Compare and Contrast A Character in Hamlet to a Short Story
Relations, an important part of human lives, shape an individual’s character and thoughts. Among these relations, the most influential relation is the relation of the parents with their children. It is always believed that a child is more attached to its mother than the father. But as the child grows up, it is the father who shapes the child’s outlook and attitude towards life. The relation of a father with his children and its varied forms are depicted in the play Hamlet by Shakespeare and the short story The Kiss by Julia Alvarez.
The protagonist in the play Hamlet, Hamlet is a son whose desire to avenge the death of his father leads to his tragic end. Hamlet’s love and devotion for his father is evident from his actions. He sacrifices his own life to avenge the death of his father. In the story The Kiss, the focus is on a father and his relation with his four daughters.
Carlos, the father and one of the daughters, Sofia are having some differences over the issue of Sofia’s behavior but they resolve their differences eventually. Both the stories bring forth the strong bond of affection and love that ties a father with his children forever.
In the Shakespearean play of Hamlet, the central character of Hamlet is a tragic hero who while trying to avenge his father’s death, ventures into a death trap. A deathtrap was set by his uncle (father’s brother), but tragically all the main characters also fell into that trap. When the play begins in Elsinore in the kingdom of Denmark two guards along with the scholar, Horatio spot supernatural forces at work. “In the same figure, like the king that’s dead.” (Shakespeare 74). That is, they notice the ghost of the dead king, the Old Hamlet. “Our last king, Whose image even but now appear’d to us.” (Shakespeare 74). Regarding his death, 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. But the fact is, the king is dead and his brother Claudius have crowned himself the king, and along with his crowning he maintained the ‘status quo’, by marrying the late king’s wife Gertrude and continued her as the queen of Denmark. In all this developments, the legal heir and son of the late king, Hamlet remains a mute spectator, grieving for his father’s death and grousing at the decision of her mother to marry her uncle, just two months after his father’s death. So this decision of her mother made him feel for his father and pushed him to find out the truth, and also seek revenge. The appearance of his father’s ghost answers all his questions. “The ghost of the Hamlet’s father, who was the King of Hamlet, appears before Hamlet, tells him who the murderer is, and makes him swear revenge against his murderer.” (essortment.com). Once he discovers the truth that his father was murdered by his own brother, Hamlet sets his mind on revenging his father’s death and in the process, forfeits his love and life.
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 of time after the death of his father, was troubling him. He failed to understand how his mother can forget his father so soon and go on to marry other man. Hamlet had strong feelings of affection and love for his father, and this hindered him from accepting his mother’s remarriage. “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.” (Adelman 246). The strong bond that Hamlet shared with his father drives him to find out the cause of his father’s mysterious death, forgetting his own love.
After grieving in black robes, he follows Horatio to confirm whether his father is only appearing as a ghost. And when he sees him he doesn’t know whether to believe it or not, but was very shocked to hear from him that it was Claudius who actually committed the murder by pouring poison into his ear, when he was fast asleep in the garden. When Hamlet heard this, he was skeptical and was double minded whether to believe it or not. “The initial impetus to the action stems from the testimony of a ghost, hardly the most substantial guarantor of unambiguous truth.” (Brennan 130). But realizing the gravity of the charge, he seeks to find the truth behind the death.
He decides to act insanely, without hesitance so he could make the culprits ‘spills the beans’. Hamlet decision to act as a mad person had a chance of affecting his relationship with his lover Ophelia, but he did not hesitate. His only thoughts were on finding his father’s murderers, and thereby translate into action his thoughts of killing the murderers. He just obeys the order of his father’s ghost and goes on to seek avenge.
When Hamlet is assured that the words of the ghost were true, Hamlet boiling with revengeful mind goes to Claudius’ room to murder him where Claudius, in a solitude state, admits to killing his brother and laments the fact that he cannot repent his crime. He then started his prayers, mainly to absolve his crime. Hamlet enters behind him and is about to kill his uncle, when he realizes that Claudius has been praying. So, he decides not to kill him because he thinks that if Claudius is killed during prayers, Claudius would 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 postpones his killing plan and wishes to make an attempt when he is sure that Claudius will be sent to hell. Hamlet is so enraged by his father’s death that he wants his father’s killer to be sent to hell. So he seeks an opportunity, during which he can kill Claudius and also ensure that he is not blamed for Claudius’ death.
Using a fencing match as the setting, Claudius plans to apply Laertes sword with poison, so when it strikes Hamlet in the course of the match, he will die instantly. “He succeeds in suborning one revenger to protect himself from the other.” (Brennan 139). Even if, Hamlet emerge victorious without getting cut from the poisoned sword, Claudius planned a backup plan to murder Hamlet by giving a poison mixed wine with pearl as a ‘victory drink’ for Hamlet. “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.” (Shakespeare 248). But in a chain of tragic sequences, Gertrude overjoyed by his son’s exploits in the fencing match, mistakenly drinks the poisoned wine, while Laertes as well as Hamlet get struck by the poisoned sword, with Hamlet also slitting the Claudius’s throat. So in the climax, Hamlet does not hesitate even a bit because he felt his end is nearing, and he will not get another opportunity to seek revenge. Importantly killing his father’s killer has been his only motive or wish after he came to know the truth.
The same relation of a father with his children is depicted in the short story The Kiss by Julia Alvarez. But here the focus is on the differences that arise in the relation of a father and daughter, and how these differences are resolved, owing to the strong bond that exists between them. The story revolves around Carlos and his four grown- up daughters, who assemble every year at his house for his birthday party. Carlos was a responsible father who looked after his daughter with great care and love. He expected his daughters to lead their lives in a manner which upheld his good name and repute. All his daughters lived up to his expectations except one and that was Sofia. Since her adolescence Sofia defied the rules set by Carlos. She kept on having affairs with her boyfriends, and behaved in a way that hurt Carlos. Sofia and Carlos had some differences over her relation with a German man, at which Sofia decides to run away. She seeks the German man and gets married. After her marriage, Sofia invites her parents to her new home but Carlos refuses to visit her home. But Sofia visits him with her child at his birthday party. Carlos also decides to give up his anger and make up with his daughter. His love for his daughter compels him to forgive her.
Carlo is a protective father who wants to control the sexual behavior of his daughters. He believed that as the head of the family, the responsibility of maintaining the chastity of his girls rested on him. Being raised in Latin culture, he felt that it was the duty of the man to protect the female members in the family. “Therefore he views male dominance and control over the women in his care as natural order of things.” (Sirias 45). Even when he invited his daughters to his birthday party over his house, he wanted them to come unaccompanied, without their husbands or boyfriends. The presence of other males was not acceptable to him, for it threatened his control over his daughters. “However, he also insists that they come alone, without their husbands or mates. He wants to be the sole male, in essence marking his territory.” (Sirias 45). This nature of Carlos stands in contrast to the thoughts of Sofia.
Sofia refused to be bound by Carlos’ attitude, as she tried to suppress her sexuality. She roamed with her boyfriends and when she was prevented by Carlos from spending a night with her boyfriend, she finds out a way to fulfill her wish. She accompanies her boyfriend on a vacation to Colombia. The contrasting attitudes of Carlos and Sofia gave rise to conflicts between them. In spite of numerous warnings, Sofia continues with her behavior which upsets Carlos on numerous occasions. Sofia fails to understand the motives of Carlos for putting restrictions on his daughters. Carlos also once said that, “I don’t want loose women in the family”. (Alvarez, 29). But Sofia pays no heed and this leads to strained relation between the father and daughter.
When Carlos discovers that Sofia was involved in a sexual relation with a German man, he is disturbed a lot, for he thinks that Sofia’s actions might bring him disrespect. “She has lost her purity and thus he risks losing the respect and the esteem he enjoyed in the society.” (Sirias 47). In the fight that followed, Sofia feels hurt and decides to leave the house. The hurt and anger caused by her daughter’s behavior makes Carlos to severe his ties with his daughter. So even when Sofia invites him to her house after her marriage to the German man, Carlos swears that he will never go to Sofia’s house. Sofia’s mother Laura visits Sofia’s house after the birth of her first child but Carlos stands by his word. The pain and anguish of Carlos shows that he strove to live by his beliefs and moral values. He wished that his daughters should also follow the moral values held by him.
The rift that had developed in the relation of Carlos and Sofia was transitory. For, Carlos and Sofia shared a bond of affection which made them to forgive each other. When Sofia came to visit her father on his birthday with her child, Carlos forgot his past differences with Sofia and decided to forgive her. In order to reinforce her ties with her father, Sofia proposes to arrange for Carlos’ birthday party at her house. Carlos, out of love for her daughter, agrees to celebrate his birthday at her house. The affection of Sofia for her father is portrayed through this action of hers. Differences may arise between a father and his children but the strong bond of love that a father has with his children, will aid them to overcome those differences. The relation of Carlos and Sofia brings forth this fact.
The relation shared by Sofia and Carlos differs from Hamlet’s relation with his father in various aspects. Hamlet loves his father and so obeys the order of his father’s ghost, without even caring for his own life. The strong bond of affection is the reason that Hamlet gives up his life and his love for the sake of fulfilling his father’s wish. “Not only does Hamlet never question the duty of revenge, but he also accepts its dramatic conventions.” (Bayley 171). Sofia, on the other hand flouts the rules of her father, Carlos. Carlos comes across as a stern father when it comes to the matter of sexuality and morality. While questioning Sofia about her relation with the German man, his questions point towards his rage. “Has he deflowered you? Have you gone behind the palm trees?” (Alvarez, 30). Sofia leaves the house and goes on to pursue her own desires. But Carlos and Sofia share a strong bond of affection which makes them to reconcile after years of separation.
The relation of a father with his children is depicted in the stories Hamlet by Shakespeare and The Kiss by Julia Alvarez. In order to avenge the death of his father, Hamlet behaves like an insane person and risks losing his love. In the end, he succeeds in revenging his father’s death but at the cost of his own life. The relation of a father and a daughter is presented in the story The Kiss. Carlos had strained relation with his daughter, Sofia but their affection makes them to forget their differences. The relations, portrayed in both the stories, point towards the fact 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 Edition. McGraw-Hill. 2007
essortment.com. Character analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Othello. 4 March 2009.
Sirias, Silvio. Julia Alvarez: A Critical Companion. Greenwood Publishing Group. 2001.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Plain Label Books.1888.
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