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Hamlet’s themes are pervasive and yet dominant that every reader has his own opinion. Some of the major
ideas of Hamlet have been discussed below.
Madness is one of the dominant themes of Hamlet. Hamlet displays many sides of his personality since the
death of his father. It shows that he is insane but just in his pretensions to show his pain to others. He
wanted them to see and understand that it was difficult for him to bear things like loss and betrayal. That is
the very reason that King Claudius fears his madness as some pretention to have exposed his crime of
assassinating Old Hamlet.
Polonius, on his part, considers it a madness of love, while Gertrude considers it only madness. However,
King Claudius does not accept any of these opinions and sees his folly a threat to his throne and his own
Revenge is another theme that runs throughout the play. In fact, the appearance of the ghost in the first act
lays a heavy responsibility on Hamlet to exact the revenge of his “unjust murder.” Due to Hamlet’s
conscious mind, the revenge is delayed. He, though, succeeds in exposing the crime, Hamlet does not find a
way to try Claudius in the court. On the other hand, Laertes also seeks revenge from Hamlet for his father
murder and is willing to kill Hamlet even in the Holy place, church.
Although not a dominant theme, religion still has its significant impact on the roles and acts of Hamlet and
other characters. Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” is interpreted on the lines of his religious thinking about
suicide. As a suicide, is a sin and will take you to hell. He also does not kill Claudius during prayers because
he would go to heaven and he does not want to grant him this opportunity.
Subversion and turns and twists in relationships is another theme of Hamlet. Gertrude is a cousin of
Claudius and must not marry him on legal or religious terms. However, they both marry subverting their
relationship. Claudius is Hamlet’s uncle but also becomes his step-father.
One of the most controversial and most striking themes of Hamlet is his delay. While trying to establish the
crime, Hamlet delays his revenge. He doesn’t want an innocent’s death on his conscience and wants his
action to be justified. In the entire play, he has numerous chances to kill Claudius. He waits until he
confirms the crime of Claudius by staging the play. Once he also finds Claudius praying, and has a perfect
opportunity to kill him.
Although it is not that significant, honour is another theme that various characters depict through their
actions and dialogues. The honour that Hamlet feels lies in his revenge of his father’s murder. On the other
hand, Laertes thinks that he will lose his honour if he does not exact revenge of his slain father who Hamlet
mistakenly kills. In other words, the true honour for both lies in seeking revenge for their fathers though in
a different way.
The ambiguity of language and its skilful use is one of the minor themes of Hamlet. Hamlet uses similes,
metaphors and various literary devices to make his language sound vague. To unravel such a loaded
language has lent Hamlet a great place among all the masterpieces.
Although suicide is not all pervasive like other dominant themes, it is present in Hamlet’s character
throughout the play. Specifically, his soliloquy “to be or not to be” points his inclination toward suicide but
he drops it later when he realizes it is forbidden in religion. Ophelia, too, commits suicide but her case is
different from Hamlet because she could not carry the weight of Hamlet’s taunt and loses her sanity.
Like all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Hamlet is written mostly in verse, but over 30% of the lines are in prose.
One reason for the high amount of prose is that Hamlet has more comic scenes than any of Shakespeare’s
other tragedies. Shakespeare preferred to use verse when he was tackling serious themes, and prose when
he was writing comedy, so in Hamlet he switches often, sometimes in the middle of a scene. Hamlet’s
facility with both prose and verse, and tendency to alternate between the two styles, also underscores the
sense of him as a character who is of two minds, or who is not quite sure who he is, so adopts different
speaking manners trying to figure out how to really sound like himself.
Another function of prose is to mark the speech of lower-status characters. Members of the nobility, like
Claudius, almost always speak in verse, but commoners like the gravedigger use prose.