Loyalty and Betrayal in Hamlet

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Loyalty and betrayal in Hamlet
Loyalty is a significant theme in ‘Hamlet’ because Hamlet himself judges people by their loyalty or disloyalty-his mother, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Horatio and he acts accordingly. The significance of the betrayal theme is that many of the major events in the play result from the betrayal of one character by another.
The most significant act of betrayal is that of Gertrude-whose marriage to Claudius after two months of widow-hood has such a traumatic effect on Hamlet. He complains that a beast ‘would have mourned longer’. Right from the beginning, even before the ghost appears, Hamlet’s attitude to women in general is coloured by his mother’s disloyalty and betrayal-‘Frailty, thy name is
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Perhaps his most crudest and most aggressive comment comes when he hints that to take the edge off his desire he’d have to leave her ‘groaning’ in pregnancy and childbirth.
Polonius seemly hear all these vulgar and misogynistic rants and becomes ever more convinced that Hamlet is mad. He never rests easily until he ends up behind yet another arras, scheming, yet this time in Gertrude’s room and gets himself killed. The act of betrayal, by both Polonius and Gertrude has far-reaching consequences; Polonius is killed by Hamlet, Ophelia becomes mad and Laertes demands vengeance. Polonius’s betrayal disgusts Hamlet and he can only but refer to him as ‘a foolish prating knave’ and his mistreatment of his body when he says he will ‘lug his guts in the neighbour room’ can equally be taken as his disgust towards him.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern also sow the seeds of their own destruction by betraying their lifelong friend. From their point of view of course, they are being loyal to the king. They are faithful, obedient subjects, merely doing services to their king, trying to find out the reason for Hamlet’s madness. To Hamlet however, their willingness to do the King’s bidding is just more evidence of the corruption of the court. He urges them to treat him as a friend, to be loyal to him, to tell him the truth-;’were you not sent for?’ They eventually and reluctantly agree that they were sent for. But this is not the last of it. They continue to do the King’s bidding,

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