Elements of Comedy in the Play Hamlet
Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s’ most famous plays, for it revolves around external and internal conflicts or struggles within the main character, Hamlet, which makes it unique from a typical revenge story. Although the genre of the play is a tragedy it contains various elements of comedy throughout the darkest moments of the play.
At the start of the play guardsmen at the royal palace have seen a ghost which seems to be former King Hamlet, and convinces noblemen Horatio to stay to witness the ghost. Horatio sees ghost and proceeds to tell Prince Hamlet after his arrival. The Prince of Denmark is called to return to Denmark to attend King Hamlet’s, his father, funeral. Further on Prince Hamlet gets upset as he discovers that King Hamlet’s brother Claudius has married Queen Gertrude, King Hamlet’s former wife, and taken over the throne as King. During this time Denmark is in a conflict with Norway, where the Norwegian prince Fortinbras threatens to attack Denmark to gain the lands of his father the former King of Norway. Moreover, Hamlet meets the ghost claiming to be his father revealing that Claudius murdered him by pouring poison in his ear while he slept in the garden and that he should avenge him.
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Hamlet becomes uncertain of what the ghost has told him and what actions he should take, for he delays his plan for revenge. Hamlet then proceeds to pretend to be mentally unstable, or crazy. In effect, Polonius, the adviser to the throne, thinks Hamlet’s madness is due to the love he has for his daughter Ophelia. Wanting to know the reasoning behind Hamlet’s strange behavior King Claudius agrees to spy on the couple when they meet up. Hamlet ends up offending Ophelia by saying she should go to a nunnery. Furthermore, as a set of traveling actors comes to Elsinore and spark the idea of presenting a play that closely resembles the murder of King Hamlet. Hamlet thinks that Claudius will react or express his guilt during the murder scene. Subsequently, Claudius leaves the room, which for Hamlet is enough to prove that he committed the murder.
While Claudius attempts to pray, Hamlet approaches him from behind; however, Hamlet does not kill him, for if he kills him while he is praying then his soul will go to heaven. Thereafter, Hamlet goes and speaks with his mother; however, Polonius hides behind a tapestry to eavesdrop on the conversation. Unfortunately, Hamlet believes it’s the King hiding and stabs his sword through the tapestry killing Polonius. Committing this crime, Hamlet is commanded to go to England. Claudius sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s school friends, to accompany Hamlet to England with a letter that contains orders to kill Hamlet upon his arrival. Misunderstandings happen throughout Hamlet’s journey to England and cause Hamlet to come back to Denmark. Back at Denmark Ophelia is so upset from her father’s death which leads her to drown in a river. After this, Hamlet realizes that he actually did love Ophelia. When Ophelia’s brother Laertes find out about his father’s and sisters death he desires revenge.
In effect, a friendly duel is set up between Laertes and Hamlet; however, Claudius poisons Laertes’ blade, as well as the wine, for Claudius will offer it to Hamlet if Laertes fails to land a hit. However, as the duel progresses Hamlet seems to win the first two passes, and unfortunately, Queen Gertrude drinks from the poisoned wine. Soon after, Laertes lands a hit on Hamlet, but he does not die instantly. Laertes accidentally wounds himself with his own blade and quickly reveals that Claudius is the one who poisoned the wine before he dies. As a result, Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned blade and forces him to drink the poisoned wine as well. Before Hamlet dies he tells Horatio to speak of what had led to the tragedy and says for Fortinbras to be made the king.