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How does Shakespeare present the two revengers in Hamlet and how might a modern audience respond to their situations?

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Introduction

> How does Shakespeare present the two revengers in Hamlet and how might a modern audience respond to their situations? Hamlet is the tragic story of the Prince of Denmark. His Uncle Claudius who has become king and married Hamlet's mother has murdered Hamlet's father. Hamlet descends into a rage and plots to take his revenge on Claudius. Polonius, the King's counsellor, sends his son Laertes to France and warns his daughter Ophelia not to see Hamlet or accept anymore of his love letters. Hamlet plays at madness to trick Polonius and Claudius. Ophelia reports Hamlet's eccentric behaviour to her father. Polonius then insists that Hamlet has become demented, and cautions Ophelia to keep her distance. He then reported Hamlet's bizarre behaviour to the King and Queen. Perceiving Hamlet as a possible threat to the throne, Claudius hires Rosencrantz and Guildeiistern, old friends of Hamlet, to spy on the prince, to learn whether he is mad. But Hamlet sees through the plan. A company of travelling actors visit Ellsinore, and Hamlet persuades them to perform a murder scene that was actually a re-enactment of the death of the old King. He is sure that if Claudius had killed his father, guilt will show on his face. ...read more.

Middle

It is apparent here that Hamlet is playing at madness in order to trick Polonius into believing that he is in fact mad. However, at times in the play it is questionable whether Hamlet is entirely sane or not. For example, when Hamlet speaks with his mother in act 3, scene 4 she is unable to see the ghost as Hamlet can, or imagines he can. Leading her to believe he is mad "this is the very coinage of your brain"(3.4.137). It also leads the audience to wonder on Hamlet's state of mind, could it be that the ghost is a creation of Hamlet's brain? It could well be that hamlet has gone in mad with grief and imagined the ghost. In this case is killing Claudius justified? As it is impossible for Hamlet to make a sensible decision if he is in fact mad. Some of Hamlet's violent outbursts to Ophelia indicate that Hamlet may have had an element of madness about him. However, his behaviour in general throughout the play would suggest to a modern audience that Hamlet was simply reacting to the awful grief and stress he is put under by his fathers murder and his mother's marriage to his uncle. In my opinion I believe the audience would feel that Hamlet is not mad or indecisive, he's just human, he lashes out at people and keeps them at a distance because he is simply unsure of whom to trust. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although Laertes took a much more direct approach than Hamlet, wasting no time, they both however, accomplished their goal but at the ultimate price of both their lives. It is ironic that both the revengers are murdered with the same sword. Even the King is killed with the same sword and by his own poison. In a revenge tragedy everyone is justly served for his or her actions. Hamlet has murdered and must therefore die, Claudius has murdered and must therefore die, the Queen has had an incestuous marriage and therefore dies. The only person that dies without a reason or as an act of revenge is Ophelia. It is therefore symbolic that she is the only one of the characters not murdered with a sword or poison but instead slowly lets herself be drowned by the river in which she fell. As is the case with revenge tragedy the major characters are all slain. Fortinbras says, "He (Hamlet) is likely to have proved most royal" (5.2.391-392) It is important in a tragedy for the tragic hero to have been great. Hamlet would have made a great King therefore his death is a tragedy. The play as a whole still appeals to modern audiences as much as it would have appealed to an Elizabethan audience. However, a modern audience would certainly have sympathy for Hamlet's situation and therefore react better to him than to Laertes. Sam Armstrong Page 1 5/9/2007 ...read more.

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