by civilized man at large, William Hazlitt supports this view by stating that "Hamlet is one of those plays that we think the most about because it reflects on human life"�. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Hamlet essays

  1. Hamlet's Tragic Flaw leading to his Demise

    Laertes would even, 'cut his throat I'th' church.' (IV, vii,126) to avenge his father. At this point it is crystal clear that while Hamlet struggles to act on impulse, Laertes is exactly the opposite of that. Laertes would act immediately and knows that 'revenge should have no bounds.'

  2. Compare and Contrast theCharacters Hamlet and Laertes.

    For two months he procrastinates, and he chides himself for doing so. Hamlet agonizes over what he is to do, and how he is to avenge the murder of his father. Whilst Laertes acts on impulse, and on a tryst with Claudius arising from the emotions of anger and revenge,

  1. Scene by Scene - Hamlet.

    He finishes the sentence as a tautology ("Villains are knaves.") Hamlet says he thinks the ghost is telling the truth, says he will feign madness ("put an antic disposition on"), and (perhaps re-enacting a scene in the old play) swears them to secrecy on his sword and in several different locations while the ghost hollers "Swear" from below the stage.

  2. What is the significance of the ghost in Hamlet? How would an Elizabethan audience ...

    Here, he has a specific role. He is a philosopher, a sceptic and therefore does not believe in ghosts and such superstitions" [1] In contradictory to the Elizabethan perspective, a modern audience may not be as easily to believe that the ghost is real as the setting created space for the audience to doubt Horatio.

  1. Examine how Shakespeare explores the role of women in Hamlet. What might the response ...

    Her first speeches are to Hamlet, some of which are begging him to stay in Denmark: "Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet I pray thee stay with us, go not to Wittenburg." Gertrude shows a deep understanding of her son: "I doubt it is no other but the main, his father's death and our o'erhasty marriage".

  2. An analysis of the characters in Hamlet

    He is a man who tries to turn everything to his advantage. He is also quite shameless about his horrendous deeds though, he does try to ask forgiveness for his crime by trying to pray at which he fails miserably.

  1. Comparing the revengers Fortinbras, Laertes and Hamlet.

    The King finishes his work of convincing Laertes that Hamlet, not he himself, is guilty of Polonius's death and Ophelia's madness. At first Laertes mistrusts him: why is Hamlet still free? The king makes a good case: he will not kill him for fear of alienating his queen's affection, and, the people of Denmark love their prince.

  2. An Analysis of Hamlets Philosophy of Life and Death in William Shakespeares Hamlet

    This contrasts Polonius?s death when even though he died due to his ?vicious mole of nature?(1.4.27), Hamlet still felt responsible since he did not yet believe fate controls everything. Furthermore, Hamlet answers his own question ?to be or not to be?(3.1.64)

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work