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What are some motifs in Hamlet?

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tarabear | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 4, 2007 at 6:15 AM via web

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What are some motifs in Hamlet?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted November 20, 2014 at 7:45 PM (Answer #7)

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One motif that recurs throughout is the motif of couples. The suggestion is that just as people come coupled by twos in friendship or love, so do relationships with them come in dualities of two qualities. These dualities can be love and trust or betrayal, which are significant themes of Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are primary examples of this motif and it's impact on the themes.

At the University of Wittenberg, Hamlet held Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in sincere friendship. Once they arrive in Denmark, summoned by Claudius to aid his understanding of the threat Hamlet--the rightful and expected heir to Old Hamlet's throne--does or does not pose him, they quickly and easily turn on Hamlet, betray their friendship and betray him. In contrast, Horatio, whom Hamlet knows as an individual (not as part of a couple), remains true to Hamlet throughout and is the one to execute Hamlet's dying wishes.

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dwalters76 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 4, 2007 at 6:29 AM (Answer #1)

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Motifs are defined as recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes or characterizations. Two motifs in Hamlet deal with incest and misogyny.

Incest and Incestuous Desire: incest runs throughout the play and is frequently alluded to by Hamlet and the Ghost, most obviously in conversations about Gertrude and Claudius, the former brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are now married.

Misogyny: Shattered by his mother’s decision to marry Claudius so soon after her husband’s death, Hamlet becomes cynical about women in general, showing a particular obsession with what he perceives to be a connection between female sexuality and moral corruption. This motif occurs sporadically throughout the play, but it is an important inhibiting factor in Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia. He urges Ophelia to go to a nunnery rather than experience the corruptions of sexuality.

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lydiahallard | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 22, 2008 at 7:43 AM (Answer #3)

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1. decay and decadence: in descriptions of Claudius, in Marcellus' famous claim that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and repeated throughout the play, vegetative decay symbolizes evil and the irreducible fact of death. The culmination of this might be the moment when a clown gravedigger hands Hamlet the skull of his father's court jester. An interesting contrast is all the floral and herbal imagery surrounding Ophelia. Shakespeare is creating a sonnet-worthy extended metaphor about the fragility of real living things.

2. loyalty: There are many lovely moments in the play where men express trust: these namely occur between Hamlet and Horatio and finally between Hamlet and Laertes, then in Fortinbras' final speech. The fidelity of Horatio is extremely important in establishing the extent of Hamlet's integrity.

3. Unspoken or hidden love: Hamlet pushes Ophelia away because he is tainted; he breaks her heart because he is sure his proximity would only destroy her (and he is right!). In all of Hamlet's words to Ophelia he echoes his first two soliloquies in his preoccupation with his own defilement. Finally, when the other characters witness Ophelia's distracted singing, they believe she is addressing her father. Yet Ophelia addresses her false lover, and also speaks of him as if he were as good as dead.

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annajoan | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 29, 2009 at 9:53 AM (Answer #4)

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the five senses.

mostly hands

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ivyie | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 27, 2009 at 10:33 PM (Answer #5)

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Poison is one of the main ideas tht constintly comes around. The play Hamlet, explres all the different disiuses poison can be, ex. love, lies, revenge, grief, and death by poison. poison is something that can effect your body, not by death alone, but causing madness.

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sanza | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 13, 2011 at 7:34 AM (Answer #6)

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Time; War; Animals; Ears/Hearing; Disease; Wit

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