Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely English Literature Essay Free Essay


“Absolute power corrupts perfectly, ” as the oft-repeated expression goes. It ‘s a cliche and possibly excessively sententious, but the apothegm still has some virtue, as has been shown infinite times throughout history. It ‘s a stating exhaustively, though equivocally, explored in Shakespeare ‘s Hamlet. Those in power and those near it, likewise, act with small respect to morality. The title character himself commits three slayings by the terminal of the drama. While some of them could perchance be claimed a justifiable, they were slayings however: offenses against the province, against humanity and against faith. Hamlet ‘s uncle Acts of the Apostless with even greater moral vacuum, as make his advisers and their relations. It seems that anyone even closely related to the throne in Hamlet is every bit at least corrupt, if non evil. However, friendly relationships permeate the narrative, and while some of them are superficial matrimonies of circumstance, gleams of true friendly relationship ( “conformity, affinity, correspondence, propensity to unify

” ( OED ) ) , or a true brotherhood of humanity on occasion appear. As the blood bath at the terminal of the drama illustrates, friendly relationship and morality frequently lead to some sort of salvation, even in the face of great wrongs.

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Possibly Hamlet is best explained by the relationship between the two possible princes in the drama. Fortinbras and Hamlet find themselves in really similar state of affairss as they cross waies. Both are born into power. Certain outlooks have been set for each of them for their full lives, but these come to a caput about at the same time. Hamlet finds himself expected to revenge his male parent ‘s decease at the custodies of Claudius as Fortinbras “go [ es ] to derive a spot of land that hath in it no profit” ( Hamlet 4.4.19-20 ) , seemingly to revenge his male parent ‘s decease and licking. They were born into luck, intending both fortune and gift, which instantly warped their perceptual experiences of the universe around them. Hamlet is left impotent as a consequence. He ‘s an indecisive adult male, capable of complex idea and moral judgement, but unable to move on these thoughts and urges. “Morals are all comparative to him” ( Warhaft 199 ) harmonizing to Sidney Warhaft in the essay “The Mystery of Hamlet.” His sheltered

upbringing did non screen him from the frequent ugliness of the universe, but it did go forth him powerless to make anything about it, one manner or another. This facet of his character is best illustrated by the celebrated monologue get downing with “To be or non to be” ( 3.1.56 ) . The Prince of Denmark is so ashamed of his cowardliness and inability to take action that he contemplates suicide, but in the ultimate paradox is unable even to move on those urges, even after considering for a few proceedingss ( and presumptively he ‘d been sing this before he came near to moving on it ) . Hamlet illustrates that any action can see as unneeded, or at least unattractive, when brooded over for excessively long. The personality traits he displays are the direct consequence of the restraints of power and luck.

Fortinbras is about a polar antonym of Hamlet. Alternatively of chew overing options until suicide seems a feasible path, Fortinbras is a adult male of action, making what he feels is right, or what he wants, without believing excessively much about the effects. His male parent was killed by the King of Denmark, and so he instantly set out, trekking across states and seas with an ground forces in tow, to take back land, and perchance slay those who did him wrong. Possibly the most interesting thing said about him is that Fortinbras is “Of unimproved heart hot and full” ( 1.1.96 ) , which suggests that he is no better ( therefore “unimproved” ) than his male parent, and is something of a fire-eater. Basically, while Hamlet was sheltered as a kid of luck, Fortinbras was possibly allowed limitless freedom, turning him into the choleric ultraconservative that he is, ever following his knee-jerk response alternatively of believing things through. Fortinbras is frequently considered the more “correct” character of the two, but

both have been warped by their places in life, and both are horrifyingly selfish, with Fortinbras willing to give 1000s in war for glorification and Hamlet moving like he ‘s the lone individual in the universe at times. It is a loud statement that the two are able so easy to come to friendship from decease, with Fortinbras stating “For he was likely…to have proved most royal….. Speak aloud for him” ( 5.2.376-379 ) . Their similar and intertwining lucks ( intending both gifts and fates ) bring them to some sort of common regard: an apprehension and understanding for one another ‘s predicament. Fortinbras ‘ sympathy brings him one measure closer to humanity ; a kindness to even out his huffy bloodlust. Hamlet, in calling Fortinbras the King of Denmark, acts resolutely without coercion for the first clip in the drama. His friendly relationship, his regard, for his deluxe equal helped still his one glaring fatal defect before it was excessively late to rectify it.

The household of Polonius is possibly the worst group of fortunate wrongdoers in Hamlet. Polonius himself is a undercover agent, a retainer to whatever Godhead happens to be in power at any given clip. First he gives aslant advice to his boy and girl, in “what would look in a snapshot, say, to be a normal cheery spot of familial concern, becomes in the context of the drama a awful contemplation of a general pollution” ( Warhaft 197 ) . Basically, the really heads of these people are corrupted by the outlook of life they are surrounded with and born into. They are so far removed from the remainder of humanity that any apparently normal workss need to be explained with context. Polonius trusts non even his boy ; he sends undercover agents to look into on his progeny, because he fears “wanton, wild, and usual faux pass as are comrades noted and most known to youth and liberty” ( 2.1.22-24 ) and condemns “drabbing” ( 2.1.26 ) , or associated with loose adult females. While a disfavor of cocottes is non a alone human characteris

tic, Polonius seems to denounce relationships of all sorts, shouting at his girl for a apparently appropriate association. And, of class, Polonius is involved in a figure of slaying secret plans in his pursuit to near the throne, waiving any moral aptitude for a spot more power. His decease is sudden and unexpected, and he is left no clip in the terminal to alter his ways.

Polonius ‘ elevation of his girl, Ophelia, renders her about a non-character in Hamlet. She seems the one character devoid of any corruptness or lunacy, and yet is the tragic figure of the drama, perpetrating self-destruction as a direct consequence of the inconsiderate, inhumane determinations being made around her. While her unity flights unharmed, her organic structure and her artlessness bash non, and it is one time once more the mistake of the fortunate moving with no respect to friendliness and brotherhood.

Her brother is a different affair. Laertes is a adult male of visual aspects, as dictated by his power and rank in society. He is obsessed with the thought of non dishonoring his name or his household ‘s, for fright of somehow losing the influence it brings, traveling every bit far as to state “I prohibit my tears” ( 4.7.186 ) at hearing the of the decease of his sister, merely slackly masking it as a gesture of regard. It is so non surprising that he vows retaliation for his male parent ‘s decease, in order to continue a sense of award. His purposes are frequently good, but his character is undermined by his concern with visual aspect and by his male parent ‘s influence. “ [ By ] my will, non all the world” ( 4.5.137 ) illustrates a trait Laertes portions with Hamlet and Fortinbras. Like them he is more concerned with himself than with any coherence with the remainder of humanity. He takes cutoffs, poisoning his blade alternatively of confronting Hamlet reasonably. Ironically, this deprives Laertes of the true award with which he is so concerned. Be

ing born into luck, being around the throne and being influenced by Claudius and Polonius removes any public morality Laertes may hold otherwise expressed. He redeems himself in the terminal, nevertheless, inquiring Hamlet for forgiveness, hammering a sort of regard and friendly relationship in his last minutes. Again, after being “justly killed with [ his ] ain treachery” ( 5.2.287 ) Laertes ‘ moral fibre is able to reflect through, as he no longer has any visual aspects to continue or any name to keep on to.

Most of the characters in Hamlet are corrupt, from King Claudius on down. They are kids of luck, born rich, powerful and influential. With alone duties and unusual freedoms and restraints, these otherwise normal people are transformed into immoral and irrational existences. They fight amongst themselves until most are dead, and are merely able to come to clasps with their ain failings when all is over. They are all of a sudden faced with their ain mortality and tend to atone. With no tomorrow to look frontward to, they cleanse their psyches every bit rapidly as possible, in what likely is non merely a superficial readying for an hereafter. By organizing bonds with one another in the face of decease, the characters are acknowledging their ain humanity: acknowledging that they are non particular because of their luck, but irrevocably similar because of it. It could be seen as tragic that the ties between Hamlet and Fortinbras, and Laertes and Hamlet did non come until a bloodbat

H took topographic point, but it was the lone manner. As the remainder of the drama showed, when corrupt kids of luck are involved, the deceases of others merely are n’t plenty of a wake-up call.

“ The Mystery of Hamlet”

Sidney Warhaft

ELH, Vol. 30, No. 3. ( Sep. , 1963 ) , pp. 193-208.

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