Sunday, April 14, 2019

Literary Analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet Essay Example for Free

Literary Analysis of Shakespeares juncture prohibiteavorIn the position rebirth, identity was an important head ache, routineicularly the construction of identity. As Stephen Greenblatt argues, there is in the aboriginal modern period a change in the intellectual, social, psychological, and aesthetic structures that g overn the generation of identities that is non tot every(prenominal)y complex barely resolutely dialectical (1). The identity of the sovereign was of particular importance how monarchs shaped their testify identities, and how these identities affected their subjects.Taking Greenblatts argument, this paper examines the construction and manipulation of identity in Shakespeares juncture in particular, the shipway in which Elizabeth Is self-representations inform the play. In addition, the paper will show how the char corresponderization of crossroads is shaped by the rule of Elizabeth I, who ascendencelight-emitting diode her public image through elabo rately constructed self-representations. Reflecting her use of these representations, hamlet, who possesses stereotypically feminine attri justes, fights to recreate himself as a masculine character to recover his familys and kingdoms honor.The late Elizabethan period was filled with anxiety and diswhitethorn over the aging of poof Elizabeth I. Concern about her impending expiration was solely(prenominal) made worse by her refusal to name a substitution. When Shakespeare composed village in 1600, the playwright was subject to an aging, infirm fairy, who at lxvii had left no heirs to the slope throne. In village, Shakespeare thus addresses cardinal policy-making problems that England faced at the commencement exercise of the ordinal-century royal succession and fe manly sovereignty. As Tennenhouse argues, History plays could not be written after hamlet, because the full-page matter of transferring power from one monarch to an new(prenominal) had to be rethought in in sure of the aging system of the queen (85). The preoccupation of the side public with who would become their new ruler, along with eager laughipation of male kingship, is expressed throughout Hamlet. Although the play is not written as a political allegory, undeniable similarities do exist in the midst of aspects of Queen Elizabeth Is public persona and the character of Hamlet. Before further explaining this comparison, however, it is necessary to pick out how Elizabeth I shaped her public persona.Elizabeth Is Image As head of the Angli scum bag Church, Elizabeth I was wary to find herself in marriage with a Catholic. Accordingly, Carole Levin argues that Elizabeth I promoted the image of herself as a pristine maiden hygienic into the middle and advanced years of her life Elizabeth presented herself to her sight as a symbol of virginity, a thoroughgoing(a) Queen (64). Whether political or personal, her refusal to marry was in many ways advantageous, for she avoided the disas ter of bloody shame Is scoff with Phillip II. Yet it also caused a great deal of concern among the populace.As Levin observes, by not marrying, Elizabeth also refused the most obvious function of being a queen, that of bearing a child. Nor would she name a successor as Parliament begged her to do, since Elizabeth was convinced this would increase, quite a than ease, both the political tension and her personal danger (66). Elizabeth Is system to retain political power may have prevented the usurpation of her authority by a husband, simply it did cause disfavor among the English citizens, especially as she grew older without announcing an heir.Anxiety over the succession led to discourtesy for Elizabeth I, with many people gossiping that she did not marry because she was an unnatural womanhood. Levin writes, there were rumors that Elizabeth had an impediment that would interdict regular sexual relations (86). Levin results an example for these rumors in an excerpt of a letter from her cousin Mary Stuart indubitably you are not deal other women, and it is folly to advance the notion of your marriage with the Duke of Alencon, perceive that such a conjugal union would never be consummated (86).Others claimed that Elizabeth I had illegitimate children who were unbroken secret (Levin 85). These accusations indicate that English citizens, as well as family relations, perceived Elizabeth Fs prolonged maidenhood as unnatural and even monstrous. Although Elizabeth I was willing to admit to Parliament that she had spent much of her expertness, she was careful to go the image of herself as a young woman to the public. One important example of this method is the famous Rainbow Portrait, which Elizabeth I commissioned in approximately 1600, the same period Hamlet was written.Even though Elizabeth I was sixty-seven years old when the painting was commissioned, she appears in the painting to be a young woman (Levin). Elizabeth I created an intricate and diverse image of herself. As an unmarried monarch, she became Englands Virgin Queen. Possessing two bodies, Elizabeth I set up masculine authority as Prince and as mother to her subjects. As Elizabeth I grew older, she relied on iconography to deceive the English populace into viewing her as young and vital. These diverse representations of Elizabeth I are complexly reflected in Hamlet.The similarities between Elizabeth I and Gertrude are obvious both women are perceived as indulgent, sensuous monarchs and are criticized for attempting to act like women younger than their true ages. To Gertrude, Hamlet even states, O shame, where is thy blush? (3. 4. 91). Despite these correspondences, a more than interesting analogy exists between Elizabeth I and the character of Hamlet. The paper will compare Elizabeth I, who claimed to have the embrace and place upright of a king (Levin 1) with Hamlet, a prince often castigated for acting in a stereotypically feminine manner. Reflections of Elizabe th Is Constructed Identities in HamletOne attempt by Elizabeth I to maintain her image as the Virgin Queen was a use of heavy cosmetics in an effort to make herself look younger and therefore stronger. Mullaney quotes Jesuitical priest Anthony Rivers as describing Elizabeth Is makeup at few celebrations in 1600, when Hamlet was written, to be in some places near half an inch thick (147). Unfortunately for Elizabeth I, this attempt to hide the weakness of her age seems only to have exacerbated her subjects contempt for the assumed weakness of her sex. M. P. Tilley observes that during the late Elizabethan period, there was a strong quality against a woman using cosmetics (312).Women who used cosmetics, according to popular feeling, altered their bodies, the creations of God, and were therefore not only immodest but blasphemous. According to Mullaney, women who used cosmetics considered to be false women because they created a deceptive face to supercede the one given to them by Go d altering their natural female appearance made them not truly women. Not only were cosmetics blasphemous and dishonest, they were physically destructive. A woman who painted her face in the Renaissance thus arguably destroyed her person in every way possible spiritually and bodily.Hamlet displays notable disgust toward painted women, yet critics have overlooked that many of the contemporary Renaissance objections to womens use of cosmetics apply to Hamlets actions. Similar to the way that painted women used cosmetics to disguise the faces that God had given them, Hamlet localises on his antic disposition to disguise the faculties of reason which God has given him (1. 5. 192), faculties which in the Renaissance were an demand aspect of the virtuous man. Whether or not Hamlet is truly mad, he constructs a persona to dissimulate his purpose of penalize.Painted women were disparaged for poisoning their personify with dangerous chemicals Hamlet engages in a dangerous involve to str ike back his father, and because of his quest for revenge, he is fatally poisoned. By assuming an antic disposition, a false face, Hamlet is physically poisoned by the bated sword of Laertes. Laertes poison destroys Hamlets body natural and symbolically disrupts the body politic, since Hamlet will be unable to rule Denmark. In addition to putting on an antic disposition, a type of face painting, Hamlet possesses other womanly attributes that would arguably have caused some anxiety.Mullaney asserts that popular notion in the Renaissance, especially in the final years of Elizabeth Is reign, was against the rule of a female monarch. The English people had always been hesitant to accept a female queen as Elizabeth I grew older and more infirm, their tolerance for being ruled by a woman diminished. Mullaney further argues that this intolerance was a part of the English subjects realization that Elizabeth I was feeble and politically weakening for the Renaissance misogyny may in fact be an integral part of the mourning process when the lost object or angel being processed is a woman, especially but not exclusively when that woman is a queen of England, too (140). As the English publics grief for the decline of their queens strength increased, so too did their contempt for her bodily weakness and inability to govern effectively. Reflecting anxiety about Elizabeths I old age and infirmity, Hamlet displays a stereotypically feminine quality that makes him problematic as heir to the Danish throne.Early in the play, Claudius chides Hamlet for his unmanly grief concerning the passing of his father (1. 2. 98). Elaine Showalter claims that Hamlets emotional vulnerability can readily be conceptualized as feminine (223). Discussing Hamlets creation of a mad persona, Carol Thomas Neely also lists passivity and loss of control among Hamlets feminine attributes during his period of wildness (326). Hamlets emotional vulnerability and passivity, when considered in the politica lly-charged atmosphere of the late Elizabethan period, can even be seen as his d professfall.Mullaney, quoting Tennenhouse, argues that Hamlet is a play keenly aware of its late Elizabethan status, in which the impending transfer of power from one monarch to other had to be rethought in view of the aging body of the queen (149). He goes on to view Hamlet as inhabiting a male-constructed orb. Mullaney asserts that like other Shakespearean males, Hamlet achieves a partial if suicidal resolution of the contradictions of patriarchy by constructing a world that is not so much gendered as free from gender differentiationa world that is all male (158).It is believable that Hamlets true problem is actually the oppositehis world is too female, or rather feminine. Despite the small number of females in the play, Hamlet presents a feminine character in a male body, a twisted reflection of Elizabeth I, who claimed to have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but the mall and stomach of a ki ng (Levin 1). Hamlet possesses the body of a prince, but the heart and stomach of a woman a fusion which was particularly problematic in the misogynistic environment that prevailed during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.As a feminine character in the body of a male, particularly one who, as Claudius observes, is most immediate to the throne (1. 2. 113), Hamlet cannot be allowed to survive and assume the throne. His oddment, as well as the passage of the Danish monarchy to the quintessential warrior figure, Fortinbras, reflects the transition of the throne from Elizabeth I to James I. James Is ascension to the English throne alleviated some anxiety of female sovereignty, although his reign showed his peevish, cowardly, and self-indulgent disposition.When Hamlet puts on an antic disposition, crafting himself as mad, he evinces natural traits that are usually associated with feminine weakness. Hamlet is beset with passivity and indecision, two qualities often ascribed to women in the Renaissance (Woodbridge 275-99). Passivity and indecision impede and nearly thwart his quest to accompany his fathers demand for revenge. Davis D. McElroy claims that Hamlet, in addition to considering the ghosts exhortation to avenge him, contemplates taking no action at all. McElroy examines the curtain raising five lines of the to be or not to be soliloquy To be, or not to be, that is the questionWhether is nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing, end them. (3. 1. 64-8) McElroy alleges that these lines, which are generally believed to be Hamlets argument regarding suicide, constitute a different deliberation on revenge killing Claudius, as the alleged ghost of his father demands, or taking no action at alla more cowardly decision, certainly, but definitely safer. McElroy compares the two options by examining the rhetoric of chiasmusclaiming that to be refers to taking arms again st Claudius and not to be refers to suffering outrageous fortune. He argues that the speech pertains more moderately to revenge than suicide because killing oneself is more like avoiding ones troubles than opposing them (544). It can be posited that Hamlets indecision concerning his consecrate to avenge his father parallels Elizabeth Fs refusal to name an heir. As Tennenhouse observes, Where Claudius would be second to Hamlet and Hamlets line in a patrilineal system, the queens husband and uncle of the kings son occupies the privileged male position in a matrilinear system... It is to be expected that Claudius could not legally possess the crown, the matrilinear succession having the weaker claim on British political thinking. (89) Hamlets duty is not merely to uphold his promise of vengeance. He also has an obligation to his republic to see Claudius removed from the throne and Hamlet, the rightful ruler in patrilineal succession, put in his place. When Hamlet contemplates neglec ting this obligation, he endangers the succession to the Danish throne in much the same way that Elizabeth Is secrecy concerning her own succession endangers England.Arguably, Hamlet fails in his responsibility to protect the Danish succession after Hamlets death, Fortinbras, a Norwegian, assumes the throne. Although Fortinbras is a better candidate than the corrupt Claudius, he is a member of Norways royal line, not Denmarks. Elizabeth Is refusal to marry consigns England to a similar fate regarding kingship and royal lines. James I is a member of the British royal family, but he is a Stuart, not a Tudor. As the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I secures her own power by refusing to name a successor during her life measure, but she allows her familial line to die with her.Elizabeth I also defend her political authority by crafting several personas. As seen in the Rainbow Portrait, she took liberally from mythological figures, such as Astraea, Flora, and Diana. Just as Elizabeth I appropria ted the appearance and muliebrity of goddesses, Hamlet appropriates the masculine authority he observes in Fortinbras. Hamlet attempts to construct a persona that goes beyond an antic disposition, wanting to fashion himself as a strong son and leader of Denmark.After hearing of Fortinbrass plan to attack a desolate scope of Poland, Hamlet resolves to emulate the militant Fortinbras by fashioning himself as a bloody avenger How stem I, then, That have a father killed, a mother stained, Excitements of my reason and my blood, And let all sleep O, from this time forth My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth (4. 4. 59-62, 68-9) Although Hamlet desires to construct himself as an aggressive and violent fighter, he is never able to attain Fortinbrass forcefulness. Hamlets passivity here shows weakness and debility, not qualities appropriate in a military leader or a monarch.Although Hamlet attempts to assume the maleness of Fortinbras, shaping himself as a potent agent of revenge, Ha mlets attempted emulation of Fortinbrass masculinity is merely another false front. Hamlet recognizes his own passivity, but however much he tries to counter and suppress it, his femininity is too firmly a part of his personality for him to overcome it completely. Even though Hamlet seeks to avenge his fathers murder, he is unable to kill Claudius in Act three, scene three. Hamlet decides not to kill Claudius at his attempted prayer, and he thus does not do what he has resolved to do.At this point in the play, the audience sees a fluid character, one who first fashions himself as mad, then earnestly attempts to mold himself like the soldier Fortinbras. However much Hamlet views himself as mutable, he cannot override his passive nature. Hamlet attempts to put on Fortinbrass masculine disposition after killing Polonius and assuring the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, yet even after returning(a) from his voyage to England, Hamlet is caught in his feminine passivity. Despite hi s earlier resolve that his thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth (4. 4. 69), Hamlet makes no move against Claudius.He walks with Horatio in the graveyard, where he learns of Ophelias death (5. 1. 253), and he attacks Laertes at her gravesite (5. 1. 273), but he still clings to his false antic disposition. Gertrude calls his behavior mere madness and compares Hamlet to a female dove (5. 1. 302, 304). Hamlets shock and grief at learning about Ophelias death could excuse his distraction from attacking Claudius, but Hamlet delays his task too long. By waiting for Laertes dispute instead of choosing his own time to confront Claudius, Hamlet is forced to fight on the treacherous kings terms and dies at the tip of Laertes poisoned sword.Hamlets struggle mirrors the rule of Elizabeth I, who controlled her public image through elaborately constructed personas. Similar to Hamlet, Elizabeth I attempted to disguise or suppress her feminine weakness. She proclaimed that she possessed a mascul ine body politic despite her female body natural. Elizabeth I maintained supremacy throughout her reignno easy task for a woman in the Renaissanceyet her refusal to marry and produce heirs finish the Tudor line of succession.Hamlets plight reflects the anxiety experienced by many English subjects as Elizabeth I grew older with no children to succeed her as Elizabeth I aged, the question of the sovereigns role or representation to provide for the common welfare became increasingly critical. The Queen was still a mere woman, even though she had the heart and stomach of a king (Levin 1). Equally, Hamlet strives to create a public persona that corresponds with the masculine strength of Fortinbras, but he ultimately succumbs to feminine passivity, even though he is a prince. ConclusionHamlet reflects the anxiety of many of Elizabeth Is subjects concerning the strength of their Queen and the succession of the monarchy. With no husband and no heir to the throne, the political security of the country was at stake. Furthermore, many citizens were concerned with Elizabeth Is aging body and her undignified attempts to appear younger. This concern developed in many cases into contempt for Elizabeth Is deceptive manipulations of her image. Hamlet has many feminine characteristics that, especially in the climate of Elizabeth Is decline, make him unsuitable as a ruler or potential king.Although he is not naturally suited to the masculine requirements of kingship, Hamlet strives to overcome his feminine nature in order to doctor the honor and dignity of his family and kingdom. Although he accomplishes this end, his femininity delays him until he is betrayed by Claudius treachery. Hamlet removes Claudius from the throne, but at the court of many lives, and the Danish monarchy passes to a Norwegian ruler. Like Elizabeth I, Hamlet tries to recreate his identity to gain compulsory respect and authority, but ultimately fails to protect his fathers line of succession.In Hamlet, readers can surmise some of the feelings Shakespeare may have experienced in the growing misogyny that permeated the final years of Elizabeth Is reign. Like Hamlet, Elizabeth I was not without flaws, and her subjects came to resent her for these weaknesses, anticipating the advent of a more powerfuland masculinemonarch. As Shakespeare demonstrates with Hamlets poignant death and with Fortinbrass triumph, a stronger, more manful monarch is not necessarily a more admirable or exemplary one.Works Cited Greenblatt, Stephen. Renaissance Self-Fashioning From More to Shakespeare. Chicago U of Chicago P, 1980.Levin, Carole. The Heart and Stomach of a world-beater Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power. Philadelphia U of Pennsylvania P, 1994. McElroy, Davis D. To Be, or Not to BeIs That the Question? College English 25. 7 (1964) 543-545. Mullaney, Steven. Mourning and Misogyny Hamlet, The Revengers Tragedy, and the Final Progress of Elizabeth I, 1600-1607. Shakespeare Quarterly 4 5. 2 (1994) 139-62. Neely, Carol Thomas. Documents in fury Reading Madness and Gender in Shakespeares Tragedies and Early Modern Culture. Shakespeare Quarterly 42. 3 (1991) 315-38. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Eds. Barbara A.Mowat and Paul Werstine. saucy York Washington Square P, 1992. Showaiter, Elaine. Representing Ophelia Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism. Hamlet Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical and Historical Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from tailfin Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Boston Bedford Books of St. Martins Press, 1994. Tennenhouse, Leonard. Power on Display The Politics of Shakespeares Genres. New York Methuen, 1986. Tilley, M. P, I project Heard of Your Paintings Too. (Hamlet III, i, 148). The Review of English Studies 5. 19 (1929) 312-17

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