A close look at the relationships between Ophelia and Hamlet and Gertrude and Claudius, will illustrate that betrayal, selfishness and lack of love caused their destruction.
There are many examples of betrayal in the play Hamlet. In these examples betrayal leads to the destruction of relationships. Claudius is the king of Denmark and he will do anything to stay that way. His wife Gertrude loves her son Hamlet and Claudius knows that. In order to stay king he must please Getrude, therefore he pretends to love Hamlet in front of Gertrude but behind her back, he plots to murder Hamlet. “I will work him To an exploit, now ripe in my device, under the which he shall not chose but fall. And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe”1. Gertrude’s trust is betrayed by Claudius at that moment because Gertrude believes that Claudius loves Hamlet, when in fact, he despises him and wishes death upon him. Claudius is not the only character that betrays in the play Hamlet. Hamlets makes Ophelia believe that he loves her for a long time, until one day he tells her things that break her heart. Because Hamlet suspects that someone is listening to his conversation with Ophelia, he acts like a mad man and says cruel things to Ophelia. “Virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not.”(III, i, 118-120) All the promises he had made to her before that day are now broken; he has betrayed her trust. Hamlet and Claudius betrayed someone that they where supposed to love. Because of this betrayal the relationships they had ended in a sad tragedy.
Although trust is a major part of a relationship, selfishness is an even more important part of a relationship. Particularly in the case of Hamlet. Claudius and Hamlet are both very selfish men. Claudius wants to be the king of Denmark and he does not care about anything else, not even Gertrude. Claudius killed Gertrude’s husband because he wanted to marry Gertrude and have the throne for himself. “Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the KING’s ears, and exit.” (III, ii, 126). Claudius does not love Gertrude but yet he will do anything to let her believe that he does love her, just to be king.
Hamlet as Antihero in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Hamlet as Antihero
By literary definition, an antihero is the “hero” of the play or novel, but has negative attributes that separate him or her from the classic hero such as Superman. Such negative aspects may include a violent nature, use of coarse language, or self-serving interests which may inadvertently depict the protagonist as a hero since the result of serving those interests may be the betterment of society or an environment. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the protagonist, Hamlet, is depicted as an antihero.
One factor contributing to Hamlet’s status as antihero is that he draws sympathy, as well as admiration, from the reader since Hamlet feels the pain of losing his father along with the burden and obstacles in avenging his murder.
Act four places a special emphasis on Hamlet’s intelligence. In scene two, Hamlet is very insolent and rude towards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with such phrases as, “That I can keep your counsel and not, mine own. Beside, to be demanded of a sponge, what replication should be made by the son of a king” (IV, ii, 12-14)? The reference to the sponge reflects the fact that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are easily ordered by the king and do not have minds of their own. Hamlet does not like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern since they are servants of the Claudius, Hamlet’s mortal enemy. The reader does not like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern either which causes the reader to side with Hamlet.
Another incident of Hamlet’s high intelligence is shown when he Hamlet
tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, “I am glad of it: a knavish sleeps in a foolish ear” (IV, i, 24-25). This statement leaves Rosencrantz and Guildenstern more or less confused.
Hamlet is clearly more clever than the two of them combined and is able to toy with them. Hamlet has an excellent command of the language and because of it, can use words to the point that those around him will not understand and may label him as crazy.
Hamlet shows another example of his cleverness, this time towards Claudius, when he says, “I see a cherub that sees them. But, come; for England! Farewell, dear mother” (IV, iii, 49-50). The cherub, or the angel, gives Hamlet a sense of superiority over Claudius. Having an angel at one’s side would be a definite sign of power, which is exactly what Hamlet tries to maintain over Claudius in their constant power struggle.