"Cursed Spite:" Hamlet's Unbearable Burden of Revenge Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  956 Words
Date:  2022-07-03

There must be a powerful secret behind the way Hamlet, this seemingly simple story about a son avenging the death of his father, has become one of the most popular, haunting and memorable works in the history of the world literature. Hamlet, a young Danish prince, returns to Elsinore to attend the funeral of his father, King Hamlet. His mother, Queen Gertrude, hastily marries Hamlet's uncle, Claudius, which aggravates the young man's melancholy. A Ghost bearing likeness to King Hamlet reveals to Hamlet that the old king has been murdered by his own brother and asks the prince to avenge him. Hamlet hesitates to kill Claudius at once and feigns madness to conceal his plans. He uses a theatrical performance to expose Claudius. Finally, he is ready to kill his uncle but as the two mighty forces clash Polonius, the King's counselor, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet's former friends, Ophelia, Hamlet's beloved, Laertes, her brother, and Gertrude fall victims to the strife. The only survivor at the end of the play is Hamlet's friend Horatio, whom the Prince has entrusted with the task to tell the truth of the tragic events. At first sight, it might seem to be a mere revenge play, though with a plot intriguing and dramatic enough to keep the audience wide awake. But after a closer look, a whole number of mysteries are revealed used to introduce complex psychological dilemmas. One of them is the question of the Ghost's doubtful comission. The Ghost knowingly crashes Hamlet under the weight of the mission which the Prince can neither refuse nor successfully fulfill.

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The very dialogue between the Ghost and Hamlet is full of evidence eloquent enough to show that the Prince is not ready for the mission his father has prepared for him. First of all, Hamlet's primary response is one of pity, not surprise, anger or curiosity. "Alas, poor ghost!" (1.5.8), exclaims Hamlet, when he learns of the "sulf'rous and tormenting flames" that are awaiting the apparition (1.5.6). Though Hamlet is not even sure of the Ghost's identity, authenticity, and truthfulness, he pities the spirit. It shows him as a Renaissance man with a humanistic view of the world rather than a medieval warrior, decisive and merciless. The Renaissance values which Hamlet adopted at Wittenberg where he pursued his studies are obviously a serious obsticle on the way to accomplishing the mission of revenge. Though Hamlet is deeply grieved and shoked by his father's death his head is still full of the memories of his life at Wittenberg. As Hamlet speaks of his readiness for revenge his uses a metaphor "wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love" exposing things that have occupied his mind until the present moment and later on in the scene he openly admits it by saying:

... from the table of my memory

I'll wipe away all trivial, fond records,

All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,

That youth and observation copied there (1.5.105-108)

Thus, implicitly in the dialogue with the ghost Hamlet is portrayed as a young, impressionable, sensitive and eager man, a lover, a scholar and a poet, still living in the world of his youthful dreams and studies. This is already a Renaissance prince, not a Medieval avenger that the Ghost expects him to be. He is obviously not ready for the bloody revenge mission he has to accomplish.

The dialogue also shows that the Ghost knows Hamlet's nature well enough, he realizes the young man is not up for the task, and yet he endows Hamlet with the mission he cannot refuse using cunning rhetoric to impress him. At the very beginning of the dialogue the Ghost instructs Hamlet, "Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing / To what I shall unfold" (1.5.9-10). The Ghost knows that the young prince has a kind and loving heart and the feeling of pity can greatly move him. Thus, though he seemingly asks Hamlet not to pity him, he knowingly evokes this feeling later when hinting at the secrets of "his prison house" (1.5.19) and the "eternal blazon" (1.5.27) awaiting him. Even without going into detail, only by describing the effect such a story could have upon Hamlet the Ghost causes the young prince to imagine the depth of his father's suffering. At the end of the fragment the Ghost appeals to Hamlet, "If thou didst ever thy dear father love -" (1.5.29). This phrase shows the Ghost's understanding of Hamlet's gentle nature and also leaves the prince without any alternatives: from now on he has either to revenge or to admit that he never loved his father. Obviously, the Ghost has driven the young man into a psychological trap which Hamlet simply cannot escape without losing either his dignity or his life.

The question of the Ghost's nature is one of the many riddles of Hamlet that I have not fully solved yet. Reading the play and writing about it has felt to me like arranging a puzzle while the picture I am trying to complete is changing all the time. Hamlet is a literary Mona Lisa with an enigmatic smile that mocks all my attempts at interpretation. I have come to a conclusion that the Ghost is a cunning and malevolent spirit knowingly leading Hamlet to death by forcing upon him a mission the young man is not ready for. The Ghost realizes that Hamlet is a humanist and a scholar, he knows about his kind and loving nature, and he plays upon this weak spot to make him obey. Yet, with Hamlet one never knows for sure.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger digital texts, www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/html/Ham.html.

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"Cursed Spite:" Hamlet's Unbearable Burden of Revenge Essay. (2022, Jul 03). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/cursed-spite-hamlets-unbearable-burden-of-revenge-essay

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