William Shakespeare’s Hamlets and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphoses

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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In Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, a comparison and contrast can be seen through the characters of their mothers. In Hamlet, his mother is worried about him as he has become a madman. On the other hand, in Metamorphosis, Gregor’s mother is shocked and frightened by his transformation into a cockroach. Through the lens of each character’s mother, their perceptions of their sons may be similar, but show different emotional reactions.

In Hamlet, the protagonist is the Prince of Denmark who attends his father’s funeral and his mother’s remarriage to Claudius.

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There is a strong focus on Hamlet’s descent into madness after he discovers that his father was not just dead, but murdered. This appears to overcome him at some point during the play. The Queen, Hamlet’s mother, utters, “My too much changed son. Go, some of you, and bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.” Upon learning of his madness, she displays concern and sends two of his friends to check on him. By all accounts, her actions mimic those of a worried mother.

In Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa is transformed into a cockroach. His worried mother implores, “You must go to the doctor right away. Gregor is sick. Hurry to the doctor. Have you heard Gregor speak yet?” (Kafka) Her initial response to her son’s transformation is distressing. “But at the very moment when he lay on the floor rocking in a restrained manner quite close and directly across from his mother she suddenly sprang right up with her arms spread far apart and her fingers extended and cried out, ‘Help, for God’s sake, help!’” (Kafka) This passage illustrates her reaction post-transformation. Initially, she is more shocked than scared when Gregor appears suddenly. She attempts to comfort him but falls to the ground, suggesting a loss of hope, and plunges into a state of sadness and despair. “His mother, comparatively soon, wanted to visit Gregor, but his father and his sister restrained her, at first with reasons which Gregor listened to very attentively and which he completely endorsed” (Kafka). Throughout the book, her mother makes relentless attempts to understand his unusual circumstance. Yet, she is so horrified by his appearance that she cannot help but run away from it.

Hamlet is hurt by his mother’s betrayal of marrying his late husband’s brother in such a short time after his husband’s death. He never wishes to hurt her. His main goal all along is to avenge his father’s death. His quest for vengeance does not dispute his love for his mother throughout the play; his love for her is clearly shown. Thus, despite the tense relationship between them at the beginning, marked with feelings of anger and rage, Hamlet’s changed behavior has seemingly lessened his mother’s tension. Gertrude’s actions instill a lot of anger in Hamlet, who in turn reaches the level of contemplating killing any man who seems to take up the position of his late father. Meanwhile, Gregor’s mother’s reaction towards her son is quite the opposite. In fact, she was very shocked and horrified by her son’s transformation. She loves her son but fears acceptance and caregiving. Gregor’s mother is frail and distressed. She is torn between her love for Gregor and her horror at his new state. Grete and Gregor’s father seek to protect her from the full reality of her son’s transformation.

Both mothers’ reactions are understandable within the context of their respective texts. Their views of their sons change significantly when their sons do. Their reactions are similar, yet their situations are distinctly different. In Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, we find both comparisons and contrasts. These differences and similarities are observable through the eyes of their mothers as central characters in their respective narrative.

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William Shakespeare’s Hamlets and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphoses. (2022, Aug 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/william-shakespeares-hamlets-and-franz-kafkas-metamorphoses/