Themes in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a cultivating play with themes vividly portrayed. From the main character Hamlet to the other characters there is more in what Shakespeare portrays than the actors reveal. Shakespeare wants to express the good and the evil sides of life in the play. In this paper, I will discuss the theme of uncertainty, love, and betrayal. These themes are well portrayed in the play.

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The theme of uncertainty is well illustrated in the character of Hamlet. As a prince Hamlet should avenge the death of his father. He knows who the real murderer is. Instead of taking action, he keeps postponing the vengeance. As a philosopher, he tortures himself with many questions regarding his father’s killer. He is still looking for more evidence even after the ghost of his father has made it clear to him that Claudius is indeed the one who murdered his brother to take over the throne. He goes on and sets up a play with similar traits just to see the reactions of Claudius. The reaction from Claudius is a true sign he is guilty but Hamlet is still hesitant.

Hamlet has a good chance of killing Claudius when he sees him in the chapel praying. He is doubtful if this is the right time to kill him. He believes killing Claudia when he has just repented his sins would mean that Claudia would go straight to heaven. He wants Claudia to go to hell for the sins he committed but Hamlet is deducing the facts and basing them on the afterlife. Killing a repentant Claudius would save him from punishment as portrayed in the following lines:

Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I’ll don’t and so he goes to heaven;
And so am I reveng’d. That would be scann’d:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven (III, iii, 74-79).

The theme of uncertainty proves how people’s lives are shaped with doubts that keep them from accomplishing missions. People tend to ask so many questions regarding an issue before taking any step. Just like Hamlet, he knew for sure that Claudia had killed his father but due to the uncertainty in his mind, he could not have the guts to take revenge but kept postponing.

Love is a powerful feeling that is evident among the actors. After losing his father, Hamlet dedicates all his love to his mother. This is why he develops an Oedipus complex. He becomes jealous of Claudius for marrying his mother. This is a sign that Hamlet has strong feelings for his mother and he cannot come to terms with sharing her love with his uncle Claudius. The theme of love is well expressed by Hamlet when he mimics the love his father shared with his mother:

“So excellent a king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr, so loving to my mother, That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly; heaven and earth, Must I remember?…” (I, ii, 141-145).

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From the beginning of the play, Hamlet is secretly in love with Ophelia the daughter of Polonius an administrator in the palace. Hamlet and Ophelia spend all their spare time sharing romantic talks. This is well illustrated when Hamlets asks Ophelia “Lady, shall I lie in your lap?” (III, ii, 111-120). The death of Ophelia affects Hamlet even though he is solely responsible for her death. Hamlet kills Polonius after discovering that he was spying on him. The death of Polonius affects his daughter Ophelia so much that she commits suicide. Unconscious of his deeds, Hamlet mourns the death of his love Ophelia:

“I lov’d Ophelia: fortie thousand brothers Could not (with all their quantitie of Love) Make up my summe” (IV, I, 263-264).

For any lone child who has lost one parent, the love reserved for the lost parent is dedicated to the remaining parent. This is the cause of Hamlet developing the Oedipus complex. He wants her mother to represent his father too and he cannot fathom the fact that his mother has just married off without even considering his feelings. When applying this aspect to the real world a child who has just lost one parent is usually unable to accept the remarriage of the remaining parent.

The death of Hamlet’s father is a betrayal to Hamlet. Hamlet feels betrayed as he feels cheated by death the affection and love of his father. The death of Polonius is a betrayal to Ophelia who commits suicide as she could not stand the loss of her father. Hamlet is betrayed the second time by his parent when her mother after a month from her husband’s death get married to her brother-in-law. Gertrude acts without considering the feeling of her son Hamlet. Barely a month after the death of her husband she decides to marry her brother-in-law. She betrays the love her husband had for her and instead of mourning his death, she elopes with another man. This is a betrayal of the love her husband had for her.

When death snatches a person from our lives we feel betrayed. It is a factor that many people cannot come to terms with. The denial inflames the aspect of betrayal. Unable to accept the demise of her father Ophelia became so grief-stricken that she committed suicide. She felt betrayed and could not stand the betrayal that drove her to insanity and eventually suicide.

In conclusion, the play Hamlet has many themes that are relevant to everyday life experiences. Shakespeare ensures that through Hamlet the audience can take the lessons and apply them in their lives. The fact that Hamlet loved his mother so much he could not stand the betrayal is wrong. He should have had a limit on the affection he felt for his mother. The misfortunes that fell on Ophelia could not have happened if only she had refused to be manipulated by her father. Polonius’s impunities led to Ophelia’s insanity which later provoked suicide. a

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Harold Jenkins. London: Methuen, 1982. Print.

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