Something and Nothing in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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Can nothing be something? Or can something turn into nothing? Shakespeare would have the reader believe both are possible. A person can be something and "nothing" as exemplified when Ophelia asks Hamlet "What is my Lord?" and Hamlet replies "Nothing."(3.2. 109,111) Shakespeare uses "nothing" multifariously in his tragic play "Hamlet." "Nothing" becomes a way for the reader to draw parallels between Young Hamlet, and his slain father. Young Hamlet's use of the word "nothing," consistently borders on the realm of something. Still, "nothing" is more than a mere lack of something, "nothing" is the catalyst that enables the reader to see the coalescency that exists between Hamlet, and his father.

The first mention of
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What would he do

Had he the motive and the cue for passion

That I have? (2.2.533-9)



"Nothing" suggests insignificance, and Shakespeare prompts the audience to remember Hecuba is fiction and unreality, merely a character. Young Hamlet becomes an actor, playing an actor, playing a character. Thus, the preceding scene turns Young Hamlet into a traverse between reality, unreality, and performer and audience. By speaking of his own position as to "motive and cue," Young Hamlet brings himself to the same level as Hecuba. Young Hamlet is a character; he is a "nothing." When King Hamlet's appears to Young Hamlet for the second time, Young Hamlet identifies the ghost as "nothing."

Queen: To whom do you speak thus?

Hamlet: Do you see nothing there?

Queen : Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.

Hamlet: Nor do you nothing hear?

Queen : No, nothing but ourselves.

Hamlet: Why, look you here. Look how it steals away.

My father, in his habit as he lived.

Look where he goes even now out at the portal.

Exit GHOST (3.4.122-7)



Even if the "real" ghost is not in the room, the ghost becomes a "nothing." Shakespeare…