Family Relationships in “Hamlet” by Shakespeare

Subject: Literature
Pages: 3
Words: 581
Reading time:
2 min

During his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote numerous plays which remain popular to this day and are staged in a variety of theaters worldwide. The Tragedy of Hamlet is of the most notable plays written by Shakespeare, and it raises many topical themes, the main among which is the relationships between parents and children. In his play, Shakespeare shows how problems within families can eventually lead to tragic events such as death.

The Tragedy of Hamlet features several families and describes the intricacies of their relationship. Although the primary conflict which can be observed in the play occurs between Hamlet and Claudius, it is important to mention Hamlet’s relationship with his parents. Essentially, Hamlet does not approve of his mother’s romantic affair with his uncle, which she started almost instantly after the death of King Hamlet. At some point, Hamlet tells his mother, “Go not to my uncle’s bed. Assume a virtue if you have it not” (Shakespeare 3.4. 180-181). Thus, one can see that Hamlet does not favor the actions of his mother and instead condemns her, which constitutes one of the relationship problems of the play. Nevertheless, Hamlet genuinely cares about his mother and wishes that she would act in a way which would suit her best. At the same time, Hamlet has a good relationship with his father, the late king, who comes to Hamlet as a spirit and asks his son to avenge him. Thus, Hamlet respects both of his parents and expresses concern about his mother’s well-being and the memory of his father.

There is also Polonius’ family, which is different from that of Hamlet’s. Polonius establishes complete dominance over his children, Ophelia and Laertes. For instance, he commands Ophelia not to engage in any romantic relationship with Hamlet, despite her feelings (Shakespeare 1.3.110). Such actions show that Polonius prioritizes his own interests over those of his daughter. Polonius keeps Ophelia dependent on him, which becomes another tragic issue explored by Shakespeare in the play. The total dependence on her father’s will becomes one of the main factors behind Ophelia’s insanity and eventual suicide. Polonius also tries to control the life of his son, Laertes, whom he betrays by instructing Reynaldo to dishonor him (Shakespeare 2.1.24). Thus, Polonius attempts to assert his dominance over his children, which in the end causes his daughter to kill herself.

As mentioned above, Hamlet’s relationship with Claudius is at the core of The Tragedy of Hamlet’s plot. The hate between Hamlet and Claudius is reciprocal because Hamlet does not approve of his uncle’s marriage to his mother, while Claudius sees his nephew as a person who suspects that he murdered King Hamlet. As a result, Claudius persuades Laertes to kill Hamlet by telling him, “Requite him for your father” (Shakespeare 4.6.158). Although Claudius manages to murder his nephew, Hamlet kills Claudius with a poisoned sword, thus satisfying the wish of his father.

The plot of The Tragedy of Hamlet shows how relationship problems among relatives can have tragic implications for the entire family. Hamlet, who is driven by the desire to avenge the death of his father and defend the honor of his mother, kills his uncle. Claudius, who wants to remove a person threatening his plan of becoming a king, kills Hamlet, his nephew. Ophelia, unable to live without her tyrannical father, ends up killing herself. Such events in the play serve as a reminder about the need to maintain positive relationships in a family because otherwise, a tragedy may ensue.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Simon & Schuster, 2012.