Honor In Hamlet

725 Words 3 Pages
Honor is a human construct. It is used to evaluate one’s worth and set expectations. Reputation, notoriety, dignity, honor: these all define one’s place in society, but they are not intrinsic. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, various characters struggle with their honor. Laertes’s honor leads him to act irrationally, Hamlet’s honor finally inspires him to act, and the patriarchal society’s idea of Ophelia’s honor destroys her. Hamlet has a complex attitude towards honor, admitting that its application can inspire good, but overall the play criticizes honor. Laertes has a powerful, internal sense of honor, which leads him to act thoughtlessly. In Act I scene 3 with Ophelia, he tells her to protect her honor and basically not have sex with Hamlet. …show more content…
This pressure originates from Hamlet’s perceived duty to his father and familial honor. Like Laertes, he thinks that if he does not exact revenge for his father’s murder, then he has lost his honor. He obviously thinks that Gertrude marrying Claudius was a dishonor on her family, and his reaction to this shows how much he actually values honor. Also like Laertes, honor causes Hamlet to lash out – at Ophelia, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, seemingly everyone but the person who deserves it, Claudius. Hamlet says, “Rightly to be great/is not to stir without great argument,/but greatly to find quarrel in a straw/when honour’s at the stake” (4.5.53-56), which would explain his little-provoked inflammatory behavior. The army scene, which many agree inspired Hamlet’s action, reveals that honor is a vehicle of action, and that to Hamlet it is worth a lethal sacrifice. This is another example of Hamlet being misguided towards honor, because the captain lied about the motives of the army – they were fighting for Denmark, not simply honor. Hamlet’s outbursts increase throughout the play as Hamlet becomes more devoted to his revenge and abandons his tendency towards thought, as he says “My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth” (4.5.66). This correlation shows that honor is contrary to rationality, but it is useful for inspiring

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