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In "Hamlet," how is the moral order restored?In Hamlet, the moral order is...

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ansh | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 30, 2008 at 6:49 AM via web

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In "Hamlet," how is the moral order restored?

In Hamlet, the moral order is restored. How can this be proven for most of the characters that die? All the characters die because they apparently have done something wrong and ultimately the land is ruled by Fortinbras, which restores the moral order.

Thank you in advance.

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 30, 2008 at 7:03 AM (Answer #1)

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In Hamlet, evil is unleashed through the horrible deeds of Claudius, the brother of the king, who murders him to steal his crown and his wife.  Gertrude, Hamlet's mother partners with evil, Claudius, by marrying him very quickly after her husband's "apparent" natural death.

When evil is unleashed, it must be conquered. Very often this is accomplished with the death of the instruments of evil, as well as many innocent victims.  Once evil is conquered, as when Hamlet avenges his father's death and kills King Claudius, the natural order of the environment is restored. 

Moral order is restored, when evil is subdued and right thinking once again rules the day.  So, even though there are many deaths in Hamlet, including the protagonist, he as a sacrifice, the kingdom of Denmark is saved from the misguided reign of King Claudius who stole the throne through deception and murder.  Hamlet makes things right.

In this passage he calls evil by its name and it is conquered.  Hamlet, having restored order in Denmark, dies a hero.

Ham. Here, thou incestuous, murderous,
damned Dane,
Drink off this potion;—is thy union here?
Follow my mother. [KING dies. 
Heaven make thee free of it! I follow
thee.
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu! 
   

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reidalot | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 30, 2008 at 9:04 PM (Answer #2)

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I would disagree that all the characters die because they have done something wrong.Many times in life and literature that reflects life, innocent people die. Ophelia is definitely an innocent; she dies. Hamlet is not moved to action, yet he is a brave, noble son. He dies. Polonious may be a bit of a fool, but he is not evil. He dies. Laertes is urged in on the plot to kill Hamlet out of revenge for his father's death, yet he is not evil. He dies. That brings us to Claudius, who, much like Shakespeare's other villains, cannot control his ambition and is morally bankrupt. In his desire for power, the crown, and the Queen, he will commit any atrocity. Gertrude is seemingly unaware of his nature, yet very guilty of a marriage a mere two months after the death of her husband. Your answer really lies in your question: When the leader of a country is morally corrupt, that corruption effects the state. Thus, when Claudius and Gertrude die, the land is cleansed of treachery and moral order is restored. What makes this play heartwrenching is the death of the innocents who also fall.

Sources:

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kneegrow | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 28, 2008 at 2:09 PM (Answer #3)

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    I want to add on the topic of Gertrude because it seems that everyone here is only seeing it one way. I dont fault Gertrude as much for marriying so quickly, she needed to protect her monacrh, and stay queen. She was looking out for her self. 

    But if you take a look at the final scene, it is covered with dead bodies of killers that all die by the poison. Isnt it ironic that Gerturde would die the same way as all the other killers, with the same poison. I belive that she was the one responsible of Ophelias death how else would she know so detailed how she died , she must have been there. So she would get a equal punishemt for killing as all the others killers in that scene did. Thats just another way that it can be looked at.   

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted August 19, 2008 at 7:29 PM (Answer #4)

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Is moral order restored? I suspect Hamlet is more than a black-and-white morality play where good triumphs and everybody lives morally ever after.

There are no only good or only bad characters; Hamlet's not 'good'. His murder of Polonius is unjustifiable, he allows Rosencrantz and Guildernstern to be falsely executed. Even Claudius, the main 'baddie' has a huge long speech where he tries to repent and we see his conscience tortured by guilt and moral indecision. 

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder! Pray can I not...

Try what repentance can. What can it not?
Yet what can it when one cannot repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay.
Bow, stubborn knees; and heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe!
(Act III Sc III)

Claudius is not evil (a meaningless word), he is a human who committed a terrible murder to attain his desires. His is not punished for this, rather he is swept up by the chaos he unleashes.

At the end of the play, Fortinbras marches in and steals the Crown and Kingdom from all of them. Not because he is restoring moral order, but because he acts on his desires and grabs the nettle unlike Hamlet with his beautiful but crippling introspection. Hamlet is not a morality play. It is a play about human nature.

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