According to Voltaire, Man’s goal is his own happiness. This goal all too often is a mirage. (Gay 26) Man is the prey of his own passion, victim of his own stupidity. Man is the play thing of fate. (Gay 26) The human condition is set with ills that no amount of rationality can cure. (Gay 27) This human condition translates to human corruption. Voltaire hints of this corruption through Candide. Candide impacted society as Voltaire knew it. English Admirals that loose battles are no longer shot as object lessons in military perseverance. (Weitz 11)
However, there is very little lessening in our time, of the human scourges of war, famine, rape, avarice, persecution, bigotry, superstition, intolerance, and hypocrisy that make up this element of human corruption that is addressed in Candide. Candide still serves as an effectual whip with which to lash once again the perpetuators of this suffering. (Weitz 12) The theme of human misery is Voltaire’s primary achievement in integrating philosophy and literature in Candide. (Weitz 12) “Do you think,” asks Candide of Martin as they approached the coast of France,”that men have always massacred each other, as they do today that they have always been false, faithless, ungrateful, thieving, weak, inconstant, mean spirited, envious, greedy, drunken, miserly, ambitious, bloody, slanderous, debauched, fanatic, hypocritical, and stupid?”. Martin replies with further question.” do you think that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they could find them?” “of course I do” Candide answers. Martin responds,”well, if hawks have always had the same character, why should you suppose men have changed theirs?”.
Although survey of the characters in the novel certainly supports much of this assessment by Martin, one need think only of the snobbish Baron, the knavish Dutch captain, Vanderbendur, the Brazilian Governor, the bestial Bat avian sailor, the hypocritical Jesuits, the avaricious Jews, and the thieving abbe’ from Perigord.
Dramatic Irony in Hamlet
Dramatic irony in the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet has long been the subject matter of literary critical reviews. This essay will exemplify and elaborate on the irony in the play.
David Bevington in the Introduction to Twentieth Century Interpretations of Hamlet identifies one of the “richest sources of dramatic irony” in Hamlet:
Well may the dying Hamlet urge his friend Horatio to “report me and my cause aright To the unsatisfied,” for no one save Horatio has caught more than a glimpse of Hamlet’s true situation. We as omniscient audience, hearing the inner thoughts of Claudius as well as of Hamlet and learning of Polonius’ or Laertes’ secret plottings with the king, should remember that we know vastly more than the play’s characters, and that this discrepancy between our viewpoint and theirs is one of Shakespeare’s richest sources of dramatic irony. (1)
The play begins with the changing of the sentinels on a guard platform of the castle of Elsinore in Denmark. Recently the spectral likeness of dead King Hamlet has appeared to the sentinels. Tonight the ghost appears again to Barnardo, Marcellus and Horatio, a very close friend of Hamlet. Horatio and Marcellus exit the ramparts of Elsinore intending to enlist the aid of Hamlet, who is home from school, dejected by the “o’erhasty marriage” of his mother to his uncle less than two months after the funeral of Hamlet’s father (Gordon 128). There is a post-coronation social gathering of the court, where Claudius pays tribute to the memory of his deceased brother, the former king, and then, along with Queen Gertrude, conducts some items of business, for example dispatching Cornelius and Voltemand to Norway to settle the Fortinbras affair, addressin…
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… An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1992.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html
West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.
Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. N. p.: Pocket Books, 1958.