Suicide in Hamlet Essay

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Suicide in Hamlet: A Discussion

Suicide in Hamlet

Hamlet was written by Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1601. It was famous in its time and is still famous today. The play is as much of a mystery to today's critics as it was over 400 years ago when it was written and produced. Some describe Hamlet as one of Shakespeare's "most famous tragedies." Though attempts have been made to interpret Hamlet for centuries, it is still one of the most complex plays ever written. Throughout this essay, a few questions surrounding suicide in Hamlet will be discussed. Why were Ophelia and Hamlet planning to commit suicide? Could one describe Hamlet's behavior as "suicide by king"? Why does Ophelia commit suicide, but Hamlet does not? These are the main questions, which will be addressed throughout this essay.

Direct quotes from the text will accompany any analysis, which takes place throughout this discussion. Other scholarly articles and book references will be used in helping with the conclusions overall.

Analysis

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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the story begins with the ghost of King Hamlet, who is walking the halls of Elsinore Castle in the middle of the night. As dawn approaches, the ghost disappears. Background into the plot of the play tells the audience that King Hamlet has recently been deceased and his brother, Claudius, has inherited the throne and has married the king's widow, Queen Gertrude. As people become aware of the dead king's presence, they approach Prince Hamlet, son of King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude, who speaks to his father in the middle of the night. King Hamlet orders his son to take revenge for his death. Prince Hamlet then devotes himself completely to avenging his father's death. It is suggested that Hamlet is in love with Ophelia, but he denies it, instead attempting to send her away. Prince Hamlet accidentally killers Ophelia's father when he thinks it is his stepfather hiding behind a curtain in his mother's room. He is sent away for this crime and Ophelia goes mad and drowns herself in the river.

Essay on Suicide in Hamlet Assignment

King Claudius devises a plan to kill Hamlet, deciding to use Ophelia's brother, Laertes in his plan. He sets up a fencing match between the two men, adding poison to the end of Laertes' blade, as well as to a goblet of wine he offers to Hamlet. Prince Hamlet does not take a drink from the poisoned goblet, but his mother, Queen Gertrude does. She dies immediately from the poison. Hamlet is wounded by the poisoned blade, but Laertes is also cut by the blade. He dies from the poison. Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and forces him to drink the last of the poisoned wine. Claudius dies and Hamlet dies not long afterward.

There is a great deal of mystery surrounding Ophelia's death. Queen Gertrude makes claims that Ophelia died because a branch broke away and swept her down the river, however, the church denies Ophelia a full Christian burial, claiming instead that Ophelia killed herself.

"To be or not to be" is a very common line from Hamlet. In the play, Prince Hamlet is questioning whether or not he should commit the act of suicide. Hamlet is seen as a very complex literary character. Many questioned Hamlet's relationship with his mother; some say the relationship can be interpreted in many ways. Could Hamlet have killed Claudius not to avenge his father's death, but for the love of his mother? Everything Hamlet did revolved around his mother and his love for her. In 1948, Ernest Jones wrote a book regarding Hamlet. In it, he mentions that if someone cannot bring themselves to do something, it's because there must be some sort of hidden meaning behind why the individual doesn't want to do it.

Critique

The controversy surrounding Ophelia's death is in keeping with many of Shakespeare's writings. In fact, it was not uncommon for Shakespeare to use inconsistencies within his writing. Hamlet is considered to be less confusing or inconsistent than other writings. One could argue that Gertrude may not have known the entire truth surrounding Ophelia's death, or she could have been trying to cover it up. There is some speculation that Ophelia may have been pregnant and since readers know Hamlet was in love with her, even though he denies it earlier in the play, some feel that Ophelia was indeed pregnant when she died and that she committed suicide. Ophelia had been abandoned by the man she loved earlier in the play, who had told her that he was going to put a ban on marriage, sending her away to join a nunnery. That same man (Hamlet) then accidentally kills Ophelia's father and she is completely grief-stricken. The biggest question is whether or not Ophelia was pregnant with Hamlet's child and if so, why would she kill herself? Perhaps Ophelia was uncertain of a pregnancy and wanted to end her life before finding out, so as not to be trapped.

In response to Hamlet's statement, "You should not have believ'd me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I lov'd you not," Ophelia simply says, "I was the more deceiv'd."

It is clear that Ophelia felt as if she had been deceived by the man she loved. A sexual relationship is only alluded to between Ophelia and Hamlet. Shakespeare does not come out and directly specify that their relationship has gone this far. Early on in the play, Ophelia's father and brother are arguing with her to hold tight to her virtue and to ignore Hamlet's letters of love and advances. Ophelia agrees, but later she says to Hamlet, "before you tumbled me, you promised me to wed." The term "tumbled" was a very common way of talking about sex during Shakespearean times. The fact that Ophelia is alluding to the fact that Hamlet may have promised her marriage beforehand speaks for itself.

Some of Prince Hamlet's thoughts regarding his mother turned to a sexual nature. Some contemplate that much of what Hamlet did was because of the love he felt for his mother. It seemed he may have had an unnatural love for Gertrude. Perhaps this is why Hamlet first sent Ophelia away, denying his love for her. He later proclaimed his love for Ophelia, telling her brother that he had always loved her, yet he had tried to send her away before her death. Perhaps Hamlet didn't love his mother unnaturally, but thought he did. The death of his father could have confused Hamlet and his sense of protection that he may have felt for his mother may have been misdirected. The questions surrounding Hamlet's love for his mother is commonly referred to as the Oedipal Complex.

Conclusion

Hamlet spends much of the play being confused and depressed while contemplating death. It is understandable why Ophelia is thinking about death and even why she dies. Regardless of whether or not Ophelia truly killed herself or she simply let herself go, she was saddened by her father's death, thinking that the man she loved more than life itself had killed him. She was also looking at abandonment by her brother if she chose to accept Hamlet, knowing that he had killed her father and taken advantage of her. Finally, Ophelia felt abandoned by her lover. When Hamlet told her to leave and that he did not truly love her, Ophelia felt disheartened and used. She makes mention to the fact that they have had sexual relations, but no direct mention of this is made.

Ultimately, Hamlet seems confused. Grief-stricken by the death of his father and unable to find trust in women, because of his mother's relationship with his uncle, a man who he believes has also murdered his father, Hamlet spends most of the play being confused, depressed and wanting to avenge his father's death. Hamlet is confused about his relationship with his mother and at the same time, feels betrayed by her. This does not allow for Hamlet to find trust in women, so even though he seems to love Ophelia, he turns her away from him, instead choosing to concentrate on avenging his father's death.

Hamlet loves his mother more than life itself and everything he does is for her. Some critics claim that he hesitates in killing Claudius because of the love his mother has for the man, even though he himself feels a great sense of hatred for him. It is also thought that Hamlet may have understood Claudius to a certain extent, because he too was in love with his mother, so in a sense, they both wanted the same thing. Perhaps Hamlet did love his mother wrongfully and was angry that she had chosen his uncle over him. This would create a great deal of guilt for Hamlet over his father's death.

Still, it would appear that Hamlet did love Ophelia, regardless of what he tells her earlier in the play. It would seem he had… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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