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Death of a Salesman versus HamletDo you think that there are any parallels between...

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missjayne | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 2, 2007 at 5:06 PM via web

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Death of a Salesman versus Hamlet

Do you think that there are any parallels between Death of a Salesman and Shakespeare's Hamlet?

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted January 11, 2008 at 11:36 AM (Answer #2)

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Absolutely.
I see two abandoned sons seeking to vindicate the lives of their fathers.
They are both surrounded by and feel judged by two men.
They hesitate as they pursue their goals.
Both see ghosts that provoke them, chide them, and dare them to be men.
Both embody their country. Hamlet would be Denmark, Willie is the personification of the American Dream.
Both seem adrift between sanity and insanity.
Neither can find a clear value to the life around them.
They contemplate death and the “undiscovered country” beyond death.
They focus on funerals and ceremonial moments in the past.

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted January 11, 2008 at 11:49 AM (Answer #3)

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I think there are a lot of similarities and would especially focus in on the fact that both plays feature a central father-son dynamic.

In Hamlet, the father is dead and only appears as a ghost to try to spur his son to action. In Death of a Salesmen, the father's day-to-day existence is like being a ghost, and he also attempts to help his son(s).

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stephenswain | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 26, 2008 at 2:36 PM (Answer #4)

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Absolutely.
I see two abandoned sons seeking to vindicate the lives of their fathers.
They are both surrounded by and feel judged by two men.
They hesitate as they pursue their goals.
Both see ghosts that provoke them, chide them, and dare them to be men.
Both embody their country. Hamlet would be Denmark, Willie is the personification of the American Dream.
Both seem adrift between sanity and insanity.
Neither can find a clear value to the life around them.
They contemplate death and the “undiscovered country” beyond death.
They focus on funerals and ceremonial moments in the past.

Consider this aspect: Both Hamlet and Willy Loman are ultimately traduced by the authority figure in the case. In Hamlet's case, it is the usurping king, his Uncle. In Loman's case, it is his delusional faith that the market, represented by his company, will recognize his value as a human being, and reward him appropriately.

This principle repeats itself in macro form in the US economy daily, as millions of workers are shed by the organizations in whom they had (mistakenly, as it turns out) placed their trust.

The difference is that Hamlet sorted out the culpability, taking his own share of responsibility "To be or not to be ...") while Willy never fully did.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 21, 2012 at 8:59 PM (Answer #5)

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I agree with many of the ideas posted above. Hamlet and Willy, as characters, are both dealing with questions of failure and fate. Each sees that the future is almost certain to lead to one kind of failure or another.

They are forced to negotiate with this prediction. 

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