Dysfunctional Families and the Inadequate Role Played by Parents in "Hamlet"

Essay by ashley279High School, 12th gradeA+, June 2006

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Through its various readings, "Hamlet", has enticed more controversy than any other Shakespearean play. Written in Elizabethan times, Shakespeare succeeded in creating a tragedy that still holds relevance to the affairs of today, four hundred years after its initial appearance. Perhaps justifying its endless success, is the argument that there is no invited reading of the play, leaving it to the individual to determine an interpretation. However recently, dominant readings of the play have emerged based on the cultural assumptions, values and beliefs of modern times. Certainly by reading Hamlet in a 21st Century context, it is easy to recognise the presence of a dysfunctional family and the inadequate role which the parents play.

It is only natural that whilst we are children we idealise our parents as perfect beings, whose only reason for existence is to love and care for us. It is evident that Hamlet in his youth, adopted this idealistic attitude, as his reaction to his father's death, or to a greater extent his mother's hasty remarriage was somewhat of a surprise? Sally Porterfield explains his dismay from a Jungian standpoint, "the death of Hamlet's father and his mother's remarriage to his uncle represents the universal experience of parental discovery."

(1994, p.73) Very little sympathy is offered to Hamlet by either of his parents to which some may argue that Hamlet was mature enough to deal with the situation himself, as the grave digger determines his age to be of thirty, but Hamlet is portrayed throughout the play as an adolescent. Porterfield justifies this arguing that Hamlet is brought suddenly to the realisation of his parents' imperfections and regresses to an earlier stage of his development in order to pick up the pieces that have been left behind. So with little, if any, support from his parents,