Hamlet: Antiheroism in Hamlet


Antiheroism has always been an interesting aspect of a character that
authors have chosen to illustrate. In literature, there has been countless
antiheroic characters, from Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo\'s
Nest and Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast, to others as famous as Robin Hood
and ... By literary definition, an antihero is the "hero" of the play or
novel, but has negative attributes which separate him or her from the
classic hero such as Superman. Such negative aspects may include a violent
nature, use of coarse language, or self serving interests which may
inadvertently depict the protagonist as a hero since the result of serving
those interests may be the betterment of society or an environment. In
William Shakespeare\'s Hamlet, the protagonist, Hamlet, is depicted as an
antihero. One main factor which gives Hamlet such a label is that he draws
sympathy, as well as admiration, from the reader since Hamlet feels the
pain of losing his father along with the burden and obstacles in avenging
his murder.

Act four places a special emphasis on Hamlet\'s intelligence. In scene
two, Hamlet is very insolent and rude towards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
with such phrases as,

That I can keep your counsel and not, mine own. Beside, to be
demanded of a sponge, what replication should be made by the son of a
king? (IV, ii, 12-14)

The reference to the sponge reflects the fact that Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern are easily ordered by the king and do not have minds of their
own. Hamlet does not like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern since they are
servants of the Claudius, Hamlet\'s mortal enemy. The reader does not like
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern either which causes the reader to side with
Hamlet.

Another incident of Hamlet\'s high intelligence is shown when he Hamlet
tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,

I am glad of it: a knavish sleeps in a foolish ear. (IV, ii,
24-25)

This statement leaves Rosencrantz and Guildenstern more or less confused.
Hamlet is clearly more clever than the two of them combined and is able to
toy with them.Hamlet has an excellent command of the language and because
of it, can use words to the point that those around him will not understand
and may label him as crazy.

Hamlet shows another example of his cleverness, this time towards
Claudius, when he says,

I see a cherub that sees them. But, come; for England! Farewell,
dear mother. (IV, iii, 49-50)

The cherub, or the angel, gives Hamlet a sense of superiority over
Claudius. Having an angel at one\'s side would be a definite sign of power,
which is exactly what Hamlet tries to maintain over Claudius in their
constant power struggle. Just when Claudius thinks he controls Hamlet, it
is really Hamlet who has the upper hand over Claudius.

There are very strong philosophical references made by Hamlet in this
act regarding life and death. Hamlet tells Claudius,

Your worm is your
only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat
ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
variable service, two dishes, but to one table: that\'s the end. (IV,
iii, 21-26)

This statement id a reference to the food chain, and in turn, a reflection
on the meaning of life. It illustrates the equality of men in that whether
one is born to be a king or a beggar, when one dies, we are all equal.
Worms and maggots do not treat anybody differently once one is dead and
buried.

The final scene draws the greatest sympathy towards Hamlet even though
he is not even in the scene. The forces of Claudius and Laertes have
combined against Hamlet. Claudius states,

To an exploit now ripe in my device, Under the which he shall not
choose but fall, And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe; But
even his mother shall unchange the practice, And call it accident.
(IV, vii, 65-69)

Claudius is willing to undertake any measures necessary to eliminate
Hamlet, to the point that it does not matter whether or not it hurts
Gertrude in any way. This scene depicts Hamlet as the victim, much like two
bullies picking on a smaller child in school, since the king, with the aid
of Laertes, is out to kill Hamlet, this time with a passion. Much like a
political revolutionary, Hamlet has the system against him and is facing
death because of his loyalty and honour towards his father.

The fact that Hamlet\'s life is not indeed