Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hamlet: Defining "Man"

Last year, I remember one of the themes of Macbeth was “What does it really mean to be a man.” In the first act of Hamlet, I found 3 pretty strong examples of manhood.  First, Claudius thinks Hamlet’s lamentation over his father is excessive and “unmanly.” According to Claudius, Hamlet’s behavior is evidence of his weakness.  This would have probably been a really offensive insult to Hamlet. Later, Horatio says Hamlet Sr. was “a goodly king” and Hamlet says “he was a man…I shall not look upon his like again.” If I am interpreting this quote correctly, he was one of a kind, which speaks to his upright character. Finally, after Hamlet learns that Claudius killed his own brother (King Hamlet Sr.) and then married his sister-in-law Gertrude, which was incestual, Hamlet degrades Claudius by calling him a beast.  He dehumanizes him and doesn't see him more as a cold-hearted beast than as a respectable man. 

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