Dichotomy In Hamlet

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Pages: 7

Honor. The Elizabethan Era revolved around the word and the code it follows. Filled with codes of chivalry and honor, citizens of all societal standings attempted to further their way through society. However, this prestigious code of honor was a facade for failure. Attempts to achieve honor, whether it was marrying into a powerful family, gaining lots of money, or knighthood often came at a cost. In Hamlet, the characters attempt to live by the code of honor that presides over their head and strive to achieve honor. However, the constitution was impossible to follow, and the characters often broke the code in attempts to follow it. In Hamlet, Shakespeare utilizes Greek mythological allusions and the Apollonian-Dionysian dichotomy to satirize …show more content…
Nietzsche claims that all things Apollonian reside in “the world around us with a sensible structure”, whereas Dionysian characteristics are “centred in extravagant sexual licentiousness’ where ‘the most savage natural instincts were unleashed” (Gatherer). By using Claudius as a living example and Hamlet Sr. as an example for the dead, Shakespeare examines the possibility of achieving the honor code. After hearing of Claudius murdering his father from the ghost, Hamlet turns his anger towards Claudius. Once Claudius and Gertrude flee from Hamlet’s view, he exclaims how “But two months dead-nay, not so much, not two/So excellent a king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr” (I, ii, 142-144). Hamlet displays his adoration for his father by comparing him to “Hyperion”, the titan of watchfulness, wisdom, and light. These qualities also entail traits of an Apollonian persona, where “reason, order, clarity” are centralized (Taylor). However, his preceding words tells of his father's death, being “two months dead”, despite his honorable personality. Claudius, opposingly is regarded to as a “satyr”, a half-goat man that roams the earth. Satyrs, are usually depicted as having spurs of drunkenness and lustiness, due to their half-goat body, where goats are regarded as satanic. However, unlike his Apollonian father, the Dionysian Claudius still lives, shrouded with qualities such as “excess” and “frenzy” (Taylor). Shakespeare utilizes these two opposing phrases together in order to showcase his disdain for the honor code, as Hamlet’s father, an exceptional ruler resembling a titan, is dead, while his Uncle, a devilish man with satanic goat-like qualities is living, and ruling over society.