Module B: Hamlet Main Themes

1342 Words6 Pages
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is defined by its exploration of both great and provocative ideas. As a character of moral conviction, the revenge tragic hero, Hamlet, is isolated by the corrupt core that characterises the court of Denmark, his role as avenger and the morality of revenge, and the shifting notions of appearance and reality. It is these key themes that establishes the moral quandary and ambiguity that lies at the heart of the play. Moral quandary and the notion of revenge are key elements within Hamlet as Shakespeare draws on the conflicting codes of honour evident within Renaissance England. The dramatic device of the ghost, as a figure of Roman Catholic tradition, epitomises the theological tensions present within Renaissance England, accentuating the social paradigms of Shakespeare’s context. The appearance of the ghost serves to establish the ethical dilemma of revenge in Hamlet, as it orders Hamlet to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” Whilst Hamlet recognises his “filial obligation”, he is unable to act “with wings as swift as meditation”. Shakespeare’s use of simile emphasises the ironic nature of Hamlet wanting to act ‘swiftly’, however the uncertainty of the ghost further leads Hamlet to delay his action and question its nature, and poses a further ethical dilemma for Hamlet; the morality of avenging his father’s death. The moral dilemma Hamlet encounters thus exposes a key element of the play, the conflicting codes of honour, reflective of the tensions within the Renaissance period. Hamlet serves to represent a transitional character caught between the shifting codes of honour and becomes tormented by the roles in which he is to mould himself. In this connection, Shakespeare juxtaposes Hamlet with two other revengers, Fortinbras and Laertes. Both of whom have to avenge insults to or murder done on their fathers and act immediately,

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