Buying Out of Trouble in HamletWhat character is concerned about buying his way out of trouble?

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reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Metaphorically, there are a few characters who desire to buy their way out of trouble.First of all, Claudius kills his brother, marries his brother's wife, Gertrude, and takes the throne while plotting to kill Hamlet, his nephew-son. He tries to pray and even kneels, attempting to gain forgiveness for these sins in Act III: "Bow, stubborn knees...Words without thoughts never to heaven go" (3.4.65-98). However, the attempt to pray does not work!

Perhaps Ophelia tries to buy her way out of trouble through her downward spiral into madness. Rather than being able to face the situation of Hamlet's apparent change in character and his killing of her father, Polonious, she, instead, takes refuge in her own world :"Poor Ophelia, divided from herself and her fair judgement" (4.5.84-85).

Of all the characters, on a metaphorical level, Hamlet may attempt to buy himself out of trouble using his inability to take action. The Ghost sets him on the path to avenge his father's death. Hamlet does not have it in his heart to kill Claudius. He uses the actors to buy himself time, to assure himself of Claudius's guilt. He has opportunity to kill Claudius, yet he doesn't take it. In the end, there is no buying oneself out of trouble in this play as all the main characters are destroyed by each other!

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rosencratz and Guildenstern try to buy themselves out of trouble as well.  In Act 2.2, Gertrude and Claudius press the former friends into service buy promising them rewards for information about Hamlet's intentions. 

Gertrude gently challenges them to live up to their potential positions within the court, asking that they “show us so much gentry and goodwill/ As to expend your time with us a while / For the supply and profit of our hope, /  Your visitation shall receive such thanks / As fits a king’s remembrance” (2.2. 21.26). 

Consider the not-so-subtle prodding here!  Are you from good enough stock to be “gentry”?  Gentry, she is arguing, would necessarily afford a king and queen “goodwill,” thus proving themselves as being true friends of the court.  It would take a strong young man to deny a direct request from his king and queen, to shame his family, and squander his future.  But Gertrude makes her temptation even more irresistible by rather overtly promising immediate monetary reward for what the “friends” might easily convince themselves was no hardship anyway.  After all, they did care about the prince’s health, didn’t they?

This information comes from the Literature 101 blog that I write here at eNotes.  For complete discussions of Hamlet, you might want to visit my pages. 


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