Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Essay from Hamlet Test

Prompt: Original thesis on the following passage:

“I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.”

When the ghost of King Hamlet comes to visit Prince Hamlet and tell him of his betrayal by his brother, he tells the story through a series of symbols, allusions, and imagery, which emphasize the treachery of the act. King Hamlet alludes to hell and the Adam and Eve story from the Bible in order to connect his murder with original sin. Also, he characterizes Claudius, the murderer, as a devil figure in order to tie him in with sin as well.

King Hamlet begins by admitting that his son is “apt” or capable, of comprehending his story and carrying out what he will eventually ask him to do. He wants Hamlet to stay sharp and attentive, unlike the “fat weed/ that roots itself in ease on Lethe’s Wharf.” Though his betrayer is not mentioned until later, this is King Hamlet’s first description of his murderer, Claudius. Lethe is the river that flows through Hades, or hell, so he is implying that Claudius is solely a lazy man who does not deserve to be where he is. It also implies that he came from hell, similarly to the devil, which creates the image of Claudius as the devil.

Then, King Hamlet begins the story of the day of his murder. The allusion to this day is the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve took the poisonous apple from the serpent, or the devil, despite God’s direction not to. Thus, she created the original instance of sin. In comparison, King Hamlet is “sleeping in [his] orchard” when “a serpent stung” him. Though it seems to sound literal at this point, he continues to say that “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.” Claudius now wears his crown as King of Denmark, so this solidly explains that it was he who killed his brother. Alluding to serpents is typically connoted with evil, but in this instance, it is referring to the devil himself, as indicated by the Adam and Eve story. King Hamlet, therefore, feels that his brother’s betrayal is equal to that of Eve’s betrayal of God and the creation of sin. King Hamlet, evidently, must have been very startled to believe that his brother murdered him if he could compare it to this type of sin.

By the end of his father’s story, Hamlet is completely set against his uncle and must avenge his father’s death. Because he is supposedly trying to take on the devil, or Claudius, this also sets Hamlet up as a type of Christ or God figure, as he is the ‘good’ force pitted against an ‘evil’ force. King Hamlet believes Denmark is being “rankly abused,” just as the devil would abuse any of his followers. It is as if Claudius has a spell over the people of Denmark just as the devil enchants mortals to sin, as he did with Eve.

1 comment:

Meaghan S6 said...

I chose this as my best on demand writing because I thought this was a great thesis (which I think was very interesting) and I thought that in the time I had to write it for the test, I provided very good evidence and support for my thesis. On the whole it was the most creative thesis I've had all year in terms of on demand writing.