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    Hi guys,

    I've got this essay to do, and I am struggling to find any really strong points.

    "Any successful production will not fail to emphasise that 'Hamlet' is a tragedy of state"

    Any ideas?

    The thrust of my argument thus far is going to be...

    It is, of course, undeniable that “the state” is of great importance in the audience’s understanding of both Hamlet’s psychological torment, and the nature and difficulty of his quest for revenge. Without the “rotten[ness]” of the “State of Denmark”, the play would surely lose much of its power in communicating effectively the internalised corruption that Hamlet suffers from, as well as negating the opportunity to see his psychological torment take on a more obvious manifestation of itself in his pursuit of “revenge” for his father. However, it must be acknowledged that even without the element of “state” in this play; Hamlet would still be able to interest any audience through his ambiguity and his torment. Though these elements are magnified by elements of “state”, they are by no means completely dependent on it, and as such, it is, though perhaps difficult, to make a “successful production” without emphasising that ‘Hamlet is a tragedy of state’.


    Any help will be really appreciated!!!!!
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    To be honest I would be tempted to argue that the idea of the state within Hamlet is less important than within Lear or Macbeth for example and that it is possible - indeed perhaps even preferable - to stage Hamlet outside that context. There's something intensely personal about Hamlet's dilemma and I find that the Fortinbras subplot (if it even warrants being called that) doesn't really add much to the overall effects of the play.
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    I agree with what you say regarding Fortinbras, but I do feel that the role of the "state" is hugely important in two other ways.

    Firstly, the "state" and the corruption that pervades it, is central to the turmoil that Hamlet is subject to. Without the corruption of Claudius, there would have been no usurpation, no need for "revenge" and consequently no procrastination on the part of Hamlet - the very factor which escalates his self-disgust and contemplation of suicide. It has to be acknowldged that Hamlet's madness (if conceived as real) cannot be completely separated from state affairs. Although we are not given any real indication as to the original providence of his anguish, it is clear that it comes, at least in part, from the "rotten[nes]" of Denmark".

    Furthermore, I would say that the "state" is hugely significant to the play in that i brings with it some very important contemporary political and social analysis. The political nature of Claudius: his rhetoric, the spying and all that goes with it, alludes to the general atmosphere of misturst and corruptness that plagued the contemporary society. For me, this is crucial to the tragic nature of the play because it is Hamlet's quest to try and rejuviate and salvage the "state", yet he is unable to.


    Any thoughts?
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    (Original post by d-r-d)
    Firstly, the "state" and the corruption that pervades it, is central to the turmoil that Hamlet is subject to. Without the corruption of Claudius, there would have been no usurpation, no need for "revenge" and consequently no procrastination on the part of Hamlet - the very factor which escalates his self-disgust and contemplation of suicide. It has to be acknowldged that Hamlet's madness (if conceived as real) cannot be completely separated from state affairs. Although we are not given any real indication as to the original providence of his anguish, it is clear that it comes, at least in part, from the "rotten[nes]" of Denmark".
    I agree to an extent. Ultimately though, the root of Hamlet's problems lie within the family. After all, "There is something rotten in the state of Denmark", not "The state of Denmark is rotten". Thinking about it, there was, I believe, a tendency for kings to be known as the name of their country. The "state of Denmark" could be read as meaning the state of Claudius's soul (which is commented on when Hamlet refuses to kill him during his prayers). The regicide and - what Hamlet sees as - the ensuing sexual depravity are internalised within Hamlet's private world. We're given little insight into the affairs of the "outside". The focus of the play is what Hamlet deems to be the incestuous relationship between his mother and uncle. Look at the ease with which Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are dispatched or the relatively small amount of time spent away from the court (even when Hamlet himself is not there).

    If you look at Lear, there seems to be a far greater sense of the universality of the tragedy. Take the storm on the heath for example - it acts as a metaphor for a general social unrest. The very vocabulary of Lear is bound up in the broader social context - "like flies are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport" (sorry, that's from memory and possibly not totally accurate). Hamlet wouldn't speak such a line because it would not fit his intensely personal context. Hamlet, by contrast to the themes of Lear, is less caught up in the outside world, Hamlet's hesitation comes from an internal melancholy about an internal issue. Lear makes comment upon his treatment of the beggars in his kingdom - there is no such commentary in Hamlet.

    Furthermore, I would say that the "state" is hugely significant to the play in that i brings with it some very important contemporary political and social analysis. The political nature of Claudius: his rhetoric, the spying and all that goes with it, alludes to the general atmosphere of misturst and corruptness that plagued the contemporary society. For me, this is crucial to the tragic nature of the play because it is Hamlet's quest to try and rejuviate and salvage the "state", yet he is unable to.
    I think perhaps this is the middle ground between the two points of view. Claudius is head of state, yes. However, this is not really his prime function within the play; he is really the person against whom Hamlet's revenge is directed. Yet it is still important in some senses that he is king. To kill a monarch is, as you say, a big deal within the Elizabethan social context. I disagree though that Hamlet's aim is to salvage the state. I believe he is far too focussed on revenging his father and preventing the sexual activity between his mother and uncle. If anything, in his madness, he applies his PERSONAL context onto the outside world. His misogyny, manifested in his treatment of Ophelia, is bred from his disgust at his mother's actions. The outside does not affect him so much as he attempts to rationalise the outside (to a limited extent because he is still within the Danish court) through his own views.

    Another contrast might be with Titus Andronicus. The play opens with a deeply political theme; there is an argument over the succession to the Emperorship. Out of this conflict is bred the possibility of a tragedy which is founded in the very framework of the Roman society in which it's set. The ideas of revenge after the downfall of social norms is key and the message is extremely political - it links to Elizabethan contexts in the way it deals with factions and vigilante justice. At the same time there is a personal element - Titus feels betrayed and wishes to revenge his sons and daughter. However, the idea of the state and corruption are at the fore in a way they aren't, I don't think, in Hamlet.
 
 
 
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