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Discuss loyalty, betrayal, and depresssion in "Hamlet."How do these affect Hamlet?

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sweetsoso | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 3, 2008 at 9:26 AM via web

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Discuss loyalty, betrayal, and depresssion in "Hamlet."

How do these affect Hamlet?

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 3, 2008 at 10:25 AM (Answer #2)

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All of these are major themes in "Hamlet," and have very strong effects on Hamlet himself. Loyalty to his father drives him to seek revenge on his uncle, Claudius, who murdered King Hamlet. What is sad, though, is that Hamlet has so few people who are loyal to him. Horatio is really the only one that Hamlet knows he can trust to not betray him, either on purpose or by accident.

Betrayal, then, has an enormous affect on Hamlet. He feels betrayed by his mother, Gertrude, for marrying so quickly after her husband's death...and marrying her own brother-in-law to boot! He feels betrayed by Ophelia, who is a puppet in the hands of her father and brother, Polonius and Laertes, despite the fact that they had both professed their love for one another at some point prior to the play's beginning. Even betrayal by his "friends," Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, for being so easily led by Claudius into spying on him.

Finally, depression is something that plagues Hamlet from the very beginning of the play. He is depressed at his father's death, depressed at his mother's hasty remarriage, and then, understandably, depressed at the news that his father did not die of natural causes. Hamlet struggles with depression even once he is set on his determined course of revenge against Claudius.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 4, 2008 at 11:15 AM (Answer #3)

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Other characters, too are affected by these calamities. Ophelia comes to mind and Horatio, to a certain extent.

Both of these characters are very close to Hamlet and being close to one who suffers makes it impossible for some of it not to rub off on oneself.

Ophelia, then, is driven mad.  She feels rejected and betrayed by Hamlet, and then as she is forbidden to see him by both her father and brother, she falls into depression.  Once Polonius is dead, she allows herself to sink--literally and figuratively--into the deep dark depression from which there is no return.

Horatio, also, feels Hamlet's betrayal of Gertrude and Claudius.  He is so taken by the death of Hamlet that he swears to drink the poison and die alongside Hamlet.  Horatio, being the only true friend of Hamlet, does not drink at Hamlet's request since the Prince of Denmark has asked him to remain alive in order to tell the true story.

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