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Essay/Term paper: Hamlet: inner turmoil

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Hamlet

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Hamlet: Inner Turmoil

Within the play Hamlet there exists many puns and phrases which have a
double meaning. Little ploys on words which tend to add a bit of entertainment
to the dialogue of the play. These forked tongue phrases are used by Shakespeare
to cast an insight to the characters in the play…to give them more depth and
substance. However, most importantly these phrases cause the reader or audience
to think. They are able to show a double meaning that not all people would pick
up on, which is the purpose of the comments.
Little is known about Shakespeare's life, other than he was a great
playwright whose works serve to meld literary casts for ages to come. This was
his occupation, he wrote and directed plays to be performed. This was his sole
form of income that we know of, it was his way of putting the bread on the table.
If people did not like what Shakespeare wrote, then he would not earn any money.
If the people didn't like what they saw, he became the starving artist.
Shakespeare wrote these dialogues in such a manner as to entertain both the
Nobility, as well as the peasants.
The Shakespearean theater is a physical manifestation of how Shakespeare
catered to more than one social class in his theatrical productions. These
Shakespearean theaters has a unique construction, which had specific seats for
the wealthy, and likewise, a designated separate standing section for the
peasants. This definite separation of the classes is also evident in
Shakespeare's writing, in as such that the nobility of the productions speak in
poetic iambic pentameter, where as the peasants speak in ordinary prose. Perhaps
Shakespeare incorporated these double meanings to the lines of his characters
with the intent that only a select amount of his audience were meant to hear it
in either its double meaning, or its true meaning.
However, even when the tragic hero Hamlet's wordplay is intentional, it is
not always clear as to what purpose he uses it. To confuse or to clarify? Or to
control his own uncensored thoughts? The energy and turmoil of his mind brings
words thronging into speech, stretching, over-turning and contorting their
implications. Sometimes Hamlet has to struggle to use the simplest words
repeatedly, as he tries to force meaning to flow in a single channel. To Ophelia,
after he has encountered her in her loneliness, "reading on a book," he repeats
five times "Get thee to a nunnery," varying the phrase very little, simply
reiterating what was already said by changing "get" to "go." This well known
quote, to this day cannot be deciphered in its entirety, for nunnery is a place
where nuns live, yet it is also a brothel. Hamlet seems to knowingly cast a
shade of confusion into the minds of the audience…or is it in fact clarity
within confusion. That is, the audience is able to better understand the
thoughts and inn er struggle of Hamlet via these conflicting terms.
After Hamlet has visited his mother "all alone" in her closet and killed
Polonius, after she has begged him to "speak no more", and after his father's
ghost has reappeared, Hamlet repeats "Good night" five times, with still fewer
changes in the phrase than "Get thee to a nunnery" and those among accompanying
words only.
So Hamlet seems to be struggling to contain his thoughts even by use of
these simple words, rather than enforcing a single and simple message as a first
reading of the text might suggest; and the words come to bear deeper, more
ironic or more blatant meanings. It is from these phrases which even manage to
confuse the complex mind of Hamlet that we begin to get a glimpse into the
intentions of Hamlets mind, and seeing just exactly the way he ticks.
Much of the dramatic action of this tragedy is within the head of Hamlet,
and wordplay represents the amazing, contradictory, unsettled, mocking nature of
that mind, as it is torn by disappointment and positive love, as Hamlet seeks
both acceptance and punishment, action and stillness, and wishes for
consummation and annihilation within a world he perceives to be against him. He
can be abruptly silent or vicious; he is capable of wild laughter and tears, and
also playing polite and sane. The narrative is a kind of mystery and chase, so
that, underneath the various guises of his wordplay, we are made keenly aware of
his inner dissatisfaction, and come to expect some resolution at the end of the
tragedy, some unambiguous "giving out" which will report Hamlet and his cause
aright to the unsatisfied among the reader / audience . Hamlet himself is aware
of this expectation as the end approaches, and this still further whets our
anticipation for what is to become.
A commonly recurring theme throughout the play is that of honesty. It is
introduced in the beginning of the play and as the play continues, its use
becomes more and more common, as well as more and more ironic. This theme within
the play itself is ironic, for as Marcellus said "Something is rotten in the
state of Denmark" and this corruption we see so exhibited in the play is far
from honest.
When Hamlet applies the word honest to the main characters of the play, his
use of becomes undeniably ironic, and much of the dark humor of the play derives
from Hamlet's wordplay. Polonius marks that though Hamlet's insults seem to make
no sense, "yet there is method in 't." In Act II, it is Polonius that is the
first target of Hamlet's irony of the use of honest. Hamlet calls him first a
"fishmonger" which itself has many meanings, including the implication that
Ophelia is a whore and Polonius is her pimp. And of course, Polonius has
employed his daughter in his plot to discover the depth of Hamlet's "madness."
When Polonius says he is not a fishmonger, Hamlet replies "Then I would you were
so honest a man." In other words, he wishes Polonius was as honest as a simple
fish seller, or even more insulting, as honest as the pimp Hamlet insinuated he
In this scene, Hamlet also uses this ironic meaning of honesty against
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when he tells them "...I will not sort you with the
rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most
dreadfully attended." He seems to mean that he cannot speak to them with honesty,
because they themselves are dishonest in their intents.
Honesty resonates as a theme in Hamlet because nothing is as it seems in
Denmark. The King deceives the world and pretends a legitimacy he does not have;
Hamlet deceives the court by feigning madness; Polonius, Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern all try to deceive Hamlet into revealing why he is distraught, and
no one knows what is truth and what is a lie. The world has not grown honest, as
Rosencrantz claims, but dishonest, and no one who lives in it can keep his
honesty pure from the corrupting air.
Hamlet seems to be the character who uses the majority of such puns and
phrases in the play. These phrases which have double meaning could represent the
inner turmoil which seems to be tearing Hamlet apart. By seeing a definite
double meaning to many phrases in the play, we are able to easily see that all
is not as it should be. Hamlet's personality is thrown into chaos. He is in
mourning the death of his father, and then his mother marries his uncle. He is
enraged at her, and on top of all of this he sees the ghost of his father
commanding him to avenge his wrongful murder. Yet, amongst all this turmoil, I
believe that Hamlet was only playing the part of being crazy. He speaks in
riddles and plays on words in order to create a certain suspicion about his
sanity. This abnormal activity gives him the ability to sneak a few insults by
without having to directly confront his enemies. It seems to be quite a bit
worse if the person who was insulted isn't exactly sure whether or not they were
just insulted.
Hamlet is able to interject these insults without even the other character
noticing, which is the art of insult
It is this unpredictability of action, this sporadic bouts of insanity and
sanity, the inner turmoil brewing within Hamlet which keeps the audience's
interest. Nobody is really sure whether or not Hamlet was insane. Many have
theories and beliefs, but Shakespeare never came out and said he definitely is
or definitely is not sane… he only hints. There are valid arguments on either
side, for Hamlet Himself said "I am mad but north-northwest" ; that is he is
only mad about one thing in particular.
The wordplay in Hamlet is a representation of the complexity of the minds
of the characters that Shakespeare created. It is a depiction of the inner
turmoil within a character struggling with sanity. However, more importantly it
is necessary to keep in mind that Shakespeare was a playwright and that the play
on words did one thing in particular, which is why Shakespeare lived to write so
many plays…Hamlet, because of its wording is entertaining…and that made all the


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