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"In one respect....is 'Hamlet' rock-steady. It is completely true to the mature Shakespearian concept of tragedy whereby the destructive power of evil set going by an official offence against pietas."

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Introduction

"In one respect....is 'Hamlet' rock-steady. It is completely true to the mature Shakespearian concept of tragedy whereby the destructive power of evil set going by an official offence against pietas." What would have an Elizabethan audience understood by the "natural order" and how is this order disrupted in 'Hamlet'? The Elizabethan period gave rise to a cultural expansion often referred to as 'The Golden Age', which saw literature, theatre, poetry, music, and art prosper; this included the emergence of Shakespeare's plays. It was a time whereby the upper class would live graceful and sophisticated lives and a sometimes harsh and cruel reality for others - this was the social natural order. However, the Elizabethans were also very religious and G-d fearing, which made them very cautious of other worldly matters, and those who they believed to be closest to the higher powers. This included the monarch, who as ruler, would be considered as G-d's representative on earth. Should these other worldly matters be tampered with, they would have taken such offences very seriously. The 'natural order', could have supposedly fallen apart due to evil doings, and in the case of 'Hamlet' causes "something rotten in the state of Denmark". ...read more.

Middle

This is important for the audience, as it also introduces the idea of justice being served, and they now know that Hamlet's objective is to give punishment to those who deserve it which will result in the restoration of the balanced natural order. Throughout the play, the connected themes of crime, punishment and justice are vital to motivating the actions of the characters, such as prompting Hamlet to feel he is mad, Claudius to feel guilt, and Laertes to a murderous rage after discovering the deaths of his sister and father. Hamlet is mostly famous for his indecisive nature, which is evident simply from the fact that he takes so long to kill Claudius, even though he knows it is the right thing to do. However, after the play he requests from the players to put on, he is convinced that Claudius is indeed guilty and deserves to be punished. Once again this is important for the audience as this creates the notion that the natural order is going to be restored, and the play was simply a part of Hamlet's plan to make sure that Claudius was guilty. This notion is abandoned when Hamlet is about to kill Claudius, but decides to put it off as he finds him praying. ...read more.

Conclusion

The death of Polonius almost demonstrates a microcosm of how the death of King Hamlet has disrupted the balance of the natural order, in that his death disrupted the natural order of the court. This further emphasises the troubles created by Hamlet's indecisiveness, and how they reflect on the lack of control within the society. Logically, the final scene of the play should involve the restoration of the natural order by dealing out punishment to those who deserve it, and result in the service of justice. Contrarily, almost all of the characters are murdered, and the question as to whether or not the natural order is restored remains unanswered. Hamlet dies by Laertes' sword, suggesting that Laertes was successful in avenging the death of his father on his murderer, as happens respectively with Hamlet and Claudius. It can therefore be argued that Hamlet's death is neither heroic, nor shameful, as although he eventually avenged his father's death as he had intended, many unnecessary sacrifices had been made due to his delay of choice. In terms of the natural order, although all those who had committed crimes were punished in their deaths, the deaths of innocents like Ophelia emphasises the idea that justice cannot be served only by the punishment of the guilty, and if other moral implications are not taken into account, the natural order cannot be truly balanced. - 1 - ...read more.

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