Hamlet act3 sene3 Machiavelli chapter 7-15-25-26 Lens Machiavelli concept Hamlet Intro – text author, content, method Paragraph1- Machiavelli concept explain applied hamlet compare Hamlet act3 sene3 Machiavelli chapter 7-15-25-26 work enables misunderstand play’s ending significant relevant divergence hamlet Machiavelli Second essay compare Hamlet act 4.
Unlike Prince Hamlet, who is a man who is concerned with the morality of kingship as well as is an aggrieved son avenging his father, King Claudius of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is primarily concerned with holding onto his power. Claudius does have some moral qualms about his actions, but not enough to repent. This is seen when Claudius tries to pray for forgiveness but is unable to do so: “O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven” (3.3). However, the political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli would diagnose Claudius’ problem as being insufficiently ruthless up to this point in his dealings with his nephew. Claudius is a leader whose star had a rapid and unexpected ascent when he killed his brother and married his brother’s widow. This is why Claudius must hold onto the reigns of power with a tight fist. “States that rise unexpectedly, then, like all other things in nature which are born and grow rapidly, cannot have their foundations and relations with other states” (Machiavelli 7).
According to Machiavelli, when a leader does not have clear allies, he must seek others out and build a new foundation, not rely upon existing structures of power. To some extent, Claudius does so in his alliance with Polonius, who seems willing to advance the king’s needs (even allowing his daughter Ophelia to be used as a decoy in Claudius’ attempt to find out the root of Hamlet’s madness). Machiavelli counsels: “Therefore, he who considers it necessary to secure himself in his new principality, to win friends, to overcome either by force or fraud, to make himself beloved and feared by the people, to be followed and revered by the soldiers, to exterminate those who have power or reason to hurt him, to change the old order of things for new, to be severe and gracious, magnanimous and liberal, to destroy a disloyal soldiery and to create new, to maintain friendship with kings and princes in such a way that they must help him with zeal and offend with caution, cannot find a more lively example than the actions of this man” (Machiavelli 7). At the beginning of the play, Claudius acts decisively in his dealings with Fortinbras, who is then the main challenger to his kingdom. Claudius works hard to create a rapport with the people, holding many drinking banquets that Hamlet despises but which other members of the court love. Other than in the estimation of Hamlet, Claudius’ marriage to Gertrude does not seem unpopular. Only Hamlet despises Claudius and is obsessed with the evil he sees in the marriage of his mother to his uncle. Machiavelli would likely have advised Claudius to do away with Hamlet as quickly and discretely as possible, even before Hamlet was able to stage the dumb-show. Granted, this might present itself as a public relations problem, given that later in the play Claudius acknowledges that Hamlet is much-beloved by the people, to say nothing of Gertrude’s displeasure if her son was executed, banished, or cruelly treated. If you have injured someone or he fears you, beware, Machiavelli advised, and surround yourself with friends (Machiavelli 7). However, Claudius’ most trusted advisor Polonius is killed by Hamlet, substantially reducing the circle of Claudius’ close circle of friends.
In light of Claudius’ position after the prayer scene, Machiavelli might very well have advised Claudius to act as he did. Eventually, the king decides to kill Hamlet in an underhanded fashion, first by sending him to England with orders for his execution along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. When this plot is thwarted, Claudius next resorts to the staged duel with Ophelia’s aggrieved brother Laertes, which he attempts to stack in favor of Laertes by poisoning the tip of Laertes’ sword.
Reading Machiavelli’s concepts of what makes a good price is significant in understanding Hamlet because it illustrates to the degree to which Shakespeare’s play highlights how Machiavelli’s principles do not always work. Claudius’ lack of scruples eventually turns Gertrude away from him, his other strongest ally, along with the majority of the populace who support Hamlet. His ruthlessness ultimately gets turned against him in the duel, and overreliance upon a small circle of trusted advisors in the form of Polonius is not wise, given that he is left largely alone after Polonius is killed. Although taking an amoral approach to alliances may seem well-advised for someone with a fragile grip upon power, it can also result in a critical loss public relations disaster and bring down the fragile kingship. Claudius never finds a way to position Hamlet into seeming an unsympathetic figure in the eyes of those around him, even after Hamlet commits an accidental murder himself. But Machiavelli would simply shrug and say that the king’s demise was because Claudius only acted in half-measures, and had he killed Hamlet as well as the old king surreptitiously, the whole play never would have unfolded in the first place, and Claudius would still be king.
The character of Fortinbras is one of the most complex and much-overlooked characters of Hamlet. Fortinbras in some ways functions as the kind of ‘anti-Hamlet.’ Unlike Hamlet, Fortinbras acts decisively when his father is wronged. He aggressively makes a claim for the land denied to his father, and makes a show of his newfound strength and power by conquering lands, even though the lands have little strategic value. Says one common soldier: “We go to gain a little patch of ground / That hath in it no profit but the name. / To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it” (4.4). However, Fortinbras is still able to command a mighty army and achieve his ambitions, leveraging his strengths and downplaying his weaknesses (such as the lack of value of the land).
Hamlet views Fortinbras with a mix of admiration and contempt. On one hand, he thinks Fortinbras’ quest is absurd. “Exposing what is mortal and unsure / To all that fortune, death and danger dare, / Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great / Is not to stir without great argument, / But greatly to find quarrel in a straw” (4.4). On the other hand, Hamlet contrasts Fortinbras with his own soul-searching attitude, and concludes that if Fortinbras were similarly aggrieved, the Norwegian would act much more aggressively, and gain a far more positive outcome than Hamlet has been able to achieve. “Examples gross as earth exhort me” to revenge, muses Hamlet (4.4).
Machiavelli would approve of Fortinbras’ boldness, and view the end of the play not as validating the victory of truth and the ‘sweet prince,’ but the values of Fortinbras. Fortinbras, after all, survives and achieves all of his territorial objectives. He also gains the entire Danish kingdom by virtue of a trick of fortune. Machiavelli placed great value in the worth of having good fortune, versus showing skill, and the improbable nature of the events of the end of Hamlet seem to bear out his analysis. And it is Fortinbras who shows decisiveness and action, and a willingness to try to master his fate, not Hamlet. To the extent which human beings make their own luck, strength is preferable not only to weakness but also to the fairness and intellectualism shown by Hamlet: “Changes in estate also issue from this, for if, to one who governs himself with caution and patience, times and affairs converge in such a way that his administration is successful…But a man is not often found sufficiently circumspect to know how to accommodate himself…