Antiheroism has always been an interesting aspect of a character that authors have chosen to illustrate. In literature, there hasbeen countless antiheroic characters, from Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Allie Fox in TheMosquito Coast, to others as famous as Robin Hood and … By literary definition, an antihero is the “hero” of the play or novel, buthas negative attributes which separate him or her from the classic hero such as Superman.
Such negative aspects may include aviolent nature, use of coarse language, or self serving interests hich may inadvertently depict the protagonist as a hero since theresult of serving those interests may be the betterment of society or an environment. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, theprotagonist, Hamlet, is depicted as an antihero. One main factor which gives Hamlet such a label is that he draws sympathy, aswell as admiration, from the reader since Hamlet feels the pain of losing his father along with the burden and obstacles in avenginghis murder.
Act four places a special emphasis on Hamlet’s intelligence. In scene two, Hamlet is very insolent and rude towards Rosencrantzand Guildenstern ith such phrases as,That I can keep your counsel and not, mine own. Beside, to bedemanded of a sponge, what replication should be made by the son of aking? (IV, ii, 12-14) The reference to the sponge reflects the fact that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are easily ordered by the kingand 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 withHamlet. Another incident of Hamlet’s high intelligence s 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 ofthem combined and is able to toy with them.
Hamlet has an excellent command of the language and because of it, can use wordsto 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’sside would be a definite sign of power, which is exactly what Hamlet tries to maintain over Claudius in their constant powerstruggle.
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 youronly emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fatourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar s butvariable 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 equalityof 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 treatanybody 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 andLaertes have combined against Hamlet. Claudius states,To an exploit ow ripe in my device, Under the which he shall notchoose but fall, And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe; Buteven 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 matterwhether or not it hurts Gertrude in any way. This scene depicts Hamlet as the victim, much like two bullies picking on a smallerchild in school, since the king, with the aid of Laertes, is out to kill Hamlet, this time with a passion. Much like a politicalrevolutionary, 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 in jeopardy attributes to his “hero” status. In addition, his only fault is the desire to avengehis father’s murder, an act considered completely honourable by the reader. However, Hamlet’s negative attributes include hisrudeness towards others, including the fair Ophelia, and a violent nature as shown when he kills Polonius, albeit accidently, andshows no remorse, causing a reclassification from the classic hero, to the more appropriate label of antihero.