In Hamlet, what role does family play in a character's success or failure?
I was planning on focusing my arguments on to the following relationships for Hamlet's failure.
-Hamlet & Hamlet Sr. (ghost)
-Hamlet & Gertrude
-Hamlet & Claudius
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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, family relationships have an undesirable effect on Hamlet's success in avenging his father's murder.
Hamlet and Gertrude have become disconnected. While Hamlet observes that at one time her parents adored each other, he is sickened by how quickly she has married her dead husband's brother.
In reality, a woman of that time would have had little choice if she wanted to survive and live comfortably. Hamlet, however, resents his mother's seeming dismissal of her first husband's memory.
And as Elizabethans believed that when two people married, a piece of each resided in the other, when Claudius sleeps with Gertrude, he is sleeping with a part of his brother. Hamlet perceives theirs as an incestuous relationship.
So mother and son are alienated...and Old Hamlet's ghost tells Hamlet to leave his mother alone and let Heaven sort things out with her. Hamlet is no closer to achieving his purpose in terms of his relationship with his mother.
Hamlet and Claudius have no relationship to begin with. When we first meet Hamlet, his father is dead, and Hamlet's resentment at how quickly Claudius has taken his father's place, especially in his mother's affections and bed, further distance them. When Hamlet believes he finally has proof of his uncle's murder of his father, Hamlet comes upon the King praying, and with no desire to send the man to his death with a "clean" soul, and therefore to Heaven, he does not kill Claudius while he has the opportunity. Hamlet does not realize that in truth, Claudius is unable to pray at that moment; in light of Claudius' praying posture, Hamlet leaves his uncle in peace, no closer to exacting revenge on his father's killer.
Hamlet and Old Hamlet had a very close relationship in life. It is also Hamlet's responsibility as a devoted and dutiful son to avenge his father's murder. Hamlet struggles with whether the ghost is a true ghost or a minister of evil, sent to trick him into killing a king (Claudius) and losing his soul to eternal damnation.
It is Hamlet's indecision that deters him from his task for the most part. And while Old Hamlet appears repeatedly to Hamlet to spur him into action, the time never seems right. Old Hamlet has more of an effect on Hamlet, but it is not until the end that Hamlet kills his uncle, and at that point, everyone but Horatio and Young Fortinbras are dead or dying.
While Hamlet's intentions are good, there is no one, not family members or himself, that are able to help him succeed in exacting revenge for his father's "unnatural" death in the orchard.
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