November 25, 2014
For this essay we are going to be talking about William Shakespeare’s famous play Hamlet. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is visited by the ghost of his father and told that his uncle Claudius, who is now King, was responsible for his murder. Hamlet is torn about trying to avenge him, and ends up pretending to be insane. He hires actors to do a play about a man who kills his brother to become king to see Claudius' reaction. Hamlet confirms that Claudius was responsible, ends up being abusive to his mother Gertrude for shacking up with the murderer of his father, and murders his girlfriend Ophelia's dad thinking that it's Claudius. Ophelia goes insane from having Hamlet accidentally kill her dad and drowns herself in a pond. Her brother Laertes is pissed and is convinced by Claudius to kill Hamlet, because Claudius blames Hamlet for the death. The two duel, and both are fatally injured. Gertrude accidentally drinks the poison that Claudius had prepared for Hamlet and dies. Laertes confirms to Hamlet before dying that it was Claudius who prepared the poison that caused his mother’s death. Hamlet manages to kill Claudius before finally dying. After dying, Hamlet is buried as a soldier. Hamlet was a remarkable character and I will be comparing and contrasting him to the modern character of Maximus from the film Gladiator.
Hamlet is arguably the greatest dramatic character ever created. Hamlet is a man of extensive contradictions. He is reckless yet cautious, courteous yet uncivil, tender yet ferocious. He meets his father's death with consuming outrage and upright displeasure, yet shows no reluctance when he himself is responsible for the deaths of the meddling Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and the big mouth lord chamberlain, Polonius. He uses the fragile and innocent Ophelia as an outlet for his disgust towards the queen, and cannot comprehend that his own vicious words have caused her insanity. Hamlet is full of faults. But how is it that even seemingly negative qualities such as indecisiveness, hastiness, hate, brutality, and obsession can enhance Hamlet's position as a tragic hero; a prince among men? Hamlet's tremendous grief is intensified by this lack of feeling by those around him, and more significantly, by the cold-hearted actions of his own mother, who married her brother-in-law within a month of her husband's death. This act of treachery by Gertrude, whom Hamlet obviously loved greatly at one time, rips the very fabric of Hamlet's being, and he tortures himself with memories of his late father's tenderness towards his mother. Here is an example from the play, “So excellent a king, that was to this/Hyperion to a satyr, so loving to my mother,/That he might not beteem the winds of heaven/Visit her face too roughly; heaven and earth,/Must I remember?”... (Act 2.141-45). This shows the amount of respect and awe Hamlet had for his father and it is clearly seen in the above passage, as the Prince compares the late king to Hyperion, a Titan in classical mythology.
Maximus from Gladiator was a general in the Roman Army, who leads his soldiers to victory against Germanic barbarians in the year 180 AD. Because Maximus is a respected man of simple morals, the dying Aurelius decides to appoint him as the new leader of Rome, but he declines. The decision to appoint Maximus is not taken lightly by the Emperor’s ambitious son, COMMODUS. Commodus kills his father and since Maximus refuses to bow to him, he kills his family. Maximus finds himself in the custody of slave traders and is purchased by Proximo. There Maximus, known as the Spaniard is forced to fight. He soon finds himself on the road back to Rome, as the new emperor Commodus has reopened the gladiatorial games to pay tribute to his dead father. There he meets Commodus again and is now looking for revenge. As a result, Commodus challenges Maximus to a duel in front of a full audience in the coliseum. Commodus stabs him…