I figure that if I just keep typing, something profound will eventually come out of all this -

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hamlet Group Discussion #1

Christ posted a question on my blog earlier, so I figured I'd respond to it in this post.
Do you think Hamlet is any better than Claudius given Hamlet's murder of Polonius and Claudius's murder of the king? Are their stories of ambition and passionate retribution different?
    Hamlet might have racked up a greater body count than Claudius but Claudius definitely performed the greater crime. Claudius actions were pre-meditated murder, followed by adultery whereas Hamlet always acted in the moment, driven by his passions which were ignited by Claudius. In a sense Claudius is partially responsible for Hamlet murdering Polonius. He killed his father. He married his mother. He turned his best friends into spies and conspired with Polonius to have Ophelia turn against Hamlet. After all this, he has the audacity to act as surrogate father towards Hamlet. Had none of these events occurred, Hamlet would never have been driven to the lengths he went.
    Also, I’d argue that Claudius was driven more by ambition than passion. Otherwise, his passion would have overturned his desire to be king when racked by guilt. Had he really been sincere about his guilt over killing his brother, he would have divorced his Gertrude, given up the kingdom, and submitted himself to justice. Throughout the play, Claudius is driven by his ambition, whereas Hamlet gives up so much to avenge his father. He sets aside his ambition to follow his passions.
    So I’d say their motivations are significantly different, especially since Hamlet kills both Laertes and Claudius in self-defense. Yes, killing Polonius was grievous, but not pre-meditated, as opposed to Claudius murdering Hamlet Sr. Hamlet is driven by passion. Claudius is drive by ambition


  1. I defiantly think you are right with the whole premeditated part. It is interesting to me how the first line of action however is a life for a life instead of any other way. However, in the motives of each character i think you are right...there is a big difference.

  2. My take on Claudius's relationship with Hamlet, excerpted from the parody "Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-Speare" (available for Amazon Kindle at

    Queen Gertie: If scrambled eggs could talk, an Omelet would they be!

    Clintonius: Of ham and cheese. [Aside.] I'll say this for him. 'Tis a dish with a sprig o' holly on 't. [To Omelet.] We laud thee thy sincere lament, which sure we be is sure well meant. That's your bent, most heaven-sent., relent. For t'allow eaternal vent to so rageous 'plent is to the gods impious, to this crown anent annoying. It's sweet, the way you burble for your daddy. No, really. Touching. We loved him too. I was his brother. Message: I care. I knew him longer than you did. But you must know your father lost a father, who had lost his, and that one too, and so before him, and that one also, and his one prior, and so ad infinitum, the lot entire. Mourning is good: yes. Gnashing of teeth is fine. For a while. Granted. All right. But that while is up. Stop crying. It's getting cloying. Be a man. Your dad is dead. So are many other men. It happens. We laugh. We cry. We live. We die. I don't know why. Accept it. Try. Defy, and you but offend God, nature (the grass, the trees, the rocks, the bees, the flies), the regulations of our state, thy own seeming better self. Forsooth, each very quark and fiber of the universe, its each jiggling protean proton, doth cry instantient out, "This must be so!" Ah, eh? All weakening, decay, disintegration, corpuscular inanition, the last ragged pointless wretched gasp, the rigor mortis—verily conspire to deport us. And so an end. Why then contend it? Buck up, Puck. Get a grip, Chip. You'll reign some day, and a raining reign reaps but wet hay. Now, as for your request to journey out of town for school, we beseech thee not, such being most retro-reverse to our desire. Stay here and observe events unwind, like some unthreading sinister spool, instead. That'd be better.

    Courtier One: Well-spoke, m'lord!

    Courtier Two: 'Twas a speech to die for.