Death As A Result Of Hamlets Actions “Hamlet: Prince of Denmark” is a tragedy, it is a tragedy because most of the characters we come to know and love die. All of these deaths seem to stem from the actions of one man Polonius. It is true that Hamlets thirst for the blood of his stepfather, Claudius, comes from his father’s murder. We know in our minds that had Polonius not been present in the play or his personality different, certain characters would still die. Not so many would have died had it not been for his actions.
Polonius was an old fashioned, high class, high-ranking gentleman. In his mind all he did was right. He never really wanted to hurt anybody; he just wanted what was best for his family and the throne. It just so happens that his means to the ends were a little out of whack. Polonius mean well he was just a little dim-witted for the times.
He was proud of his son, Laertes, and controlling over his daughter, Ophelia. Ophelia was told what to do and what to think by her father. According to Polonius she did not know how to make her own decisions and so he would decide for her. First he decided that she should not see Hamlet because they could never be together. After all of this Polonius figures out he could help the king spy on Hamlet by forcing Ophelia to him.
This created some awkward and frightening moments in the play, some of which certain murderers would come to regret. It is these kinds of activities for the king that led to Polonius’ death and ultimately many others. While spying on Hamlet and the queen Polonius is detected and consequently killed by Hamlet. Hamlet believed him to be Claudius for he should be the only other person to step foot in that room. For his actions Hamlet was declared mad and sent to England.
This whole situation did not bode well for Polonius’ family. Ophelia, learning that the man she loved had killed her father, went mad. Polonius was her decision maker and Hamlet the love of her life, so of course she was devastated. She dealt with it by killing herself, a death that could have been avoided under different circumstances. Laertes, son of Polonius, decided to take a more Shakespearean approach to the situation: revenge. Laertes learned of his father’s death and the kings cover up and stormed the castle. He wanted to kill the king, but Claudius persuaded him that he was not at fault and started to plot.
The plot was against Hamlet, Claudius needed him out of the way and Laertes was the perfect weapon. So the Claudius and Laertes set up a duel. The idea was a friendly fencing match, best two out of three, etc, etc. One catch: Laertes’ sword would not have a protective cover and the tip would be dipped in poison. In the case that Laertes did not strike Hamlet at all the king even had a back up plan, a poisonous celebration drink.
Hamlet apologizes for Polonius’ death and Laertes seems to accept, but all is not well. Hamlet and Laertes duel and Hamlet is not hit once. His mother the queen celebrates by drinking from the poisonous cup. Laertes, in a rage strikes Hamlet when he is not looking and Hamlet does a very complicated move in which he takes Laertes sword from him. Hamlet strikes Laertes with the poisonous sword and now all but one are doomed. The queen collapses first and realizing what has been done Laertes turns the king in and Hamlet kills Claudius.
Had Polonius not been spying in the queen’s bedroom he would not have been killed. Had he not been killed Ophelia would not have committed suicide and Laertes would have no need for revenge. No revenge would have meant no swordfight and no victory drink. No fight and no drink probably would have only meant the death of Claudius in the end (ignoring the Norwegian invasion). As with most tragedies, it is the main character(s) who dies. The death may be at the hands of another major player but that person is not always the direct cause.
We find that the secondary characters play a bigger part in life than we give them credit for. In the case of Hamlet it would seem that many deaths could have been avoided had Polonius’ not occurred. Who is to say what really would have happened though. Despite Polonius, Claudius still wanted Hamlet dead, Ophelia was still heartbroken, and Norway would probably have invaded anyways killing lord knows who. We must still watch those characters lurking in the shadows; their influences are bigger than we know.