Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
Fit for a King
What qualities come to mind when you think of a king, or any ruler for that
matter? A ruler needs to be very trustworthy, honest, hard working, fair, just, forgiving
and intelligent. Especially where there is a king, as in the play Hamlet, by William
Shakespeare, because a king is in charge of the whole community. He has to keep in mind
all of his subjects as he makes tons of decisions every day. A king is a symbol of his land.
There cannot be a strong country without a strong king. In this play, which character
would make a better king, Claudius or Hamlet, when all of their qualities and
characteristics are examined? Hamlet would have been a better ruler because throughout
the play he demonstrated how smart he was, how he thought things out before acting,
how he questions things to find the truth and how he is a better person than Claudius.
Claudius is considered by some to be a good king, despite the means by which he
obtained the throne. He did prevent Fortinbras from coming in and taking over the
country. But you have to remember that Claudius is also a villain, a murderer, a
conspirator, and a liar. Claudius killed his own brother and married his wife just a few
weeks later. There is no way that people could or should respect a person that does
something of this nature.
The reader is also shown later in the story that Claudius is not even sorry for
killing his brother. Luckily for him, Hamlet misses the last lines of his prayer. He said
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven
go?(Act III, Scene 3). This shows the reader that although Claudius is saying a praying
and saying his is sorry for what he has done, he does not really mean it, therefore he is not
really sorry. A person going to church and just sitting there for an hour, not praying,
listening or singing demonstrates what Claudius is doing. Just the fact that you are there
or that you are saying a prayer is not enough, you have to mean it, otherwise it is just a
waste of your time. Claudius? life was spared, temporarily, because Hamlet did not hear
this part of his prayer.
Claudius, by the end of the play has caused more than half a dozen deaths, King
Hamlet, Hamlet, Gertrude, Laertes, Polonius, and himself just to name the main ones. It is
because of Claudius? scheming that the end of the play is so plagued by death. When you
look at this side of Claudius it makes it hard to image how he could have ever been a good
king, if in fact he was a good leader. It was Claudius? obsession for control and power
that ruined a great kingdom.
The question left to be answered however is this, would Hamlet have made a good
king? Hamlet possessed many qualities that would have made him a suitable king. First of
all, his father was the king, so he was royalty and obviously had some knowledge of what
a king needed to do. Second, he was a smart individual. We see at the beginning of the
play that he is just coming back from a university in Wittenberg. Throughout the play all
Hamlet wants to do is go back to the university. It is because of his education that he has
such a questioning attitude, which plays a huge role in the whole play.
Being a scholar, Hamlet is prone to thought rather than actions. He contemplates
every action, prepares for the reaction, and also weighs the consequences. Hamlet
questions things from the very beginning when he asks Horatio why he has come. Horatio
answers that he has come for Hamlet?s father?s funeral, but Hamlet says in reply ?I pray
thee, do not mock me, fellow-student; I think it was to see my mother?s wedding?(Act I,
Scene 2). Horatio then tells us that Hamlet is correct. This series of events shows how
Hamlet has an ability to find the truth and how he questions things to make sure they are
the truth. Even though it is just a little question, not merely as important as some of the
other stuff that occurs, it is a good example of what kind of person Hamlet really is.
There are other times in the play where he questions things that he is told. What
the ghost tells him is probably the best example and the most important one. First of all he
asks the guards a bunch of questions regarding the ghost. Was it armed? Did you see his
face? Was it pale or red? Did it stay long? These were the type of questions that Hamlet
was asking, so he could know more fully what exactly was going on and have a more
detailed idea of what had happened. Even when Hamlet talks to the ghost and finds out
that his father was murdered by the one that now holds the crown, Claudius, he questions
that to be sure that it wasn?t a trick or that the ghost wasn?t lying. Hamlet says later in the
play, ?The spirit that I have seen may be the devil; and the devil hath power to assume a
pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps out of my weakness and my melancholy, as he is very
potent with such spirits, abuses me to damn me?(Act II, Scene 2). Hamlet is basically
saying I can?t totally believe this ghost even though it may look like my father, I must find
out for myself.
This whole questioning attitude, which may seem stupid but is actually a very good
thing, leads to Hamlet having the players put on what he calls ?The Mousetrap?. Hamlet
says, ?The plays the thing wherein I?ll catch the conscience of the king?(Act II, Scene 2).
By this he means that he is going to have a play put on that is a reenactment of Claudius?
killing King Hamlet and watch for Claudius? reaction to the play. If Claudius starts
getting squirmy or uneasy, Hamlet will no for sure that Claudius did in fact kill his father.
This play also shows us another side of Hamlet?s intellect, his fairness and his
realization of his bias and want for revenge. Hamlet himself would probably take any little
movement by Claudius as a confession of guilt simply because he is angry about his
father?s death and wants revenge so very badly. Revenge causes one to act blindly
through anger, rather than through reason. It is based on the principle of an eye for an
eye, which is ultimately what Hamlet wants, to avenge his father?s death by killing
Claudius. But Hamlet is aware of his emotions and that is why he tells Horatio, ?I prithee,
when thou sees that act a-foot, even with the very comment of thy soul observe my uncle:
if his occulted guilt do not itself unkennel in one speech it is a damned ghost that we have
seen, and my imaginations are as foul as Vulcan?s stithy?(Act III, Scene 2). This is a great
example of Hamlet knowing his limitations, he has asked the just and fair minded Horatio
to help him judge. It is things like this that would have made Hamlet a good king.
Hamlet has one of the most well known soliloquies of all time. The old ?To be or
not to be? speech, but although many people know the beginning of this speech, emphasis
on the beginning because less people know the middle and the true meaning of his speech.
Hamlet goes on to ask ?Whether ?tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of
outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.
To die: to sleep; no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand
natural shocks that flesh is heir to?(Act III, Scene 1). The meaning of this speech is
whether or not he should kill himself. Again he is questioning and weighing the choices,
should he continue his struggle for revenge or end his troubles by way of committing
suicide. This part of the play shows the reader many qualities of Hamlet. It shows how he
to is human and how he is hurting, how he thinks things out instead of acting irrationally,
and how he questions things.
Besides his intellectual qualities and his questioning attitude Hamlet also shows
another characteristic that a king should have. As we return to the scene where Claudius
is praying, we see that Hamlet almost forgives him. Maybe you can?t go that far as to say
Hamlet forgives him, but rather he forgets about seeking revenge for the moment because
now he is praying and now I?ll do?t: and so he goes to heaven: and so I am revenged.
That would be scanned; a villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same
villain send to heaven?(Act III, Scene 3). Hamlet realizes that he can?t kill Claudius at this
time because as he said, it would send him to heaven. Only Hamlet does not hear the end
of the prayer, an insight that we the reader have knowledge of. But it is good to know
that Hamlet can control his anger because a character like Laertes would have
just went ahead and killed Claudius at that time.
Hamlet also displays many other positive qualities throughout the work. One such
quality is his ability to fight. Although you may not think of this as a positive quality, you
have to remember what was going on at that time. A person of nobility should be trained
with a sword. Also there was war all around the kingdom and a king should be the type of
person that could lead his country. The fact that Hamlet was good with a sword also
showed just how well-rounded an individual he was.
This play shows the reader many of Hamlet?s good qualities and sets Claudius out
to be the bad guy from the beginning. It is obvious by looking at the above examples that
Hamlet would have made a good king, he certainly would have been better than his uncle.
Claudius is shown as a murderer and a liar. It is hard to sympathize with Claudius and his
actions. To kill your own brother, marry his wife, and take over his position as king just is
not something people generally find to be acceptable.
Hamlet on the other hand, shows how he is always thinking. He is an educated
man, who lets revenge control him, but not totally. We see how he is constantly
questioning things, looking at the choices and consequences and thinking before doing.
Hamlet is a well-rounded individual who is smart, clever, determined, tough, and
understandable. It is easy for the reader to get behind Hamlet because he is presented in a
much more positive way and the majority of readers understand the situation he has gone
through. It is understandable that he is mad and that he wants revenge. We live in that
kind of world, where forgive and forget is just that, forgotten. People seek revenge,
although maybe not to the extent of the characters in this play. In general, Hamlet
displays many qualities and characteristics that would have made him a wise, fair and good
king, maybe not the best there has ever been, but certainly better than Claudius.