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The grief of Hamlet

The grief of Hamlet

Posted: Thursday, June 25, 2009 8:01 pm

Special to The Messenger
In approximately 1599 William Shakespeare wrote his famous tragedy-play “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” which is the story about how a son avenges his father’s murder. 
In Act One, Hamlet, a student at the University of Whittenberg, receives an urgent message summoning him to the castle, Elsinore, in Denmark due to the murder of his father, King of Denmark, by his father’s brother, Claudius, who seized the throne and quickly married Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude.
After Hamlet talks with his trusted friend, Horatio, who tells him that his father’s ghost haunts the castle and has revealed that Claudius poisoned him, the focus of the play is on Hamlet’s avenging his father’s murder.
Shakespeare takes the reader through the attitude and reactions of a person whose loved one has been murdered. In his inconsolable grief, Hamlet became lethargic, inactive, depressed, apathetic and angry. However, being an intellectual with a philosophical approach to life, he analyzed problems and made decisions only after thinking the matter through rather than having the proverbial “knee-jerk” reaction. Thus, his decision about what he would do in seeking revenge was methodical, deliberate, slow and based on reason rather than impulse. For Hamlet the killing of Claudius would not be a momentary reaction but an act of finality.
In Act Two, Hamlet attacks Claudius’ conscience by having a group of actors present a play about murder that corresponded to what had happened to his father. This play had the desired effect on Claudius; however, when Hamlet discovered Claudius praying for forgiveness, he delayed killing him for a more appropriate time because he felt that if he killed him while he was praying for forgiveness it would only result in sending him to heaven. 
In Act Five, the tragic element of the play is full-blown, for not only does Hamlet kill Claudius with a sword, but he also dies due to being wounded by Laertes with a poisoned sword. Hamlet’s beloved Ophelia dies, and his mother dies as a result of accidentally drinking poisoned wine that was intended for Hamlet.
Even though William Shakespeare wrote this play more than 400 years ago, people whose loved ones have been murdered can identify with Hamlet’s grief.
Don Harold Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is
Published in The Messenger 6.25.09

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