The Importance of the "Now"

1714 WordsJun 17, 20187 Pages
The concept of hell as “a prison-house” (Ham. 1.5.19) of “sulphurous and tormenting flames” (Ham. 1.5.6) has intrigued and frightened people for centuries. Fictional characters are no exception. Hamlet, in particular, seems very concerned with the prospect of facing the consequences of one’s actions in the afterlife. In Act 3, he is afraid Claudius will be forgiven if he dies while praying (Ham. 3.3.77-83). In his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, Hamlet concludes that fear of the afterlife is what prevents man from committing suicide and escaping the miseries of an earthly existence(“Hamlet”). Hamlet is also consumed by the idea of death itself- its equalizing nature, its universality, the physical process of decomposing bones and…show more content…
Because she is so insane that she cannot even realize the pain of dying, Ophelia becomes the second and last character in the play to experience a painless death. Ophelia differs from the other characters in the play in another way as well. She is one of the only characters who is truly innocent, because she does not plot, scheme, hurt, kill, or plan to hurt or kill anyone. Instead, she is a victim of the schemes of others, like Claudius’s plot to spy on her conversation with Hamlet (Ham. 3.1.32-40). The true innocence of her life is rewarded with a painless death, a death without any agony, without a loss she can feel. While Ophelia represents weakness and obedience, Gertrude, the only other female character in the play, embodies the exact opposite: power and independence. Gertrude wields much power as the queen and acts to keep it by marrying her brother-in-law after her first husband’s death. She makes decisions on her own. Far from innocent, she even admits she can see “such black and grained spots” (Ham. 3.4.100-101) in her soul. Her admission of guilt that “spills itself in fearing to be spilt” (Ham. 4.5.24-25) suggests that she may hold a lot more power than she appears to externally. Perhaps she has her own agenda entirely, which included the murder of her first husband, pursuant to Hamlet’s accusations (Ham. 3.4.35). While some may argue that Gertrude, like Ophelia, is a powerless, obedient character (“Sample”), the fact that she admits to feeling guilty
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