Love is a substantial theme in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet. This love can be encountered under the form of passion, platonic love, but also a more profound and respectful love between a father and his son. Shakespeare uses these father-son relationships to express the characters’ personality, values and insight of life. In the play, the characters of Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras each have a deep relationship with their respective fathers and each has his own personality and approach of life. However, no matter how different they are from each other, they all had had a father killed. They are all united in their greed of revenge, each of them seeking for revenge in their own way.
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The first father-son relationship encountered in the play shows the deep affection Hamlet, the main character of the play, has for his father. We don’t witness a direct conversation between the two characters. However, a dialogue between King Hamlet’s Ghost and the young prince shows the strong bonds between them. Hamlet still mourns his father’s death and still remembers him as a great king, and a great father, as shown by his words “And thy commandment all alone shall live/ Within the book and volume of my brain,” (I.v.107-108). Also, the fact that the prince is deeply affected and disgusted by his mother’s remarriage so soon after his father’s death is seen like a tribute to the former King’s admirable person. Yet, Hamlet’s character is established as mysterious, enigmatic, sensible, but also intellectual, which affects his way of seeking revenge. As stated in the quote “O my prophetic soul! My uncle?” (I.v.46.), he already suspects Claudius, but he still wants proofs to be sure that the Ghost is saying the truth. And to get those proofs, Hamlet writes a play which mirrors the reality. After seeing King Claudius’s suspicious behavior during the play, the young prince realizes that the ghost of his father had spoken the truth, and he now has all the evidence he needed carry out his plot to kill Claudius (123HelpMHYPERLINK “http://www.123helpme.com/”e.com). This makes him the most intellectual and enigmatic character of the play and Shakespeare brings a whole new logical meaning to love by the intermediary of this character. For Hamlet, love is in the brain, not in the heart.
The love between Polonius and Laertes isn’t that different from the love between King Hamlet and Hamlet. They both have deep respect for each other, even though those bonds are harder to notice. We only see one real conversation between Polonius and Laertes, yet this unique interaction allows us to picture the deep respect and love between the two. The difference in personality between those two characters makes their feelings seem even stronger, which makes their love even nobler and respectable. Polonius’s personality can sometimes be annoying for Laertes, and we clearly sense this irritation in the conversation they have before Laertes’s journey to France. However, the young man is respectful enough not to show his lack of interest to his father, and somehow shows evidence of respect as he takes some of his father’s advices in consideration. Polonius, on his side, respects his son’s need for space and freedom as a young adult, and eventually lets him go to France even though he is not especially happy about it. The quote “Upon his will I sealed my hard consent./ I do beseech you give him leave to go.” (I.ii.62-63)” clearly shows that the old man doesn’t want to get in his son’s way even though his feelings are affected by this departure (associatedcontent.com). Shakespeare shows through this relationship that love is not only about living happily together, but also about making sacrifices and concessions for the good of the other. We have another evidence of this love when Laertes rushes back to Denmark as soon as he learns about Polonius’s death. At first, he doesn’t care to know who killed his father, and even defies the King of Denmark showing a lack of rationality. His words “Let come what comes, only I’ll be revenged/ Most throughly for my father.” (IV.v.145-146) shows how much he is affected by this lost, as if he was blinded by revenge. This attitude establishes Laertes as the most impulsive and spontaneous character of the play and males him a foil character for the enigmatic and more rational protagonist Hamlet.
The last set of father and son is the most mysterious of the three. King Fortinbras never appeared in the play as a character, and Fortinbras is only appears in two scenes, but has a significant impact on the play as the love he has for his father opens Hamlet’s eyes on the true meaning of revenge. We don’t encounter any interaction between the King and the Prince of Norway, and we hardly have any clues of the love those two characters share. But we can imply that a profound respect exists between the two, as Fortinbras also seeks for revenge. We know that King Fortinbras was killed by King Hamlet during a battle; therefore the young man also seeks revenge to defend his country’s supremacy over the nation of Denmark. The fact that young Fortinbras’s need for revenge is guided by his personal pride, but also is a duty toward his people shows that he is much more impulsive than Hamlet, but also more rational than Laertes. He uses his anger for the sake of his country, and acts like a leader, unlike the two other characters. Shakespeare uses this character to show that love can be affected by the obligations we have toward others. Especially for leaders, such as Fortinbras, who need to be more rational and use their love along with their intelligence to succeed, instead of causing their own downfall.
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Love affects every character of The Tragedy of Hamlet, as it does in most of William Shakespeare’s play. However, this tragedy also confers a more important meaning to the shared feelings between a father and his son, and to the bonds that unite them even in their difference. The playwright shows how this love is affected by one’s personality, but also how love can affect one’s personality, lifting love to the rank of purest, yet most enigmatic feeling we all experience at least once in our lifetime.
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