Tragedies traditionally consist of a story of great misfortune. I feel it is the disorder that is exposed in the play “Hamlet” that leads to the serious tragic events by the play’s closure. It is Hamlet’s confusion about grief, the ghost, his relationships and indeed his own position with the Court of Denmark that leads to his own personal tragedy. Claudius and Gertrude’s relationship is peculiar; it certainly does not receive Hamlet’s approval. ‘Oh most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets’ The natural family order is ‘disordered’ by the death and then the sudden marriage between Gertrude and Hamlet’s uncle.
The marriage took place within two months of Old Hamlet dying which might suggest that Gertrude did not truly love Old Hamlet, but she loved his status. She thrives to keep her strong position within the royal hierarchy; once again her status has been gained by marrying. Gertrude would be a widow therefore no longer Queen, and her speedy marriage insinuates desperation to keep her role. An incestuous relationship is also implied in my opinion between the protagonist Hamlet and his mother Gertrude. Freud many years later adapted a psychoanalytical theory.
‘Every man wants to kill their father and marry their mother’ this interpretation of Gertrude’s relationship with Hamlet focuses on a psychological reading of this episode. The Oedipus theory gives an interesting interpretation, as their relationship seems quite unnatural at times. The closet scene displays strong imagery on Hamlet’s part. ‘Nay, but to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, stewed in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sty. ‘ The words ‘rank ‘and ‘sty’ are used metaphorically to create unpleasant strong imagery.
I believe Hamlet is revealing the truth of the relationship; Gertrude doesn’t want to face the reality. Gertrude expresses that Hamlet is hurting her feelings with the use of a metaphor ‘Words like daggers. ‘ Hamlet is upset and feels cheated of his mother’s full affection. This challenges conventional mother, son relationships, it seems a disordered family environment and Hamlet’s behaviour is extreme and ‘disordered’. The Ghost of Old Hamlet is the catalyst of Hamlet’s disordered behaviour. The real world is ‘disordered’, bruised by the assertive nature of the supernatural element.
Hamlet’s confused if the Ghost is honest or is a disguised devil. Ghosts from purgatory are of the Catholic religion, whereas Denmark was Protestant, adding more confusion to Hamlet’s belief in the Ghost. The Elizabethan audience were also unsure about the honesty of the ghost. ‘At the end of the first act, the Elizabethan could be no more certain of the honesty of the ghost. ‘ The disordered appearance of the supernatural presence of the ghost creates dramatic tension and exposes tragic events. It appears in the first scene to guards, minor characters which adds disorder to the watch in and already disordered Denmark.
It is a disjointed opening foreshadowing tragic elements to come. Hamlet is in grief at the beginning of the play and the ghost appearance intensifies his already fragile disposition. The ghost purpose is to expose past events and impose a revenge motive on Hamlet. After the ghost appearance to Hamlet he decides to adopt an ‘antic disposition’ which leads his family and the court to consider him unstable and ‘disordered’. ‘Something rotten in the state of Denmark’ this line foreshadows the disorder and corruption of the royal family.
It is a figurative reference to the corrupt state of Denmark and imminent war which will create disorder for the people of Denmark. The ‘something rotten’ could also be a reference to the supernatural spirit of Old Hamlet who has not gone to heaven due to un-absolved crimes. Hamlet thought of his Father, as a ‘god like’ creature, as it seems as though Hamlet had favoured his Father. Hamlet has a filial obligation to the Ghost which creates a dilemma for him. As duties of a son Hamlet is obliged to follow out out his father’s instructions. Moral and religious codes are also confronted and as a result disordered in the play.
The Bible states that one shall not murder but Claudius has sinned and murdered. Claudius has challenged the values of religion and Elizabethan audiences would have felt that important values had been disrupted. In Act 3 scene 3 Claudius prays for his wrongs, ‘Oh my offence is rank, it smells to heaven’ this expresses that Claudius regrets his actions and is asking for forgiveness. But then later on in the play he goes on to plot Hamlet’s death. It is obvious that he is trying to fool religion as he is committing sins but still attempting to get through the gateways of heaven.
Claudius is not dedicated to his religion and it seems he is trying to cheat god. The prayer communicates he can trick the law but he cannot trick God. Hamlet had the chance to fulfil his revenge here but decided not to as he believed Claudius would go the heaven as he was praying. For me this was Hamlet’s Hamartia as it could have saved several deaths in the long run. It is evident that Hamlet is religious as throughout the play he continuously delays the revenge. This suggests that Hamlet’s conscience is playing on his mind telling him not to commit the sin.
It communicates that Hamlets character is honest; he is not a man who can carry out a revenge act which is against his own moral code and beliefs. Hamlet is in melancholy state of grief and I believe this affected the disorder apparent in his behaviour, language and thoughts. Shakespeare uses syntax in Hamlet’s dialogue to communicate his unhinged mind. Shakespeare uses the form of the soliloquy to deliver this disorder. In the ‘To be, or not to be’ Soliloquy Hamlet is pondering his thoughts shown via the use of commas which stagger the pace.
He contemplates suicide which indicates mental instability. Shakespeare highlights Hamlet’s intelligence with his use of doubling in his language which creates tension and ambiguousness in his speech. “A little more than kind and less than kin. ” The quote expresses a play on words which shows Hamlet’s educational background. His intelligence is interpreted into his revenge in the play ‘To put on an antic disposition’ the quote may suggest that Shakespeare adapted Hamlet character to mask his grief with the illusion created of a disordered mind, which makes others question his mental stability.
It could be suggested Hamlet puts on the form of disorder behaviour (madness) to frighten Claudius so his mind wouldn’t be at ease of the murdered that he has done. Showing that the murder had made Hamlet mad would have played on Claudius’s mind. This aspect is uncertain as in some scenes he seems sane and in others insane. I don’t believe Hamlet has gone to his childish ways as a form of disorder of the mind. It may be because of the loss of his father who he admired has passed away, therefore has no one to look up to or to aspire to act like.
‘Critics begin trying to define the exact nature of the disorder, and they go astray’. Wilson thinks Hamlets condition is continuously over exaggerated and believes that people explore in too deeply into his madness, Wilson says that Hamlet’s madness due to ‘the burden which fate lays upon his shoulders’, which is the burden of killing his Uncle, I agree with this to an extent. In the view that Hamlet has to seek revenge and it is what ultimately leads him to his feigned or real imbalance. I stand by people’s opinion that Hamlet may be an adolescent in a man’s body, therefore making the antic disposition an act for attention.
This is understandable that he has acted out in this way as nobody seemed to notice him heavily until this had happened. They sympathise Hamlet but never offered there help to help him through. People were too involved in carrying on with normal life and celebrating the new marriage. In “Hamlet” we see a transgression from Aristotle’s rigid formula. Much is used, but ‘Hamlet’ complicates the boundaries of revenge tragedy. Denmark is still disordered as the play ends with most of the royal family dying, and again King. This mirrors the start of the play which portrays a disordered recurring cycle.
Disorder has been part of the play for entertainment value and for thematic significant. It is essential as it gives the play longevity and makes it memorable. It is no accident on the part of Shakespeare that disorder contributes to the tragic outcomes. It simply works as a effective theatrical device, so to return to Wilson’s point, ‘Critics begin trying to define the exact nature of the disorder, and they go astray’; the disorder is to be enjoyed! Word count: 1,464.