Discuss Lord, we know what we are, we know not what we may be - Sample Essay
The Audience are never fully aware of who to trust or what is true or not throughout the whole play. The only person you can really rely on is Horatio, the most honest character in the play who is Hamlet’s friend. The audience don’t find out until later on in the play if the Ghost, old Hamlet, really is the dead king. In Elizabethan-Jacobean times, ghosts were people stuck in purgatory wandering the earth like a lost soul. A ghost could also have been the devil trying to trick someone into causing chaos. Another belief of the time was “The Divine Right of the King”.
This meant that the king or leader of a country was the closest possible connection to God. If a king of a country was killed this would therefore excommunicate the entire country. The audience also believes that Claudius is “incestuous” by marrying his sister-in-law. He gives hints like “our sometime sister, now our queen,” he uses other words like “sift” and “use”, enough to raise the audience’s suspicion. Equally an audience is unsure who Hamlet is; is he mad? Denmark never fully knows what happens in the palace either; they don’t know about the MURDER of their previous king; neither do they find out about Hamlet’s murder of Polonius.
The rest of Denmark also thinks that Claudius is a good king. He is a diplomat rather than the late king, Old hamlet, who risked large amounts of land in a fight. He thinks about the country as his first priority. He is cunning and secretive. Hamlet is the son of the deceased King Hamlet of Denmark and nephew to the present King Claudius. He was educated in Wittenberg in a protestant country and introduced in Act I, Scene II, Hamlet resents his mother Queen Gertrude marrying Claudius “within two months” of his father’s death. Hamlet dislikes King Claudius too for this same reason.
Throughout the play hamlet keep reiterating his hatred towards women. “Frailty thy name is woman” Hamlet is also aware that Claudius sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet, they were sent to attempt to find out why he was acting so strangely. When Hamlet meets King Hamlet’s Ghost and learns that King Claudius murdered his father, Hamlet changes from a dispirited yet sensitive young man to one driven to take revenge on his father’s death. From then on Hamlet distrusts and rejects all those around him whom he believes are spying on him for King Claudius.
Fearing that his intentions could be revealed, Hamlet invents a madness to distract and hide his true intentions from King Claudius’ many spies. This includes Ophelia, the woman he loves whom he bitterly rejects when he learns she has betrayed him. Hamlet comes up with a plan. It is to changes the lines of a play performed in front of Claudius to find out whether what the Ghost told him was the truth. The ghost of his father came back to Denmark in Act 1 and told him the horrifying truth that he did not die of natural causes, but was murdered. Hamlet claims he knew all along:
“O my prophetic soul” When he actually only wanted to believe it was true. He had little proof to show that the king was murdered by Claudius, since no one would believe hamlet that a ghost came back to tell him. Hamlet doesn’t know that a lot of the court finds his behavior distressing. Hamlet eventually finds out his two best friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are sent by Claudius to find out why Hamlet is acting so mad. Hamlet even though he is filled with rage towards Claudius still struggled to avenge his father. When he was in he chapel praying, he couldn’t stab him from behind.
Also, after he heard about the murder of his father he didn’t want to kill anyone. However, by the end of the play he has killed Polonius, Laertes and his uncle, and indirectly kills Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, showing no remorse, “Their deaths come not near my conscience. ” Even though Hamlet thinks he knows that Claudius, his uncle, killed Old Hamlet, he still thinks that his mother was the one who betrayed him. The Ghost of his father keeps telling him to leave his mother’s fate to God and to avenge (and remember) his father. The orders the Ghost gave Hamlet contradicted each other.
Firstly, he was told to kill Claudius, as an act of revenge for Old hamlet, and to remember him. In Catholicism, people believe that if you are in purgatory the only way to get out is if people pray for/remember you. When the dead want to be sent to heaven, instead of languishing purgatory (the never-ending limbo) people pray for them. Claudius is the new king of Denmark, and Hamlet’s uncle. Everyone seems to think he is a person and a good king but the audience may pick up on as be gives hints of his bad side by using words like “sift” and “use”.
He grows suspicious of Hamlet’s madness. This means either he thinks hamlet knows of his terrible secret, or he truly cares about him. Claudius has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Hamlet’s girlfriend Ophelia spying on Hamlet for him since as he says, the great ones must be watched. He shows his good side by letting Hamlet be the next heir to the throne, although he rightfully should be the present king of Denmark. Ophelia is one of the unfortunate victims in the play. She is the person who suffers the most. She starts of as innocent, nai??
ve, susceptible and shackled. She is being kept away from Hamlet, which she loved dearly. She is told, “you do not know yourself” and is forced to “obey”. From then on, her own destiny is out of her hands. She dies as a mad woman, rejected by those she loved. Gertrude seems like a clever and brave woman. She is clever and thinks ahead since she managed to stay queen of Denmark after her first husband’s death. This way she can remain a powerful icon and lend Claudius some helpful advice, which she may have learned through her passed experiences of being queen.
Since she has been queen longer than Claudius has been king, she technically has more royal experience. Queen Gertrude is resented deeply by Hamlet for marrying King Claudius within two months of his father, King Hamlet’s death. Hamlet makes this clear throughout the play particularly in his first soliloquy in Act I, Scene II. On several occasions Gertrude admits that she may have married Claudius too soon, calling the union “o’er hasty. ” She may be guilty of a poor choice, but is totally unsure others support for someone who has “poisoned” Denmark.
Polonius, “Lord Chamberlain”, is a sly, plotting, distrustful friend of the kings. He assists Claudius through his decisions/problems (work orientated or personal). He is a good aid to the king, and an important person to keep friends with. When Polonius hears of Hamlet’s madness, he is certain that it is his daughter, Ophelia’s, fault, because she made Hamlet lovesick, though it was Polonius who was worried that Hamlet’s intents for Ophelia were dishonourable, and ordered Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet. Not only does he spy on Ophelia but he also sends a servant, Reynaldo, to spy on Laertes, his son.
He also told Reynaldo to spread false rumours about Laertes so that others would admit what he really did (Act 2 Scene 1. ) However, he does Horatio is Hamlet’s friend and the only person that Hamlet has full trust in. He sees Old Hamlet’s Ghost in Act I. Throughout the play Horatio is the only person the audience and other characters can fully trust. He is reasonably gullible, since he believes Hamlet that the ghost is in fact old Hamlet. Laertes is Polonius’ only son. He is supposedly a good fencer. Laertes’ role in this play is minor until the death of his father Polonius.
From this point on, Laertes seems more confident, confronting King Claudius personally to know his father’s whereabouts, arguing with a Priest for being disrespectful to his sister, fighting Hamlet above his sister’s grave and ultimately plotting to and killing Hamlet with the help of King Claudius. We see little of Laertes’ inner character. Through the loving of his sister Ophelia, he must watch his sister’s madness following his father’s death. The Ghost is the wandering spirit of the Old King, Hamlet’s dad. He supposedly died of natural causes but we find out in Act 2 that he was murdered.
What neither the audience nor Hamlet know is that the ghost might in fact be the devil disguised as Old Hamlet trying to cause chaos. This was a strong belief of the times. That ghost might be an evil spirit causing mayhem. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are old friends of Hamlet. Both of them grew up with Hamlet. For this reason Claudius enlists them to spy on Hamlet for him. Neither of them had a problem with trading in their friendship to betray Hamlet; although they weren’t aware of the reason they were sent, they only thought they were meant to cheer him up.
Both die when the instructions they bear from King Claudius are altered by Hamlet to instruct King Claudius’ English associates to kill those bearing his commission immediately (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern). They are very unlucky since they didn’t bring anything on themselves. They are the first people to be indirectly killed by hamlet. They are playing piggy in the middle since they are being sent around following different orders from Hamlet and Claudius. In addition, they don’t know whose side to be on. Hamlet says he trusts them like “adders fanged”.