Antiheroism In Hamlet (758 words) Essay

Antiheroism In HamletAntiheroism has always been an interesting aspect of a
character that authors have chosen to illustrate. In
literature, there has been countless antiheroic characters,
from Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s
Nest and Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast, to others as
famous as Robin Hood and … By literary definition, an
antihero is the hero of the play or novel, but has
negative attributes which separate him or her from the
classic hero such as Superman. Such negative aspects
may include a violent nature, use of coarse language, or
self serving interests which may inadvertently depict the
protagonist as a hero since the result of serving those
interests may be the betterment of society or an
environment. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the
protagonist, Hamlet, is depicted as an antihero. One main
factor which gives Hamlet such a label is that he draws
sympathy, as well as admiration, from the reader since
Hamlet feels the pain of losing his father along with the
burden and obstacles in avenging his murder. Act four
places a special emphasis on Hamlet’s intelligence. In
scene two, Hamlet is very insolent and rude towards
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with such phrases as, That
I can keep your counsel and not, mine own. Beside, to
be demanded of a sponge, what replication should be
made by the son of a king? (IV, ii, 12-14) The reference
to the sponge reflects the fact that Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern are easily ordered by the king and do not
have minds of their own. Hamlet does not like
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern since they are servants of
the Claudius, Hamlet’s mortal enemy. The reader does
not like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern either which
causes the reader to side with Hamlet.

Another incident of Hamlet’s high intelligence is shown
when he Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, I am
glad of it: a knavish sleeps in a foolish ear. (IV, ii, 24-25)
This statement leaves Rosencrantz and Guildenstern more
or less confused. Hamlet is clearly more clever than the
two of them combined and is able to toy with
them.Hamlet has an excellent command of the language
and because of it, can use words to the point that those
around him will not understand and may label him as
crazy. Hamlet shows another example of his cleverness,
this time towards Claudius, when he says, I see a cherub
that sees them. But, come; for England! Farewell, dear
mother. (IV, iii, 49-50) The cherub, or the angel, gives
Hamlet a sense of superiority over Claudius. Having an
angel at one’s side would be a definite sign of power,
which is exactly what Hamlet tries to maintain over
Claudius in their constant power struggle. Just when
Claudius thinks he controls Hamlet, it is really Hamlet
who has the upper hand over Claudius.

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There are very strong philosophical references made by
Hamlet in this act regarding life and death. Hamlet tells
Claudius, Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we
fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for
maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
variable service, two dishes, but to one table: that’s the
end. (IV, iii, 21-26) This statement id a reference to the
food chain, and in turn, a reflection on the meaning of life.

It illustrates the equality of men in that whether one is
born to be a king or a beggar, when one dies, we are all
equal. Worms and maggots do not treat anybody
differently once one is dead and buried.

The final scene draws the greatest sympathy towards
Hamlet even though he is not even in the scene. The
forces of Claudius and Laertes have combined against
Hamlet. Claudius states, To an exploit now ripe in my
device, Under the which he shall not choose but fall, And
for his death no wind of blame shall breathe; But even his
mother shall unchange the practice, And call it accident.

(IV, vii, 65-69) Claudius is willing to undertake any
measures necessary to eliminate Hamlet, to the point that
it does not matter whether or not it hurts Gertrude in any
way. This scene depicts Hamlet as the victim, much like
two bullies picking on a smaller child in school, since the
king, with the aid of Laertes, is out to kill Hamlet, this
time with a passion. Much like a political revolutionary,
Hamlet has the system against him and is facing death
because of his loyalty and honour towards his father.

The fact that Hamlet’s life is not indeed in jeopardy
attributes to his hero status. In addition, his only fault is
the desire to avenge his father’s murder, an act
considered completely honourable by the reader.

However, Hamlet’s negative attributes include his
rudeness towards others, including the fair Ophelia, and a
violent nature as shown when he kills Polonius, albeit
accidently, and shows no remorse, causing a
reclassification from the classic hero, to the more


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