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Hamlet is an impressively complex play with several subplots reinforcing the main themes in addition to the main plot of Hamlet attempting to discover the validity of the claims made by his father’s Ghost and exact appropriate revenge.  The plot and development of the main characters are strongly driven by the themes of death and madness.

These themes begin to establish themselves in the first act of the play when Hamlet meets his father’s ghost.  The Ghost tells him that Claudius was responsible for his murder.  This murder forms the primary drive behind the plot of the play, and helps to introduce the second theme, also quite early on.  Hamlet, in seeking revenge, decides to “put an antic disposition on” (I, v, 925), feigning insanity in order to try to find out more about Claudius’s role in his father’s death.  Over the course of the play he seems to fall deeper and deeper into actual madness, until eventually Hamlet himself dies as well. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

It’s clear that these themes lay heavy on Hamlet’s mind over the course of the play.  In his Act III, scene i soliloquy he speaks extensively about death.  “For in that sleep of death,” he muses, “what dreams may come, / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, / Must give us pause” (III, i, 1759-1761).  He calls upon death as an end to heartache, “a consummation / Devoutly to be wished” (III, I, 1756-1757).  Although interestingly it is Ophelia, not Hamlet, who ends up committing suicide. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

The sub-plot involving Ophelia’s madness and eventual suicide reinforces the main themes expressed through Hamlet’s character and related plot developments.  When Ophelia goes mad, she sings to herself about death. “He is dead and gone, lady, / He is dead and gone” (IV, v, 2889-2890).  And ultimately ends up, in a fit of madness and still singing, taking her own life.  This sub-plot serves to emphasize the importance of these themes throughout the play.

Revenge is also a strong theme, and it is related to both of the themes that I noted as important.  Because the revenge that Hamlet seeks is for his father’s death, further taking of life can be the only result of it.  And this pressing need to revenge his father’s murder by Claudius is one of the things that drives Hamlet both to feign madness in the beginning acts and to lose his reason more and more over the course of the play.

It is also a direct contributing factor in Ophelia’s suicide, as she becomes an unknowing pawn in the elaborate power struggle that is going on between the various characters.  It could be argued that had Hamlet Sr. not been murdered, his son and Ophelia could eventually have wound up happy and together instead of both tragically dead.  Although she does not play an active role in this revenge narrative, she is manipulated by those that do and this is what causes her to go mad and take her own life. < Click Essay Writer to order your essay >

Even for a tragedy, there is a lot of death in Hamlet.  By the end of the last scene almost all of the main characters have either killed themselves or been killed, and Horatio is essentially the only one left to tell the tale.  From the very beginning one of the characters who contributes the most to driving the plot forward is already dead; the Ghost feeds Hamlet information about Claudius’s treachery and influences him to take action on his behalf.

Without these driving forces the plot would be unable to develop as it does.  Hamlet is more or less doomed to death from the moment he meets his father’s ghost, and this is foreshadowed throughout the play both directly through his musings on the subject and indirectly through events like his choice to catch Claudius in his treachery by comparing his situation to a play in which both the father and the son are killed.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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