Choose a play whose main theme concerns on of the following: power, corruption, disillusionment. Explain how the dramatist introduces the theme and discuss to what extent you found the way it is explored in the play enhanced your understanding of the th

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Introduction

AMDG Andrew Baird L5- Hamlet Essay Question: (Past Paper 2002 Q.3) Choose a play whose main theme concerns on of the following: power, corruption, disillusionment. Explain how the dramatist introduces the theme and discuss to what extent you found the way it is explored in the play enhanced your understanding of the theme. In your answer you must refer closely to the text and to at least two of: theme plot setting, characterisation or any other appropriate feature. In William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' there is a very strong theme of corruption that runs through the whole of the play, mainly stemming from the character of Claudius. This corruption can be seen at almost every point in the play, and is summed up by Marcellus when he says: 'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.' I intend to show how successful Shakespeare is in conveying this theme, primarily through his use of characterisation and language. Claudius is the centre of evil and of corruption in the play. When Marcellus states: 'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark', it could be interpreted that he is speaking of the threat of war, but when analysed on a deeper level, nothing could better sum up Claudius' corrupting effect on the kingdom.

Middle

There is an almost reverential tone in this line, emphasised by the phrase 'so please you'. This shows Polonius' extreme desire to please the king. It is in doing just this that he meets his very ironic death- upon hearing that Gertrude is distressed, he makes a move from behind the arras and is killed by Hamlet, who thinks that he is Claudius. I think, therefore, that it can be concluded that although Polonius is perhaps immoral, and, to use Hamlet's words: 'an officious fool', he is not a completely corrupt character. However, he is corrupted in his desire to please the king, and so it is clear to the reader that Claudius is one again inextricably linked with the idea of corruption. Gertrude is another character who becomes a victim of Claudius' influence. Although she does not take any direct action that would make her seem corrupt, there are a few examples in the play that suggests that she may not be as innocent as she would like people to think. When Hamlet tells her that he knows of Claudius' murder, she replies by saying: "As kill a King?" This lets the reader know that she is puzzled, however it can be seen as ambiguous: either she did not know that Claudius had killed Old Hamlet, or she did not know that Hamlet knew that Claudius had murdered his father.

Conclusion

Claudius plans a duel between the two characters in which one of the swords will be 'unbated'. This is a stroke of genius as it allows Claudius to kill Hamlet before he tells everyone of his murder, but he does not have to commit another murder himself. In my opinion, this is the best example of Claudius' ability to corrupt other characters. Laertes is certainly reckless and impulsive, but is not himself corrupt. However, Claudius uses his considerable manipulation skills to corrupt him into committing a murder. William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' is a play which is based on the theme of corruption. Although the characters in the play which I have mentioned may not be completely innocent, Shakespeare's clever use of characterisation and language makes it clear that the corruption in the play stems from the character of Claudius. By his detailed exploration of the theme, he makes it clear that there are in a sense two types of corrupt characters: firstly there is Claudius who is completely corrupt. Secondly, there are the other characters who all have had an aspect of their personality exploited by Claudius- Polonius' eagerness to please, Gertrude's love for him and Laertes impulsiveness, and so can be considered to have been corrupted by him.

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