Relations are an important part of human lives as they shape an individual’s character and thoughts. Among these relations, the most influential one is the relationship between parents and their children. It is commonly believed that a child is more attached to its mother than its father. However, as the child grows up, it is often the father who shapes their outlook and attitude towards life.
The relationship between a father and his children takes on many forms, which are depicted in both Shakespeare’s play Hamlet and Julia Alvarez’s short story The Kiss. In Hamlet, the protagonist is a son named Hamlet whose desire to avenge his father’s death leads to his tragic end. His love and devotion for his father are evident from his actions as he sacrifices his own life to seek revenge.
In The Kiss, the focus is on Carlos, a father with four daughters including Sofia who has some behavioral issues causing differences between them. Eventually, they resolve their differences through love and affection for each other.
Both stories highlight the strong bond of affection that ties fathers with their children forever.
In the Shakespearean play of Hamlet, the central character is a tragic hero named Hamlet. He seeks revenge for his father’s death but falls into a death trap set by his uncle, who is also his father’s brother. Tragically, all the main characters fall into this trap as well.
The play begins in Elsinore in the kingdom of Denmark where two guards and scholar Horatio spot supernatural forces at work. They notice the ghost of the dead king, Old Hamlet: “In the same figure, like the king that’s dead” (Shakespeare 74). It is believed among the kingdom’s people that he died of unknown reasons until it is proved otherwise in the course of the play.
The fact remains that King Hamlet is dead and his brother Claudius has crowned himself king. Along with this crowning, he maintains “status quo” by marrying Gertrude, King Hamlet’s wife and continuing her as queen of Denmark. The legal heir and son to King Hamlet – Prince Hamlet – remains a mute spectator grieving for his father’s death and upset at his mother’s decision to marry her uncle just two months after her husband’s passing.
This decision pushes Prince Hamlet to find out more about what happened to his father and seek revenge against whoever was responsible for it. The appearance of King Hamlet’s ghost answers all questions: The ghost… appears before [Prince]Hamlet tells him who murdered him and makes him swear revenge against [the murderer]” (essortment.com).
Once Prince Hamlet discovers that his own uncle murdered King Hamlet, he sets out on a mission to avenge his father’s death but ultimately forfeits both love and life in doing so.
Hamlet’s love for his father is visible when he is unable to overcome the grief of his father’s death. The thought that his mother had married his uncle within such a short period after the death of his father troubled him. He failed to understand how his mother could forget his father so soon and go on to marry another man. Hamlet had strong feelings of affection and love for his father, which hindered him from accepting his mother’s remarriage. According to Adelman (246), Although most Oedipal accounts begin by acknowledging that Hamlet is initially more obsessed…they usually go on to focus on the father-son relationship, discussing the mother merely as the condition that occasions the son’s struggle.” The strong bond that Hamlet shared with his father drives him to find out the cause of his father’s mysterious death, forgetting about everything else.
After grieving in black robes, Hamlet follows Horatio to confirm whether his father is only appearing as a ghost. When he sees him, he doesn’t know whether to believe it or not. He was shocked to hear from the ghost that it was Claudius who actually committed the murder by pouring poison into his ear while he was fast asleep in the garden. Hamlet was skeptical and double-minded about believing it. The initial impetus to the action stems from the testimony of a ghost, hardly the most substantial guarantor of unambiguous truth” (Brennan 130). However, realizing the gravity of the charge, he seeks to find out the truth behind his father’s death.
Hamlet decides to act insanely, without hesitation, so that he can make the culprits ‘spill the beans’. His decision to act as a mad person had the potential to affect his relationship with his lover Ophelia, but he did not hesitate. His only thoughts were on finding his father’s murderers and translating into action his desire to kill them. He simply obeyed the order of his father’s ghost and sought revenge.
When Hamlet is assured that the words of the ghost were true, he becomes consumed with revenge and goes to Claudius’ room to murder him. Claudius is alone and admits to killing his brother, lamenting that he cannot repent his crime. He begins to pray in an attempt to absolve himself. Hamlet enters behind him and prepares to kill him, but stops when he realizes Claudius is praying. He believes that if he kills Claudius during prayer, then Claudius will be absolved of all his sins.
The certainty of the king’s guilt, as revealed by the play makes Hamlet furiously angry, and that anger provokes both the decision to kill the king….would not satisfy the revenge wish” (Bayley 171). Hamlet decides not to kill Claudius at this moment but instead postpones his plan until he can ensure that Claudius will be sent to hell for his crimes.
Hamlet is so enraged by his father’s death that he wants his father’s killer sent straight to hell. He seeks an opportunity where he can carry out this act without being blamed for it.
Using a fencing match as the setting, Claudius plans to apply poison to Laertes’ sword so that when it strikes Hamlet during the match, he will die instantly. According to Brennan (139), He succeeds in suborning one revenger to protect himself from the other.” Even if Hamlet emerges victorious without getting cut by the poisoned sword, Claudius has a backup plan to murder him by giving him a drink mixed with poison and pearl as a ‘victory drink.’ Shakespeare (248) writes, “And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepared him A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping, If he by chance escape your venom’d stuck, Our purpose may hold there.” However, in a tragic sequence of events, Gertrude mistakenly drinks the poisoned wine while overjoyed by her son’s exploits in the fencing match. Both Laertes and Hamlet are struck by the poisoned sword and Hamlet also slits Claudius’s throat. In this climax moment of revenge-seeking against his father’s killer – which has been his only motive since learning of his father’s death – Hamlet does not hesitate because he feels that his end is nearing and this is his last opportunity.
In the short story The Kiss” by Julia Alvarez, we see the same relationship of a father with his children. However, the focus is on the differences that arise in the relationship between a father and daughter and how these differences are resolved due to their strong bond. The story revolves around Carlos and his four grown-up daughters who gather every year at his house for his birthday party. Carlos was a responsible father who looked after his daughters with great care and love. He expected them to lead their lives in a way that upheld his good name and reputation.
All of Carlos’ daughters lived up to his expectations except one – Sofia. Since her adolescence, Sofia defied the rules set by her father. She kept having affairs with her boyfriends, which hurt Carlos deeply. They had some differences over her relationship with a German man, which led Sofia to run away and get married to him.
After her marriage, Sofia invited her parents to visit but Carlos refused to go because of their disagreement. However, Sofia visited him with her child at his birthday party where he finally decided to give up his anger towards her and make amends.
Carlos’ love for Sofia compelled him to forgive her despite all their past disagreements.
Carlo is a protective father who wants to control the sexual behavior of his daughters. He believes that as the head of the family, it is his responsibility to maintain the chastity of his girls. Having been raised in Latin culture, he feels that it is the duty of men to protect female members of their families. According to Sirias (45), Carlo views male dominance and control over women in his care as a natural order of things.
Even when he invites his daughters to his birthday party at home, Carlo wants them to come unaccompanied by their husbands or boyfriends. The presence of other males is unacceptable because it threatens Carlo’s control over his daughters. As Sirias (45) notes, he also insists that they come alone without their husbands or mates.” In essence, Carlo wants to be the sole male present and mark his territory.
This nature of Carlo stands in contrast with Sofia’s thoughts.
Sofia refused to be bound by Carlos’ attitude and tried to suppress her sexuality. She roamed with her boyfriends, and when Carlos prevented her from spending a night with one of them, she found a way to fulfill her wish by accompanying him on a vacation to Colombia. The contrasting attitudes of Carlos and Sofia led to conflicts between them. Despite numerous warnings, Sofia continued with her behavior which upset Carlos on numerous occasions. Sofia failed to understand the motives behind Carlos’ restrictions on his daughters. Once he even said, I don’t want loose women in the family” (Alvarez, 29). However, Sofia paid no heed which led to a strained relationship between father and daughter.
When Carlos discovers that Sofia was involved in a sexual relationship with a German man, he is disturbed. He believes that Sofia’s actions might bring him disrespect and cause him to lose the respect and esteem he enjoys in society (Sirias 47). The resulting fight causes Sofia to feel hurt, prompting her to leave the house. Carlos is so hurt and angry about his daughter’s behavior that he severs ties with her. Even after Sofia invites him to her house following her marriage to the German man, Carlos swears never to go there.
Sofia’s mother Laura visits Sofia’s house after the birth of their first child, but Carlos stands by his word. His pain and anguish show that he strives to live by his beliefs and moral values, wishing that his daughters would follow them as well.
The rift that had developed in the relationship between Carlos and Sofia was transitory. However, their bond of affection allowed them to forgive each other. When Sofia visited her father on his birthday with her child, Carlos forgot their past differences and decided to forgive her. To reinforce her ties with her father, Sofia proposed arranging Carlos’ birthday party at her house. Out of love for his daughter, Carlos agreed to celebrate his birthday at Sofia’s house. This action portrayed Sofia’s affection for her father.
Differences may arise between a father and children, but the strong bond of love a father has with his children will help them overcome those differences. The relationship between Carlos and Sofia exemplifies this fact.
The relationship between Sofia and Carlos differs from that of Hamlet and his father in various aspects. Hamlet loves his father deeply, which is why he obeys the order of his father’s ghost, even at the cost of his own life. This strong bond of affection compels Hamlet to sacrifice both his life and love in order to fulfill his father’s wishes. As Bayley notes, Not only does Hamlet never question the duty of revenge, but he also accepts its dramatic conventions” (171). In contrast, Sofia defies her father Carlos’ strict rules regarding sexuality and morality. When Carlos questions her about her relationship with a German man, it is clear that he is angry: “Has he deflowered you? Have you gone behind the palm trees?” (Alvarez 30). Despite this conflict, Sofia leaves home to pursue her own desires. However, their strong bond of affection eventually leads them to reconcile after years of separation.
The relationship between a father and his children is depicted in the stories Hamlet by Shakespeare and The Kiss by Julia Alvarez. In order to avenge his father’s death, Hamlet behaves like an insane person and risks losing his love. In the end, he succeeds in avenging his father’s death but at the cost of his own life. The relationship between a father and daughter is presented in the story The Kiss. Carlos had a strained relationship with his daughter, Sofia, but their affection makes them forget their differences. Both stories portray that a father shares a strong bond of affection and love with his children.
Adelman, Janet. Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays.
Hamlet to the Tempest. Routledge. 1992.
Brennan, Anthony. Shakespeare’s Dramatic Structures. Routledge, 1988.
Bayley, John. Shakespeare and Tragedy. Routledge, 1981.
Alvarez, Julia. The Kiss.” Ed. Robert DiYanni. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 6th ed., McGraw-Hill, 2007.
Character analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Othello can be found on essortment.com. The article was published on March 4, 2009.
Visit http://www.essortment.com/all/shakespeareothe_rqmb.htm for more information about Shakespeare and his works.
Sirias, Silvio. Julia Alvarez: A Critical Companion. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001.
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet” was published in 1888 by Plain Label Books.