An Analytical Essay on the Double-edged Sword in Hamlet
Length: 540 words (1.5 double-spaced pages)
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Hamlet's tale is a tragic one because it presents a man who is in the center of a moral dilemma. It is difficult enough for a man to face what is making him angry even under normal circumstances. Hamlet's circumstances are certainly not normal.
Hamlet's dilemma, whether or not he should kill the king, is compounded by three things. He is extremely angry and hurt over the murder of his father. He cannot express that anger to others because in his position it would be political suicide. Finally, human nature demands that he express that anger somehow. Thus Hamlet faces a double-edged sword, he must express his anger somehow and that will lead to his downfall.
Hamlet (correctly) blames his uncle, Claudius, for the death of his father. Further compounding the issue is the fact that Claudius is now the King of Denmark and is married to Hamlet's mother, Gertrude. Hamlet feels robbed of his both his father and his birthright. There is no doubt that Claudius is responsible for the crime, the next course of action would, of course, be to kill him.
But it is not that simple. Gertrude seems quite happy in her life with her new husband. Although Hamlet is infuriated with her as well for marrying Claudius so soon after her husband's death, he still loves her and does not wish any harm to come to her. Furthermore, if Hamlet were to kill Claudius, especially at this point, the people of Denmark would no doubt suspect the truth. This would only anger Hamlet even more since he feels that he would get caught for his 'justifiable homicide' and Claudius did not get caught for his crime. All Hamlet can do is keep quiet, and that only makes him even more frustrated.
However, Hamlet cannot continue to hold his strong feelings inside for very long. Like shaking a bottle of soda, the pressure builds and builds until, eventually, the bottle will explode. Hamlet begins exploding with his passive-aggressive behavior towards the king and queen. He puts on a play that almost exactly displays the crime of which Claudius is guilty right before his eyes. However, even knowing beyond any doubt now that Claudius is guilty, Hamlet still cannot bring himself to kill him. The bottle does not explode completely until the duel at the climax of the play.
After Gertrude dies of the poison meant for Hamlet by Claudius, Hamlet finally enacts his revenge. He forces Claudius to drink the poison. But Hamlet has already been pushed to the breaking point by then, as he himself dies of a poisonous injury.
There can be no doubt that had Hamlet obeyed his first impulse to kill Claudius, he would have lived to celebrate his revenge. However, that celebration would have been short lived, as the people would have seen right through to the crime and would no doubt have given Hamlet less than their undivided loyalty. For Hamlet, it seems that the choice was death or a living hell, a double-edged sword imposed on him by his anger. If he could have let it go, he would have lived. But Hamlet was not destined for life or happiness.