By the vice-president of the Teen Advisory Group:
Hi everyone! I am back after almost a year-long hiatus with a new series on English IV books (original, I know). My class recently finished Shakespeare’s play Hamlet and this short post will primarily focus on dissecting its main characters Hamlet and King Claudius without spoiling the plot too much.
First off we have the namesake, Prince Hamlet, who is the son of the late King Hamlet and nephew to the current King Claudius. He is depressed, angry, hesitant, frustrated with his hesitance, and clever – all in one. Hamlet seeks revenge on Claudius for murdering his father for the throne and marrying his mother Queen Gertrude only a couple months after the funeral.
As you read the play, it is important to identify the foil(s) for Hamlet, namely Laertes and Prince Fortinbras of Denmark. Unlike Hamlet’s indecisive nature, Laertes and Fortinbras implement their plan for revenge (in Laertes’s case) or military glory (Fortinbras) without second thoughts, and Hamlet actually envies this ability to act on impulse (which ironically is the tragic flaw of another one of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, Romeo).
Next up is King Claudius, who as previously mentioned is guilty for murdering his brother Hamlet to become the King of Denmark and take his queen for his own. Really, Prince Hamlet should have been the one to take the throne as the son of the late King, but Claudius claims it to satisfy his greed for power. Whereas Hamlet is driven by emotions, Claudius is rational – almost too much so – and is very much the shrewd politician in the play. He is extremely calculative and takes all preventive measures possible to dispose of any threats to his power, including Hamlet. Claudius does experience guilt, however, but chooses the pleasures of his present life over the looming yet unknown prospect of eternal damnation for his sins.
As the tragic hero of the play, Hamlet’s tragic flaw lies in his uncertainty manifested in his thoughts; he is always contemplating every aspect of the revenge rather than putting his plans into action. Does he succeed in the end? Well, you’ll have to read to find out!