A Litarary Essay Sample: Allusions in Hamlet

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Vanderbilt University
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Allusion 1: "Let not ever/The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom (III, ii, line 378).

The allusion refers to Nero, a former Roman Emperor who killed his mother, Agrippina. Hamlet speaks these words before he goes to see his mother who is angered by the play that Hamlet organized. The play reenacted circumstances surrounding King Hamlets death. In the play, it is revealed albeit subtly, that King Hamlet was killed by his confidante. Claudius becomes disturbed after watching the play because the play reminds him of the events that surrounded his killing of King Hamlet, his brother. It dawns on Claudius that Hamlet knows that he is the one who killed King Hamlet. Claudius shares his irritation with Gertrude by telling her that the play was a gesture of disrespect to his authority. This is why Gertrude decides to summon Hamlet so that he may explain why he has become disrespectful of Claudius. Hamlet was profoundly angered and saddened by the early remarriage of his mother to Claudius. Hamlet was surprised that his mother is obsessed with Claudius and is not in a sorrowful mood despite the death of her husband. Hamlet even suspected that his mother was part of a conspiracy that led to the murder of his father. Hamlet had been contemplating killing his mother so as to avenge the death of his father. However, King Hamlets ghost had earlier cautioned Hamlet not to extend his anger to her mother. The ghost did urge Hamlet not to turn his anger against his mother.

Neros mother was controlling of Nero and Nero did not like it. Nero wanted to be an independent emperor and not one who is controlled by his mother. On the encouragement of Seneca, a writer, and a philosopher, Nero started to make independent decisions, without consulting his mother and taking heed to her advice. As a result of not taking heed to his mothers advice, the relationship between Nero and his mother became very frosty to the extent that she was forced to take an early retirement. It reached a point where Nero started seeing her mother as a nuisance courtesy of her efforts to control decisions made by her son. As a result, Nero hatched a plot to eliminate his mother. Nero invited his mother to travel by boat and meet him at a seaside resort where he was on a sojourn. After meeting her son, Agrippina was supposed to be killed by Neros men, but out of sheer luck, she escaped and swam to a safe place. After the failure of the first plot, Nero came up with another plan to eliminate his mother. He leveled charges against his mother, claiming that the mother had for a long time been plotting to topple him. However, the accusations that Nero leveled against his mother were treated with skepticism in Rome; nobody believed the accusations. At last, Nero was successful in killing his mother. Rome was very shocked of the fact that an emperor could kill his mother! The killing of Agrippina by Nero brought bad omens to Rome. Calamities haunted Rome like never before. There were numerous earthquakes, and there was also a great fire (the greatest to have ever been experienced in Rome, it lasted six days). The fire is known as the Great Fire of Rome. Ten out of fourteen districts of Rome were destroyed by the fire. Many homes, temples, buildings and shops were destroyed by the fire (Morgan 42).

Allusion 2: as if it were Cains jawbone (V, I, line 72).

The allusion refers to the first murder to have ever been committed by a man using Anglo-Saxon tradition. Cains jawbone implies that Cain killed his brother Abel by biting him to death. In this context, it is revealed that Claudius killed his brother, King Hamlet. Claudius murder of King Hamlet is compared to the murder of Abel by Cain. Upon Cain killing Abel, God declared that Cain and his lineage would forever be cursed. In Genesis 4: 11-16, God declares a curse on Cain for murdering his brother, Abel and lying to God about the whereabouts of his brother. In the curse, God did state any attempts of Cain to farm the land would not produce any yield for him. God also declared that Cain would forever be a fugitive and a wander, he will never find rest. As s result of the curse, Cain went ahead to live a nomadic life. Cain never found rest for the rest of his life; he spent his years groaning and suffering. As a result of the curse, Cains descendants were perpetually engrossed in physical afflictions. As a matter of fact, there are Christian scholars who allege that during Noahs time, all of Cains descendants perished in the floods.

Claudius is guilty of killing his brother, and the murder is compared to that of Cain killing Abel. Cain and Abel were the first children of Adam and Eve. Cain was the first born, and Abel was the second born. Cain was a farmer; he tilled land whereas Abel his brother was a shepherd. Cain and Abel had a habit of offering sacrifices to God from their produce. God favored Abels sacrifice because Abel often took the best of his produce (in this case, his livestock and offered them as a sacrifice to God. On the other hand, Cain often took produce that was not appealing to him and offered them as a sacrifice to God. Cain was angry and envious of the fact that God favored Abels sacrifice to his sacrifice. Due to the anger and envy that Cain had for his brother, Abel, he decided to murder him. Cain convinced Abel to accompany him to the field and in the field; Cain rose against his brother and murdered him. When God asked Cain about his brothers whereabouts, Cain lied to God that he does not know where Abel is and he is not his brothers keeper. God then told Cain that he could hear Abels blood crying out to Him from the soil. It is after this that God declared his curse upon Cain.

Claudius probably killed King Hamlet because he was envious of his success. Claudius probably killed King Hamlet because he was probably jealous of King Hamlets property, including his wife. How can you marry your brothers wife immediately after his death, even before he is buried? Claudius thought that by killing King Hamlet and ascending to the throne as the King of Denmark, he would have a happy life. However, happiness becomes elusive in Claudius life when he becomes King. Claudius becomes paranoid when he discovers that there is a high probability that Hamlet wants to avenge his fathers death. Claudius spends the rest of his life perpetually bothered by his conscious; he never finds rest. Both Claudius and Cain do not find rest in their lives after murdering their brothers.

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Works Cited

Morgan, Julian. Nero: Destroyer of Rome. New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2003. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1996. Print.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Bibles, 2009. Print.

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