Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hamlet, in conclusion . . .

Today was our last full class on Hamlet. I thought that as a class you all did an excellent job of scrutinizing the posted "introductory paragraphs" on Hamlet that we have on our blog. Bear these ideas in mind, and the suggested improvements the class made, when you are writing your next essay.

I would like you to address some of the lasting impressions of the play Hamlet, particularly one set in relief by the assessment many students give of the play (which I joked about in class). When asked what "happens" in the play Hamlet, many students reply "everyone dies." I suggested that this is sort of a timeless claim, a universal dictum, not unlike Hamlet's famous pronouncement "to be, or not to be, that is the question" (3.1, line 57). So, if the play contains many timeless or universal messages, what might be the most lasting message of all contained in the play? One group suggested in their posting that this is a play, above all, about honor. If we collapse this message into the idea that "everyone dies," what does that tell us -- about us as readers, about the play itself, about (with apologies for using such a hackneyed phrase) life itself?

7 comments:

aoliphant said...

the lasting impression i feel after this play is one ofstrengthening religious ties and views. "Hamlet" had a recurring theme of Christianity a few examples are the repentance on the part of the king. the king knowing he cannot fully repent since he was still enjoying the fruits of his deed. Hamlet not wanting to slay the king in prayer since his soul would go to heaven. most of all the every one dies part can be viewed as the conclusion of the snowballing effect of treachery and murder that took place throughout the play. concluding in the death of all who took part in those acts.

alexaashan said...

I think that aside from honor, the main theme of Hamlet is that indecision and distraction only cause more problems than necessary. We hear Hamlet being told by a ghost to kill Claudius at the beginning. Then the play takes a detour to Hamlet's love life. Hamlet seems to completely forget about the ghost until later in the play. By waiting so long, he starts losing what conviction he had and starts to question the ghost's words and motives. His prolonged hesitation gets more people get caught up in his life's problems and wind up dying.

Although "everyone dies" is what happens in the play. The play's meaning can be found within the reason everyone dies. Bluntly, it's all Hamlet's fault for wasting his time not getting to the matter at hand. The only thing that the play truly tells us regarding life itself is that people procrastinate and it makes everything harder for everyone involved.

alexaashan said...

~Matt Pryor

Joe said...

Perhaps, the greatest legacy of Hamlet is that of right and wrong. Hamlet must ask himself as he progresses through the story, "What is right and what is wrong?" As Hamlet pauses with sword to the new king, he reflects on how this will effect his entrance into heaven. Viewers/ readers must ask themselves would you risk going to hell to kill the man you killed your father. Critics have called Hamlet's greatest problem his indecisiveness. Perhaps it just Hamlet merely asking the age old question; what is right?

aunorsjet said...

I believe we touched on this a bit in class, but to restate it, Hamlet has lasted this long become its themes are timeless. While other plays and stories are very specific to a certain time period, the themes that are explored in Shakespeare's Hamlet were relevant when the play was put on in the Globe Theater, and they're still relevant today. Everyone is faced with hard decisions, and some are given a time frame to make the decision in. Oftentimes, both the choices will have lasting (and negative) repercussions in the grand scheme of things. Hamlet's bleak outlook on life led him to make decisions that, in the end, caused the deaths of most of the characters in the story.
-Aaron Bentley

Santiago said...

I think the response "everyone dies" is just a simplified expression of a major theme in Hamlet, death. Death will always be something that people will ponder and fear. It is obvious that Hamlet is infatuated with death, and death appears in different forms in the play. The thought of eternal life after death is shown through the ghost of Hamlet's father, and the physical aspects of death are also shown when Hamlet holds the skull of Yorick in the cemetery.

Death has also been the main motivation for Hamlet. He feels he needs to cause death (to Claudius) to avenge a death (his father's). I think the lasting message to the readers is that death comes to us all, and we can choose to accept it or live our life in fear of it, and whether or not we are ready for death to come is a function of the choices we make in our lives.

-Santiago Flores

ftatb11305 said...

To me, the expression "everyone dies" is a simple way of describing people's reaction to the awkward ending to Hamlet. Instead of "everyone dies", maybe it would be better to say that "people got what they deserved". The queen died as a result of the king trying to kill Hamlet. Laertes dies because he has cheated in the fight and poisoned the sword. The king is forced to drink from the same cup killed the queen as revenge from Hamlet. The story has a very good message which is that if you want to cheat to get ahead, you will suffer in the end.

- Edward Acree