Hamlet's Fathers: An Analysis of Paternity and Filial Duty in Shakespeare's "Hamlet"

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Title: Hamlet's Fathers: An Analysis of Paternity and Filial Duty in Shakespeare's "Hamlet"
Author: Drewry, Justin Dathan Anders
Advisors: M. Thomas Hester, Committee Chair
Brian Blackley, Committee Member
Thomas Lisk, Committee Member
Abstract: In Hamlet, Shakespeare presents the audience with the "common theme" of nature, "death of fathers," and three sons—Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras—who feel the filial duty to revenge these premature deaths (I, ii, 103-4). At first, all three sons idealize their fathers, with Hamlet giving his father god-like characteristics, but their paths to filial duty quickly diverge as Hamlet questions the morality of the Ghost's call for revenge. While Laertes and Fortinbras accept the pagan code of blood vengeance supported by Claudius's court and steadily move towards revenge, Hamlet delays because this code contrasts with his Christian faith. Ultimately, Hamlet's tragedy results when he attempts revenge, striking through the curtain and killing the wrong man. However, Hamlet quickly recognizes the significance of his actions and the power of "providence" through the many miracles on his sea voyage as he returns to Denmark offering Laertes an exchange of forgiveness. Hamlet's revelation has come too late, but his final offer of forgiveness portrays the triumph of his Christian faith and his belief in "providence" over the codes of his earthly father.
Date: 2004-09-03
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/68

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