Hamlet is a reflection of the modern man. In the reading of Hamlet, I have found many ways in which my understanding of the play is changed through the various perspective that I can view the play from. I found that areas of the play that appealed to me the most were scenes that engaged with powerplay, with modern philosophy, and with representation of gender role in the Shakespearian context. Furthermore I found that my understanding of Hamlet is enriched through various contexts in which the play can be interpreted. Thus through the analysis of these perspectives and readings, I can answer whatever the question just said.
Ophelia is one of the most classic romantic heroines; this is because she represents the epitome of Elizabethan values for women. Ophelia represent the virtue of obedience, silence and virginity. Despite her own feelings she is blindly obedient of her father “As you did command, I did repel his fetters… his access to me.” The characterisation of Ophelia is a woman that is true to her social gender. Yet she is accused by Hamlet of been untrustworthy, “Doubt truth to be a liar; but never doubt I love.” Says Hamlet, employing oxymoron to show that others control Ophelia, he further adds; “I could interpret between you and your love if I could see the puppets dallying…” Hamlet’s disillusion with the women around him seen in the rhetoric “Frailty, thy name is woman!” The irony of Ophelia is that her entire life is controlled by men like her father, by her brother and by Hamlet. Hence from the characterisation of Ophelia we as responders can garner a sense of propriety for women in the time and context of the Shakespearian era.
Feminist – Steve Henderson
If we consider this same idea from a more modern context, then we can see that Ophelia becomes more of a victim rather than a saint. Ophelia, the definitive classical woman in the play is but a plaything helpless in the politics of men. Where as her male counterparts can dally and dabble as they wish, such as the description of Laetres “Drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling, drabbing…” she is juxtaposed as someone utterly helpless to her fate. Hamlet ironically accuses her virtue of beauty as her sin. “Be thou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shall not escape calumny,” stating that her good looks will cause suspicion of adultery. “The irony continues that Hamlet, which supposedly fathoms the human psyche, does not reveal much at all about the female characters. They act either as a theatrical balance to the male characters or as a sounding board for their fine speeches and actions.” This communicates the helplessness of Shakespearian females to make any significant changes to their own lives and I find that it is reflective of what many modern feminists is trying to achieve in their crusade.
Power Play and Politics
In my opinion, one of the most powerful driving forces behind the betrayal and melodrama of Hamlet is the ambition and politicking of its main characters. There are numerous instances in the play revenge and hate drives the characters to malicious acts. Hamlet uses the metaphor of an unweeded garden to describe his nation “Tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed, Things rank and gross it nature posses it…” metaphorically alluding to the corruption that has overcome the people around him. As such JUSTIFIES underhanded methods to gain satisfaction over Claudius. Using the parody of the play, he mocks Claudius when prompted by Ophelia, “what, frightened with false fire?” the verbal irony making cruel references to the King’s paranoia. Hamlet even goes as far as to be responsible for the death of his one true love Ophelia to achieve his goals. In reflection of his actions he states, “I loved Ophelia, forth thousand brothers could not with all their love…make up sum…” showing ultimate sacrifice he is willing to pay to gain satisfaction of revenge. This is the reason why I consider the play to be a digest of the human condition. Hamlet is portrayed as a good character whose hand is forced by the ignorance and betrayal of those in power.
Marxist – Jacques Derrida
The fate of Hamlet from another perspective would be a man whose property is stolen unjustly from him. I consider this social injustice and the fact that the state of Denmark is as corrupt as its false king to be a major plot motivator of the play. As Hamlet is the only one privy to the secrets of Claudius, he becomes like a revolutionary attempting to set right the wrong of his country. In Jacques Derrida’s expose, he motions “Implicit in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a condemnation of those players who cannot see what is currently wrong in the present time.” Allegorically alluding to the blindness of every noble member to Claudius’s crime. He further uses the metaphorical connection that the Ghost of King Hamlet is the voice of the suppressed people deceived by the oligarchy of a false King. They cry out for Hamlet as a representative of the people to right the wrongs through revolution – overthrowing the king. He compares the Denmark under a false king to a “Enterprises of great pith and momentum… to grunt and sweat under a weary life.” Derrida’s modern context on the politics of the play gives it a new dimension to which we can interpret the classic. This allows us to look closer at Hamlet, and consider not just a displace prince, but a revolutionary fighting against a corrupt state.
Thus we are able to see the play Hamlet in a variety of light because the same text is as relevant as it was during its prime as it is now. The play engages with very human emotions, and has human responses. It examines classical themes such as trust and betrayal, as well as given to modern interpretations of power and gender roles. Hence, the play is deeply connected with my understanding of what the question is asking.
Meaning of Life
Lastly, Hamlet explores many modern issues of morality and meaning of life. For example his anguish at the usurpation of his position is reflected in the rhetoric of “How weary, flat, stale and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world…” lamenting the pointless of his life. Hamlet says, “to die… to sleep and no more, and by sleep to say we end the heartache…” contemplating the life beyond death, and ironically contemplating more modern life death duality and not the traditional medieval-renaissance belief of Christianity. In addition, extensive word play such as “Be thou assured, if words be made of breath, and breath of life, I have no life to breath what thou hast said to me.” Create masterful illustrations of the sorrowful anger and loss felt by Hamlet as he confronts the mystery of death and contemplate his existence in the current political climate. This contemplation of life and death is the reason why Hamlet remains a valuable asset for study.
Psychoanalytical – Joanna Montgomery
This contemplation of life beyond the physical can be interpreted from a psychoanalytic perspective. Several aspects of Hamlet can be seen from a more contemporary perspective. For example Joanna Montgomery regards the Ghost as “a piece of theatrical progression for it stops Hamlet’s initial fierce self-restraint; allows him to express his deeply conflicted feelings about Claudius”, and affirms “his intense feelings about his mother” Referring the Oedipus complex proposed by Freud. Here she states that Hamlet is held in thrall by old Hamlet through his worshipful respect citing “Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself, an eye like Mars to threaten and command, a station like the herald Mercury.” Where by accumulative reinforce Hamlet’s suppressed desires by his powerful father. However, Claudius is described as “Villain! Smiling, Damned Villain!” clearly juxtaposing his masculine deified father against the usurper. Thus Hamlet is fully justified psychoanalytically to rebel against Claudius because he sees him as a thief that has not only stolen his crown but more importantly the sexual connection with his mother.
Ultimately the student had missed the point in that the critical reading of the text should be his understanding under the contextual knowledge he has gained from critics and writers, and not a direct translation of another’s opinion into his own essay. A more skilled manipulation of the research would probably net a Band 5.