The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is a play written by the English writer William Shakespeare who was known for writing plays that specifically demonstrates the complete range of human emotions and conflict. The tragedy of Hamlet explores the themes of vengeance and human emotion, making it one of the most famous tragedies written in history.
The tragedy was written in the early modern period around the years 1600 and 1602. This period in time represented an era of violence and extreme agitation in the political, religious and social environment, which wholly-hearted narrates the story of Hamlet. The story delicately explains Hamlet’s life by giving details such as that he was the son of Queen Gertrude of Denmark and King Hamlet of Denmark. King Hamlet was killed by his brother Claudius who put poison in the king’s ear in order to satisfy his envious ambition to become King of Denmark and marry Queen Gertrude.
The plot thickens when the prince, Hamlet, returns home and discovers that his uncle Claudius has taken his father’s position as king and has married his mother. Soon after, a ghost appears to Hamlet telling him to take revenge on his uncle for the death of his father. Due to the fact that Hamlet was vengeful it inspired him to create a plan to reveal his father’s murderer and get his full victory revenge. This leads Hamlet down a road towards vengeance that is the cause for many innocent lives to be lost and much destruction in his society. This lead to a bad reputation, people disliking who he is for what he’s done, making him a notorious figure. Funerals were important during the medieval and early modern age because the ceremonies represented the person, how they died and what message their family wanted to portray to the community.
In Act 5 of Hamlet, the gravediggers are having a conversation about Ophelia’s’ death. One of the gravediggers or clowns asked “Is she to be buried in Christian burial when she willfully seeks her own salvation?” (Hamlet 5.1.199) taking Christianity as an important point to consider a proper burial act for Ophelia, this illustrates that religion plays a role in their lives, being the way someone dies Biblically judged. Another example of the importance of funeral ceremonies is when Hamlet tried to kill his uncle but he found him praying. Hamlet said that he could not kill his uncle in that moment because it will be his straight ticket to heaven, meaning that if he would have killed his uncle in that moment he would have provided him with salvation in the afterlife and not the eternity of torture and hell that he believed he deserved for kill his father.
When Fortinbras, the prince of Norway who Hamlet said was the worthy successor to the throne, ordered “four captains bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage, for he was likely, had he been put on, to have proved most royal; and for his passage, the soldiers’ music and the rite of war speak loudly for him.” (Hamlet 5.2. 395-400), I believe that this can be due to two reasons, one of the reasons may be that he did it because Hamlet was a prince and as a part of the royalty he deserved to be buried with all the honor and praise.
The other reason may be that he did it as a way of giving thanks to Hamlet for letting him become the king of Denmark. Either/or, it specifically shows how much grace they had for him and how much of a public figure he was. In my opinion, Hamlet did not deserve such a heroic funeral due to his actions that led to many innocent people being killed, including his own mother. Even though many people viewed Hamlet as a tragic hero, I don’t think he died as a hero. At the end of the tragedy, Hamlet took many of the same actions that his uncle Claudius did and caused a lot of violence. Although Hamlet’s reasons were encouraged by revenge and during this time, people often believed “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”, when Hamlet died he wasn’t focusing on asking for forgiveness or redemption, although he was trying to maintain a clean reputation by asking Horatio to justify his cause by saying “Thou livest; port me and my cause a right to the unsatisfied” (Hamlet 5.2.340).
When Hamlet died as a consequence of a match with Laertes, in which Laertes dies too, it was part of the plot that his uncle Claudius and Laertes had to kill him. He did not die in a battle to save his land or something similar that would have made him a hero. Although the plot of the story was created through an act of vengeance and revenge, and Hamlet viewed the revenge as justice for his father and so did Laertes, we will never know if the ghost was real or just a figment of Hamlets’ mind or was the true soul of his father asking for “justice” been this seen as non-heroic and a very sinful act.
- Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Pirated Quarto Edition 1603.