Hamlet Minor Characters Essay

The Role of Minor Characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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The Role of Minor Characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet


Minor characters play a very crucial role in Shakespear's Hamlet. They serve as narrators for events that occurred outside the immediate play: the Dane's ghost. Distinct contrasts are created through the usage of the play's minor characters. The reader gains new perspective on Hamlet's character when he is compared with Laertes. The presence of these minor characters can also have a direct effect on the action of the play. The actors in the play within the play are used to expose the guilt of Claudius; Hamlet then has proof of the King's crimes. The expertise use of these characters - either to exemplify good and purity, or to spread the vile corruption which permeates Elsinore - is one of the main reasons for Hamlet's success as one of the greatest plays ever written.

Some events in Hamlet must be narrated to the reader, and to the major characters, through minor characters which have a direct link to the events. Shakespear builds the entire play around information which was narrated to Hamlet by his father's ghost. The ghost tells Hamlet of events which the reader would otherwise never know about: the murder of the former Dane by Claudius. When Horatio reads the letter that he has received from Hamlet the reader is informed of how Hamlet has evaded Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Also, the events occurring in Norway reach the court by means of an emissary, Voltimand, sent to check on Fortinbras. These events have a strong and direct relevancy to the plot and movement of the play.

Shakespear uses contrast to highlight the qualities of the characters in Hamlet; this contrast shows up in the minor characters. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, false friends of Hamlet who succumb to Claudius' corruptness, serve as a distinct contrast to the loyal friendship that Horatio shares with Hamlet. Voltimand is used to contrast Polonius' often comic verbosity. While Polonius dresses up all his speeches with the language of the court, Voltimand is able to give his entire report on Fortinbras in a matter of seconds. The most powerful foil in the play is between Laertes and Hamlet. Upon hearing of the death of his father, Laertes becomes enraged, and seeks immediate vengeance; he does not delay, and acts instantaneously. When the ghost tells Hamlet of Claudius' crimes, Hamlet is unable to act. He procrastinates, missing many opportunities to avenge his father, and acts when it is already too late.

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This tardiness on Hamlet's part is also contrasted by the Fortinbras' quickness to fight for land which has been taken from him.

The roles of these minor characters aren't always removed from the main story; they can also have a direct connection to the movement of the plot. The actors in Hamlet's staged play serve as a very effective tool in unearthing the King's guilt. Without these actors Hamlet wouldn't have the proof that he needed to verify the identity of the ghost and the sins of Claudius. Since Polonius is slain while eavesdropping on Hamlet and the Queen, a confrontation between Laertes and Hamlet is inevitable; it was the actions of Polonius, with only a reaction from Hamlet, that set this confrontation in motion. Ophelia's suicide acts as a catalyst for this confrontation between Hamlet and Laertes. This clash is the climax of the play, and with Ophelia's death looming over it, it becomes a very emotional and powerful scene.

The minor characters in Hamlet not only provide contrast and extras to Shakespeare's work, but they keep the story going, in what would otherwise be a drawn-out play. Without the contributions of the minor characters, the play would lose its flavor. With the added element of the minor characters the play's high points are made more intense: the corruption seems blacker, the suspense grips tighter, and the love burns longer. The silken threads of the minor characters weave perfectly into the greater web of Hamlet.



The Importance of Fear in Hamlet Essay examples

1063 Words5 Pages

The Importance of Fear in Hamlet

Fear plays an important role in Shakespeare's tragic play, Hamlet. Within the play, the main character, Hamlet, attempts to overcome his fear and fulfill his father's revenge. Hamlet's apprehension toward death prevents him from carrying out the murder of Claudius. Although confrontation with death is avoided for as long as possible, Hamlet comes to recognize his weakness, and faces this anxiety.

Displaying an 'antic disposition', Hamlet first attempts to side step his trepidation by feigning madness. After meeting with his fathers proposed ghost, Hamlet attempts to distance himself from the thought or evidence of death. Hamlet notifies his friends, Marcellus and Horatio, of his plan…show more content…

Hamlet exhibits his insecurity toward death when he lingers on the phrase ' no traveler returns' from death. He is afraid of leaving his earthly life, showing his indecision towards what lies in the afterlife. This indecision carries over into his actions when trying to go through with Claudius' murder. Hesitant to kill Claudius, Hamlets settles on making sure the ghost was correct in his accusation. By employing the players to dramatize the murder of King Hamlet Sr., Hamlet hides behind the façade of the play in order to accuse Claudius. By using the players as his medium for accusation, Hamlet again shows how timid he is to approach the subject of death and confront it face to face. It is seen by Claudius that Hamlet's 'madness' is a direct threat to his security, and Hamlet is shipped off to England. While traveling to his execution, Hamlet again slips out of deaths way before having to directly challenge it. Prior to Hamlet's 'kidnapping', he changes the letter to have it be his escorts execution. This is only appropriate, since Hamlet never is present to see their reaction to facing death, or is there is witness the ending of their lives. Again, Hamlet is able to allude death, by escaping the ship set sail for his execution.

Returning home, Hamlet contemplates the finality of death, and resolves to confront this head on, breaking his guise of insanity. Walking back toward the Kingdom, through a grave yard with Horatio,

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