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A Response to the Morality of Hamlet in The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, a Play by William Shakespeare

In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare the protagonist, Hamlet, is faced with multiple situations where he has to make a moral decision. After Hamlet learns that his father was killed by Claudius, he goes on a quest of revenge. With this situation a lot of lines between good and evil end up being blurred. It is good that Claudius is held responsible for his actions but it is not good to murder, which Hamlet ends up doing. While the morality of the story may be skewed in the eyes of the audience, a good question to research is how Hamlet views the morality of the things that happen. Overall, it appears that Hamlet sees the blatant murder of one’s own brother obviously evil and therefore feels justified and good in getting revenge in anyway possible.

While Hamlet does make some questionable decisions throughout the story, he is nowhere near the amount of guilt that Claudius has. Everything that goes wrong in this play can be traced back to Claudius’ actions. If Claudius had not murdered King Hamlet, the ghost would never have come to Hamlet and therefore all the other deaths in the play would not have occurred. Therefore, there is no question that Claudius bears more guilt than Hamlet in the story. However, Hamlet is not necessarily the hero of the play either. Hamlet takes a bad situation and makes it so much worse with his actions. Instead of revealing Claudius’ treachery he decides to avenge his father through the murder of the new king which then leads to the death of nearly everyone else in the play. Looking at the story and trying to find a hero, it becomes clear that there is none. No one succeeds, everyone’s dead, and the country is left to Fortinbras.

Overall, analyzing the morality of Hamlet, it seems there is no clearly defined good and evil throughout the whole play. Instead the play is just a narrative of characters in a chaotic situation and how they respond to that situation. It seems that it can be argued for each character, that they are somewhat innocent. Claudius feels justified in killing King Hamlet because he feels a right to the throne. Hamlet feels justified in his actions as he is following the instructions from the ghost of his father. Ophelia and Laertes feel justified by standing by their family. Polonius feels justified by standing by the king. Gertrude feels justified by standing by her husband. While there is fault in each character and their actions, if the story is told from their point of view, they are somewhat innocent, and therefore the lines between good and evil are blurred.

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