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In the play, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, it is clear that there is a distinct tension between the character of Hamlet and

the rest of society. Throughout the duration of the play, not only does Hamlet question the morals and flawed expectations of society, but also the people in society fail to understand their flawed perspectives on the world and the events that occur during the play. This lack of understanding and tension between the individual of Hamlet and the rest of society is what creates interest in the play, as the audience is stranded in a conflicted state between the two. We begin to question whether Hamlets actions are an overreaction, or whether the expectations placed on us by society are truly flawed. Through the use of rhetorical questions, antithesis, imagery, flippant dialogue and metaphor, we are exposed to the tension between Hamlet and the society in which he lives.

After the death of Hamlets father, the audience is quick to discover the expectations of society on the character of Hamlet; this becomes evident the very first time we are introduced to the character. Gertrude questions Hamlets apparent grief, Why seems it so particular with thee? (Act 1, Scene 2). The character of Gertrude represents the society in which they live, as she models societys expectations. She has shown her grief for the loss of her husband, but has continued to live her life in happiness with a new husband and, therefore, a new king. She is questioning Hamlets grief, as she believes it to be merely an affected response to meet peoples expectations, just as she had done. Already, we begin to feel the tension between Hamlet and society, as he has no ambition to meet the expectations or act the way in which they believe that he should.

Hamlets reaction to Gertrude is one of disbelief and scepticism, as he is incredulous that she has questioned the authenticity of his feelings regarding his fathers death. The rhetorical question mirrors this disbelief, Seems Madam? Nay it is, I know not seems (Act 1, Scene 2). Hamlet claims he feels true grief and is not merely making an appearance because of his place in society. This is in direct contrast to Gertrudes question, as she doesnt understand why Hamlet is still grieving, and Hamlet doesnt understand why she would ever consider that his grief is just a facade. This tension creates a point of interest for the audience, as the individual and his society seem to be on completely different sides of the spectrum.

After the events of the play so far, it is clear that Hamlet believes the world has changed to one wild and out of control, even though as outsiders we doubt that his society has truly changed dramatically since he was content to continue living in it. His disdain is illustrated with the metaphor Tis an unweeded garden, / That grows to seed things gross and rank in nature (Act 1, Scene 2). Hamlet sees the world as soiled and corrupt, and he believes that society has their priorities completely out of order and out of control. There is evidently tension here, and the audiences interest in heightened because of many factors. Have Hamlets eyes been opened because of the events that have transpired, or is he now blinded by depression and frustration? There is a distinct line between Hamlet and society that has the audience constantly thinking.

This tension between Hamlet and society is also conveyed in his most famous soliloquy as he is sincerely questioning his place in the world. Hamlet has had to endure much suffering and tragedy that has been brought upon him by society, not only by the murder of his father and his mothers hasty remarriage, but also by his lost lover. Antithesis and comparison of two alternatives represents this questioning of his life, To be, or not to be, that is the question-/ Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, / And by opposing end them (Act 3, Sc 2). The comparison of a life of suffering to a peaceful death is a very powerful one, and we once again feel the lack of comfort provided to Hamlet by society in his time of need. The imagery used also expresses conflict, as well as adding depth and emotion to this soliloquy. Hamlets words are very meaningful and full of uncertainty, revealing his lack of faith in society and the world in which he lives. The things said in this soliloquy continue to interest the audience throughout the remainder of the play, as we are aware of the depth of Hamlets feelings towards the world and society. From this point in the play, we are continually aware of his most inner thoughts, which in turn make the tension even more dramatic and a point of constant interest.

Hamlet does not agree with the way society works, nor does he share the same morals that seem to be a part of the world in which he lives. In his eyes, there are very few people who he believes to be faithful and trustworthy, as opposed to the majority of society who he believes to be corrupt and unmoral. This belief is portrayed though the rhetorical question, A bloody deed? Almost as bad, good mother, / As kill a king and marry with his brother. (Act 3, Scene 4, Line 28-29). This shows how Hamlet does not consider Polonius death to be

an act of treachery. He feels no remorse over what he has done: as in the case of Polonius, he was eavesdropping when he killed him, Hamlets uncle murdered his father, and Hamlets mother betrayed his love. In the grand scheme of things, Hamlet doesnt see himself as any more of a villain than anyone else, especially considering the fact that he believes to die is a simpler fate than to live. The tension between Hamlet and society is at its climax in this scene, as once again Hamlet has gone against societys expectations of right and wrong and, once again, Hamlet is incredulous of the flawed expectations and beliefs of society.

The tension between Hamlet and society is an issue that is maintained throughout the entire play, as he is ostracized from the society in which he lives. The social expectations illustrated in this play are very different to Hamlets expectations of society, and this tension between the two is what creates conflict within the play and maintains the audiences interest.

However, it must be remembered that Shakespeares context is very different from our own today, as his works have filtered through several different societal tenses, so that we are left with the perspective that they must have some meaning behind them, some ulterior motive. Although audiences today will relate to many aspects of the play, in my opinion, the idea that Shakespeare purposely used a play like Hamlet as a social commentary to teach us something more than four hundred years after it was written is absurd. The play has largely been taken out of context and over read. This argument is enhanced by Fintan

Otooles work Shakespeare is Hard, but so is Life, where Otoole hammers home the fact that Shakespeare wrote plays to entertain people and earn a living. While Shakespeare incorporates contextual concerns of his time including political corruption, issues of religion and suicide, and tensions between the new academia and society, his primary motive was to attract an audience and to that end, I believe he has succeeded.