Sample Essay Hamlet

Sample Essay Hamlet

How does Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” stand the test of time and establish textual integrity?

The play, “Hamlet” (1601), has a high degree of textual integrity and transcends time, being able to be engage ing to humanity universally. The prominence of the revenge tragedy in the Elizabethan era gave rise to Shakespearean works that were deliberately written to break conventions of the time, and explored the delightful truths of humanity that creates the text’s textual integrity. Examining human vulnerability and exposing foolish and unfortunate behavior, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is centred on the various aspects that include characterization, genre conventions, structure, soliloquies, and universal themes. Shakespeare uses an array of profound language forms, features and structure combined with dramatic techniques to continuously engage the audience, creating the play’s high degree of textual integrity.

(Excellent succinct introduction. This is what your introductions should continue to look like.)

Hamlet is an extremely complex character, who is confronted with a labyrinth of universal tribulation (This is a bit of a riddle, surely there is a simpler explanation?) giving the play textual integrity. Through his own personal sentiments, ranging from the extremes of being hesitant and impulsive to sensitive and callous, Hamlet examines universal ideas of death and existentialism. (This should be in your topic sentence.) In the aftermath of his father’s death, Hamlet is confronted with not only the marriage of his mother, but further the apparition holding the truth of his father’s death leading to revenge. (Start with the concept, i.e. revenge in Hamlet is inspired by the sudden marriage of his Hamlet’s mother and the apparition of his father) While social codes and the conventions of a revenge tragedy demand that Hamlet seeks vengeance, his inner self hesitates due to the clash between emotions, morality, and religion. The audience is able to see the conflict between the demands of repressing his feminine (I would put this in inverted commas “feminine” – it’s a technical thing but otherwise it seems that mercy, reason and feeling are things you argue only women do… You can see how this puts the marker in a pickle.) side demonstrating mercy, reason and feeling, aligned with his masculine side of violence and assertiveness. This becomes most evident in Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy that draws his existential crisis, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune… or to take arms against his sea of troubles” and seek revenge or live with the pain of his father’s murder in which the antithesis represents his sense of instability, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” In addition, he contemplates between life and death, “To die, to sleep.. / No more.. and by a sleep to say we end” and thus escape all of his dilemmas. However, he soon evaluates that if death represented nothing to be feared, then the choice would be simple but that is the “rub” – death remains an unknown entity, “the dread of something after death”. It is through this soliloquy that Hamlet tackles one of the biggest questions behind what it means to be human. Hamlet knows that his desire to kill Claudius is morally wrong and religiously seen as sinful, however he is still emotionally compelled to fulfill his goal. By using inclusive expressions through the pronouns, (What pronouns?) Shakespeare adheres directly to the human experience by creating an abstract rather than a personal evaluation, “Fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all”. The inclusive language allows the audience to engage with the emphasis of the continual tension between freedom and constraint, action and inaction. (The inclusive language such as ‘we’ and ‘us’ in “quote” allows the audience to… This would be much clearer) These ideas that Hamlet experiences are universal as they are dilemmas which all humans experience, both globally and contextually, allowing the text to transcend time and establish textual integrity.

(Split this into two paragraphs – one on existentialism and one on death. You can introduce them both at the same time. (i.e. in your first paragraph you say you Hamlet is about death and existentialism – you discuss existentialism, then lead on to your point about death). Your points are good – though some need to be reworded a little.)

Hamlet’s struggle of procrastination is incessant during the course of the play gradually mounting towards the end of the play and forcing him to enter deeper contemplations of mortality further establishing the universality of the character. After being captured by pirates on his voyage to England, Hamlet returns to Denmark, still a man of little action. (of what action? Be specific and say ‘unwilling enact his plan of revenge’) Shakespeare highlights this by simultaneously juxtaposing Hamlet at this point with two men of action, Polonius and Laertes, who are at the same time conspiring Hamlet’s death. For these men, “revenge shall have no bounds”. In the next scene holding Yorick’s skull, Hamlet’s childhood Jester, he explores the brevity and futility of the human condition and the inevitability of death by urging the skull to “get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come” as no one can avoid death. The use of the skull is not only a dramatic prop that heightens the dramatic tension, but further acts as symbolic evidence to reinforce Hamlet’s statements. It confirms the reality of death for the audience. As Hamlet holds the skull in his hand he is literally and directly looking death in the face, further increasing the value of his meaningful words. The dilemmas of life, death, and existentialism, create the texts deep connections to universal audiences, creating a high degree of textual integrity.

(Excellent. Some good points.)

“Hamlet” is a very universal text as it presents themes that apply to individuals both contextually and globally. Shakespeare presents themes of death and existentialism (You’ve already stated this. Normally a marker will completely disregard this paragraph from here.) and emphasises them with the use of structure. The structure of a Shakespearean drama reveals act 3 as the point of climax and the point of change for the protagonist. Shakespeare places Hamlet’s existential soliloquy is in Act 3 Scene 1 to mark its significance as the climax of the whole play. Shakespeare embraces the structure of the drama to deliver the notion of existentialism and that it is the downfall of humanity. However it is the irony in that the existential crisis and flaws of individuals and society are what allows humanity to develop and proceed, as individuals are constantly in search for reason and fulfilment of life.

(This paragraph adds little you did not cover in the opening two. It is strong and succinct, but it is better deleted)

The genre of “Hamlet” is a revenge tragedy in which Shakespeare utilises to create interesting and complex characters. The genre conventions of a revenge tragedy reveal that the protagonist is the villain, in which they dominantly drive the plot. Through the genre conventions, Hamlet is the villain. As a 21st Century audience, the protagonist Hamlet, has positive connotations of being morally correct, good, and the character which is most relatable, however in this revenge tragedy, the protagonist is the villain, leaving philosophical ideologies that everyone in society is a villain. Shakespeare emphasises that society is an irrational and cyclic world.

(There are some good details here, and this would work well as your first body paragraph. It’s a bit wasted here. Some evidence would also improve it)

The universality of the play as well as it contextually accepting ideas establishes a high degree of textual integrity. The culmination of the play’s structure, soliloquies, rhetorics, genre and text-type conventions create textual integrity of the text and has a high degree of universality which allows for a various meaningful intakes from the play. The evolving character of Hamlet throughout the play represents the changing values and behaviours in society and portrays the notion that perfection is never reached. Through the characterisation of Hamlet, Shakespeare presents the flaws within individuals which accumulates and builds up the unescapable detriments of society; its irrational and cyclic nature. However as shown through Hamlet’s madness and existential crisis, it is the irrational and cyclic nature in which individuals are constantly in search for purpose and fulfilment and reason in life.

(Good conclusion apart from your opening line)


There are some good points and your paragraph on racism is a good guide for how a cohesive response should sound.

The rest of your essay, unfortunately, does not achieve the same level of cohesion. In short, your paragraphs are much too long.

You need to avoid ‘blanket’ terms such as a ‘society’. Society has multiple definitions. If you mean a modern audience, just say contemporary. If you mean Elizabethan, say that too. You also can’t assume values of a particular time. Some points could have further clarity.

The rest of your essay, unfortunately, does not achieve the same level of cohesion. In short, your paragraphs are much too long.

You need to avoid ‘blanket’ terms such as a ‘society’. Society has multiple definitions. If you mean a modern audience, just say contemporary. If you mean Elizabethan, say that too. You also can’t assume values of a particular time. Some points could have further clarity.

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