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In what ways is the Pyrrhus character similar to Hamlet and to Claudius?
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High School Teacher
Well, in order to really answer your question, I must tell you the background story of Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus is the son of Achilles, who was killed by Paris during the Trojan war. Pyrrhus wants vengence for his father's death. Since Paris is already dead, he seeks out his family--including Paris' father, Priam.
So obviously, Pyrrhus is a foil to Hamlet--a son seeking vengence for his father's death.
Let's look toward the speech for futher comparison:
The rugged Pyrrhus, like th' Hyrcanian beast,--
it is not so:-- it begins with Pyrrhus:--
'The rugged Pyrrhus,--he whose sable arms,
Black as his purpose,did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse,--
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd
With heraldry more dismal; head to foot
Now is be total gules; horridly trick'd
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and a damned light
To their vile murders: roasted in wrath and fire,
And thus o'ersized with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.'
So, proceed you.
This initial description of Pyrrhus is less than favorable. He is like a madmad--covered from head to foot with the dried blood of his enemies. And not just his father's killer, but everyone--children, women,--everyone related to Paris. He is in a crazed blood frenzy over his need for vengence.
Anon he finds him,
Striking too short at Greeks: his antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command: unequal match'd,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base; and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear: for lo! his sword,
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverend Priam, seem'd i' the air to stick:
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood;
And, like a neutral to his will and matter,
This is interesting--Pyrrhus has his sword poised to kill Priam (who, coincidentally, his own father, Achilles, had onced spared) when for some reason, he hesitates--frozen for a moment. This hesitation could be a symbol of Hamlet's own hesitation in killing Claudius and seeking his own revenge for the murder of his father, Old Hamlet
But as we often see, against some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus' pause,
A roused vengeance sets him new a-work;
And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
On Mars's armour, forg'd for proof eterne,
With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam.--
Eventually Pyrrhus acts on his desire for vengence, and mercilessly kills Priam--hacking him into little bits. This seems like "overkill" (pardon the pun). And it shows that Pyrrhus is a vicious sort. He is far less noble than his father, Achilles, who could show mercy. In these scene, reminds the reader of Claudius, who shows no mercy when it comes to getting what he wants. He kills his own brother for the crown and queen. He plots Hamlet's death when Hamlet seems a threat to him.
BUT, this merciless hacking away at the corpse of Priam and the gore-covered Pyrrhus could also be a foreshadowing of the ultimate carnage that will result from Hamlet's vengence.
Look to the enotes link below for the entire speech.
I have also placed a link below for another web site that discusses the parrallels between Pyrrhus, Hamlet, and Claudius.
Posted by rowens on April 29, 2007 at 4:03 AM (Answer #1)
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