Discuss the dramatic presentation of relationships between parents and children in Hamlet

Essay by remi.ahmedCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2008

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A major theme in the play is the relationship between parents and children, with the play centred round the eponymous main character revenging the death of his father. We see filial interactions constantly: Old Hamlet and Young Hamlet, Old Fortinbras and Young Fortinbras, Polonius and Laertes, and Claudius and Hamlet. Young Hamlet seems to idolise his father, calling him a “Hyperion”, and his devotion shows that he clearly loved him. Although Old Hamlet does not appear in the play, there is interaction between Hamlet and his father’s ghost. The ghost gives Hamlet a battery of double messages, calling murder “most foul, strange and unnatural”, but asks the Prince to commit the same crime. This spirit can only be seen as an apparition, and nothing more, and is used effectively by Shakespeare to create an atmosphere of dread and unease.

The relationship between Hamlet and his uncle, Claudius, is evidently tense, with Gertrude attempting to bridge the gap.

Hamlet is witty and regularly mocks Claudius in little asides: “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” Hamlet shows his high regard for his father by using epic terms to describe him: “excellent”, “Hyperion to Satyr” and “that he might not beteem the winds of heaven…” In Act I scene 2, the audience sees Claudius’s mock parental concerns for Hamlet. He publicly scolds Hamlet, accusing him of “impious stubbornness” as well as conveying his generous side by granting Laertes leave: “take thy fair hour Laertes, time be thine.” It is clear that Claudius’s confident speech, although spoken to Laertes, is meant for Hamlet’s ears. Claudius is a dangerous man, even more so when you think you have the measure of him. He is supremely talented, and acts incredibly well, convincing everyone of his sincerity, calling Hamlet “cousin, and...