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Shakespeare's presentation of Hamlet

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It was a popular belief during Elizabethan times that if a man had been wronged and the state failed to see that justice was done, a son's duty was to take it into his own hands and seek revenge. Shakespeare presents Hamlet as a typical revenge play of the time, where the central character, Hamlet, has a duty to avenge his father's death. In Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes are also seen as revenge heroes, but in character contrast Hamlet in how he acts on his duty. This contrast highlights that whereas Fortinbras and Laertes are simplistic conventional revenge heroes, Hamlet on the other hand has the conventional features of a revenge hero, but is also seen as so much more. This is due to his awareness of religious principles and despite being Protestant, at times makes slight transitions to Catholic ideas. It is also due to his constant contemplation of the effects of his actions, rationalising the situation he is put in. Fortinbras is presented as a typical king who lives up to the reputation of his father with the aim to "recover [the lands]/So by his father lost". His aim is put into practice; Fortinbras, after threatening to invade Denmark, succeeds in doing so and is thereby fulfilling his role as a revenge hero. Similarly with Laertes, in the discovery of finding his father, Polonius, being murdered by Hamlet, he immediately takes on the role of an uncomplicated revenge hero, compelled to make Hamlet suffer as soon as is possible. ...read more.


Hamlet's initial delay to act follows the convention of revenge heroes, which is specifically clear in his early soliloquies. In Act 1, Scene 2 he eloquently presents his current state of mind where he contemplates suicide: "O, that this too solid flesh would melt". We can see that he is self-condemning to a life in hell, therefore Hamlet is embodying an ordinary human persona as opposed to someone who can seek revenge easily. The way in which he is demonstrated as being unconventional is his looking beyond wanting revenge, as he knows that Denmark is a corrupt nation: "tis an unweeded garden". In this way, Hamlet is much more than the conventional revenge hero as he not only considers the effects his actions will have on himself but also contemplates in depth the extended reasons for killing Claudius, the main being to cleanse Denmark. Hamlet constantly rationalises and makes transitions between Protestant belief of hell and Catholic belief of Purgatory, which adds to what is stopping him from acting. It is true that a traditional revenge hero delays their act of revenge in order for there to be a play, but Shakespeare portrays Hamlet's delay as a result of his character and the need to fully agree to sacrifice his life, in return for revenge. Ophelia's burial and Hamlet's return in Act V, scene 1 is where the tragedy seizes closure and we realise just how far Hamlet has come beyond a conventional revenge hero. ...read more.


Likewise, Laertes also wants, from the moment Polonius is killed, to seek revenge and contrasting to Hamlet, acts with complete immediacy. Hamlet does follow the stages a conventional revenge hero must go through, but due to his character, he uses his capacity of thought to consciously contemplate the position he has been put into, thereby extending his delay to act even further. Arguably, Hamlet continually postponing to act until he is certain about doing so, is the only way for a successful outcome as other avengers for example Laertes, act irrationally and he results in being influenced by Claudius' ideas of revenge leading to Laertes himself also being poisoned. None the less, it is near the end that he is revealed to be far more heroic than the average avenger, as he manages to reach the conclusion he longed to find throughout the play, that he can accept his birth right and responsibilities, combined with knowing that killing Claudius will not be murder, it will be purging and cleaning Denmark from being "rank" and full of rottenness. Overall, Hamlet is so much more than a conventional revenge hero as he sacrifices his own desires to redeem the nation. A critic, A C Bradley believes Hamlet's delay in exacting revenge is mainly caused by an excess of melancholy. I DISAGREE. Ophelia is a VICTIM of the corruption. Thus at graveyard, Hamlet also arguable feels guilt which makes him compelled to act (it is a trigger...an added bonus) ...read more.

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Response to the question

This essay is an example of a fairly simplistic response and there several areas for improvement. For example, this piece of work does not have a title, therefore it is immediately unclear what this essay is going to be about, ...

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Response to the question

This essay is an example of a fairly simplistic response and there several areas for improvement. For example, this piece of work does not have a title, therefore it is immediately unclear what this essay is going to be about, it is important that you give an appropriate title to your essay. Furthermore, the candidates introduction could be improved as it drags on a bit, you want your introduction to be short and to the point. It is important to introduce topic but you only need a few sentences on this. An essential part of your introduction is stating exactly what you plan to discuss so that the purpose of your essay is clear and this is something that the candidate fails to do.

Level of analysis

The candidates level of analysis is weak, they haven’t used enough quotations from the play and there are times in which they have not used quotations to back up their opinions or discuss the characters thoughts and feelings, which is the conventional way of analysing a play. Furthermore there are times in which the candidates simply retells parts of the story which is something you want to avoid. It can be helpful to write a plan before you start your essay so that you know what you plan to discuss, you can then go on to find relevant quotes that add to your discussion. The candidate could also have improved the quality of their discussion by mentioning relevant background information, in this case you could discuss how the play would have been perceived at the time or you could discuss family life at the time that this play was written. By taking the time to do research, you demonstrate an ability to work independently, you show enthusiasm towards your subject and the extra information you discuss can make your essay more enjoyable to read. On a final note, the candidate’s conclusion could be greatly improved. When writing your conclusion you should summarise your key points with reference to why this are relevant and then link this back to your title so that you tie together any loose ends and bring your essay to an appropriate close. In addition to this, you need to give a personal response to the play, again this should be relevant to the title of your essay. For example, if the title of your essay is a question, you should use evidence from the play and your own opinions to answer that question.

Quality of writing

This essay is reasonably well written and there are no grammatical or spelling errors. However the candidate has not discussed Shakespeare’s use of linguistic techniques such as metaphors and syntax (the use of questions). This is something that you must include in your essay in order to achieve a higher grade.

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Reviewed by pictureperfect 09/08/2012

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