Modern folklore suggests women look at a man’s relationship with his mother
to predict how they will treat other women in their life. Hamlet is a good
example of a son’s treatment of his mother reflecting how he will treat the
woman he loves because when considering Hamlet’s attitude and treatment of the
Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, one must first consider how
Hamlet treated his mother. A characteristic of Hamlet’s personality is to make
broad, sweeping generalizations and nowhere is this more evident than in his
treatment toward women. Very early in the play, while discussing his mother’s
transgressions, he comments, “Frailty, thy name is woman. (Hoy, 11).” Hamlet
appears to believe all women act in the same manner as his mother.
The first time the audience meets Hamlet, he is angry and upset at Queen
Gertrude, his mother, for remarrying his uncle so soon after the death of his
father. In his first soliloquy he comments on the speed of her remarriage
Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good. (Hoy, 11)
It is understandable Hamlet is upset with his mother for forgetting about his
father and marrying his uncle, Claudius. In Hamlet’s eyes, his father deserves
more than one month of mourning and by remarrying so quickly, the queen has
sullied King Hamlet’s memory. This remarriage is a sin and illegal, however
special dispensation was made because she is queen.
Hamlet’s opinion of his mother worsens as the play progresses because
his father, who appears as a ghost, tells him of his mother’s adulterous
behavior and his uncle’s shrewd and unconscionable murder. Although Hamlet
promises to seek revenge on King Claudius for murdering his father, he is
initially more concerned with the ghost’s revelations regarding his mother.
King Hamlet tells Hamlet not to be concerned with his mother but after the
apparition leaves, it is the first thing Hamlet speaks of. Before vowing to
avenge his father’s death, he comments on the sins his mother committed.
Although Hamlet decides to pretend to be insane in order to plot against
the King, it is clear, he really does go mad. His madness seems to amplify his
anger toward his mother. During the play scene, he openly embarrasses her and
acted terribly toward her in the closet scene. The closet scene explains much
Interpreting the King in Hamlet
Interpreting the King in Hamlet
Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet presents in the character of King Claudius an intelligent, cunning, and seemingly unselfish ruler. This essay will present a critic-supported, detailed consideration of the very capable and cunning King Claudius.
For the entirety of the drama a life-or-death mental contest ensues between Claudius and the protagonist. John Masefield discusses this mind battle in “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”:
The King is probing Hamlet’s mind with gross human probes, to find out if he is mad. Hamlet is searching the King’s mind with the finest of intellectual probes, to find out if he is guilty. The probe used by him, the fragment of a play within a play, is the work of a man with a knowledge of the impotence of intellect–
“Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown”–
and a faith in the omnipotence of intellect–
“Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.” (n. pag.)
Salvador de Madariaga in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” discusses Claudius’ relationship with the two emissaries and former friends of Hamlet, who were escorting the prince to his execution in England:
The two young men receive from the King a commission which, whatever the King’s secret intentions may be, is honorable. Hamlet, the King in fact tells them, is not what he was. The cause of the change “I cannot dream of.”
Therefore, I beg you
so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather
So much as from occasion you may glean
Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus
That opened lies within our remedy (n. pag.).
Like everyone els…
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…Embassy of Death.” The Wheel of Fire. London: Methuen and Co.,
Ltd., 1954. p. 38-39. http://server1.hypermart.net/hamlet/wheefire.html N. pag.
Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Madariaga, Salvador de. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.” “On Hamlet.” 2nd ed. London: Frank Cass