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Death in Hamlet

Uploaded by Juliette on Jan 29, 2001

“So shall you hear of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,” (Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2, Lines 381-384). So says Horatio, best friend of Prince Hamlet in the final few lines of the play. He speaks these words after the deaths of Hamlet, Claudius, King of Denmark, Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, and Laertes, son of Polonius. Also dead are Hamlet, King of Denmark, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, former friends of Hamlet, Polonius, councilor to the King, and Ophelia, daughter of Polonius. Death is an extremely prevalent theme in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. However, each death is unique in circumstances, causes, and effects. Three important deaths in Hamlet were the deaths of King Hamlet, Ophelia, and Prince Hamlet.

The first, and probably most important death in Hamlet, is the death of Prince Hamlet’s father, Hamlet, King of Denmark. Even though this death is not portrayed in the play, it sets off a chain of events that comprise the plot of Hamlet. Hamlet, King of Denmark died recently before the play begins. Claudius, King Hamlet’s brother, succeeded him. This upset Prince Hamlet, who thought he should be the successor. Then, in the very first scene of the play, King Hamlet’s ghost appears to some soldiers and Hamlet’s friend Horatio. The ghost does not speak to them. Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost, and eventually the ghost appears to Hamlet and speaks with him. The ghost surprises Hamlet by saying, “If thou didst ever thy dear father love—Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5, Lines 23 and 25). Hamlet had not realised that his father had been murdered. The ghost goes on to say, “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown,” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5, Lines 38-39). It is at this point that Hamlet realises that his father’s murderer was his uncle, Claudius. Hamlet swears to have revenge. This sets up the circumstances that cause the remainder of the action in the play.

One of the most interesting deaths in Hamlet is the death of Ophelia. Ophelia was the daughter of Polonius, councilor to the king. However, she was also Prince Hamlet’s girlfriend. She died by drowning in a river. It is most likely that she committed suicide, though there was never any evidence to that effect, and it is impossible to say...

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Uploaded by:   Juliette

Date:   01/29/2001

Category:   Hamlet

Length:   4 pages (943 words)

Views:   1724

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