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Thesis statement for HamletDiscuss the idea(s) developed by Shakespeare about...

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ashifs | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted April 26, 2011 at 6:21 AM via web

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Thesis statement for Hamlet

Discuss the idea(s) developed by Shakespeare about circumstances that compel us to respond for the sake of self-preservation in his play, Hamlet.

I was wondering if what a good thesis statement would be based on the above topic.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 26, 2011 at 7:35 AM (Answer #1)

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This is an excellent topic for a paper on Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Hamlet is often seen as a tragic hero, whose tragic flaw is "indecision," or his inability to make up his mind about when to kill his uncle to avenge his father's murder—which took place at his uncle's hands. Personally, I struggle with this perception for exactly the topic you have listed: Hamlet's desire for self-preservation.

Hamlet does not kill his uncle (the new King) Claudius right away because he has received word of his father's murder from a ghost. Elizabethans believed in ghosts, witches, fairies, demons, etc. And while they believed that ghosts could not do things for themselves or make humans DO things, they could encourage humans to do things for them.

With this in mind, Hamlet is not sure if the ghost who presents himself as Old Hamlet (Hamlet's dad) is a true ghost or a ghost that serves a darker purpose: to win Hamlet's immortal soul to eternal damnation if he unrighteously kills a king. This shows Hamlet's need to "preserve" his soul.

Hamlet is not the only one who is compelled to act in the name of self-preservation. Claudius believes that Hamlet must die so that no one discovers how Claudius became King. As time goes on and Hamlet seems more and more crazy, Claudius' plans to do away with Hamlet become more aggressive: sending him to England to be executed there, and having Laertes poison a sword for the "sword play" between Laertes and Hamlet.

Gertrude, the widow of the old king, is also motivated by self-preservation. She does not remarry for a love Claudius, as far as we know. There is no suggestion that anything existed between them before she wed Claudius. However, without a man to protect her, Gertrude may well have married quickly not only to guarantee that she would have a home and food, but to also guarantee a good life for her son Hamlet.

There are a number of other character who act out of a need for self-preservation. Polonius, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are all interested in remaining in favor with the King, to guarantee themselves comfortable lives. Ironically, with all these many characters in the story with a desire to protect themselves, the actions they take do not, in fact, protect them at all.

If I were to write a thesis statement based on your topic, it might be similar to the following:

In Shakespeare's tragedy of Hamlet, several characters are motivated by the need for self-preservation; ironically, however, their actions do anything but guarantee their survival.

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