To what extent do parents have the right to "spy" or check up on their children? What circumstance might allow or prevent this? Who spies on Hamlet and why? What are the justifications for this? Use specific lines from the play to support your response.

Parents might "spy" if they believe their children are in danger or might harm themselves or others. Claudius checks up on Hamlet because he fears that his nephew might be a danger to his rule. Gertrude asks Hamlet's friends about his mental state because she fears that he is going through a bout of madness or is not feeling well.

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Parents are concerned for their children’s emotional and physical well-being. They might feel the need to check up on their children if they perceive a danger. Their justification would be that they are trying to keep their children safe. While spying constantly during normal times when there is no threat would not be acceptable, one could argue that threatening times might allow for such spying to take place to protect the children.

King Claudius is suspicious of Hamlet and believes he might endanger Claudius’s ability to retain his crown. Claudius is guilty of murder and he does not want anyone to find out. When he suspects that Hamlet may be a threat, he enlists Polonius and Ophelia to ascertain what Hamlet knows. He also instructs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to accompany Hamlet to England to keep an eye on him.

The king justifies his actions by saying that he is concerned for Hamlet’s health and welfare. In reality, he is only concerned about himself. On the outside, Claudius tries to appear as the loving uncle, devoted husband, and concerned king. “Something have you heard / Of Hamlet’s transformation,” he says as he asks Hamlet’s friends to report his secrets to the king. He tells Gertrude that he is using Ophelia to find out what’s in Hamlet’s mind, and they can deduce, “as he is behaved, / If ‘t be the’ affliction of his love or no/That thus he suffers for.” Claudius is not really interested in helping Hamlet out of a depression; he only wants to know if Hamlet suspects him. In truth, he is merely a murderer covering up his dastardly deed for fear of losing the throne he stole.

Gertrude, on the other hand, genuinely loves her son and is worried about him. She wishes to know that Hamlet is well and not sinking into a depressed state. She tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that Hamlet “hath much talked of you, / and sure I am two men there is not living / To whom he more adheres.” Her motivation is concern for her son’s health, and she believes that reaching out to his friends is the quickest way to help him. The Queen hopes that Ophelia is the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior and he will be back to normal again, saying, “So shall I hope your virtues / Will bring him to his wonted way again.” Her motivation is that of a concerned mother trying to help her child be happy.

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