You are on page 1of 2

Jake Fischer

Miss Skirtich
13 November 2017
English 10: World Literature

Abnormal Family Dynamics

Shakespeare, a genius mind and skilled writer in the Renaissance, wrote plays too

complex for even the smartest people to understand. After hundreds of years his intentions are

still being debated. In "Hamlet," Shakespeare incorporates abnormal family dynamics through

the characters of Ophelia, Gertrude, and Laertes.

In "Hamlet,” Shakespeare exemplifies abnormal family dynamics through Ophelia.

Ophelia, head over heels for Hamlet, and a victim of abnormal family dynamics more times than

not. Although, she too is guilty. “I shall obey my lord” (I.iv.145). In this scenario, Ophelia is

telling her father she, against her will, will stop talking to Hamlet and reject his love. This shows

how submissive Ophelia is to her father. During the Renaissance, roles were slightly different but

that does not justify this level of obedience she displays. It seems strikingly abnormal. Ophelia

exhibits abnormal family dynamics again when she hands out flowers to her loved ones. She says

to Claudius, “I would give you violets, but they withered all when my father died” (IV.v.207-

209). The abnormality in this scenario comes when she tells what the violet symbolizes:

faithfulness. This sounds abnormal because although the reader is not exposed to a deeper

relationship between Ophelia and Polonius, her father, this may lead one to believe a second

account of incest in the play, not just between Gertrude and Claudius, but maybe between

Ophelia and her father Polonius. It can be interpreted in a few ways; the abnormality can be

agreed. Shakespeare uses Ophelia to show abnormal family dynamics in “Hamlet.”

In "Hamlet," Shakespeare uses Gertrude to display abnormal family dynamics. Gertrude,

the seemingly incestuous and naïve queen. Some examples of abnormal family dynamics come
in scene two, “Our {o’er hasty} marriage” (II.ii.60). She admits that her marriage with Claudius

was too quick, that is not the only reason it is abnormal however, Claudius is also Gertrude’s

brother-in-law. Another example of abnormal family dynamics involving Gertrude at the end of

the play when her incestuous spouse poisons her “I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me”

(V.ii.318). Gertrude drinks from the chalice that Claudius poisoned. Although the intentional

victim was not Gertrude, he makes no physical act to stop her. This is how Gertrude falls into the

theme of abnormal family dynamics.

Finally, in "Hamlet", Laertes is a prime example of abnormal family dynamics. Laertes is

the brother of Ophelia and ally of Claudius. Laertes openly speaks to Ophelia in a manner that

not only degrades her but is shockingly inappropriate, “Keep your chaste treasure open”

(I.iii.35). This exchange is abnormal because it is not typical of a big brother to talk this way to

his sister. Later, at Ophelia’s funeral, an irate Laertes jumps into her grave and grabs his lifeless

sister’s body. “Till I have caught her once more in mine arms” (V.i.262). The reader can easily

understand why Laertes is upset, his sister, the only living relative known to the reader has died.

However, jumping in to the grave and making a scene is abnormal, even for a mournful brother.

These examples represent how Laertes is the embodiment of abnormal family dynamics.

Abnormal family dynamics is an underlying theme in "Hamlet." It seems unusual now,

but in the Renaissance, perhaps it was more relevant Shakespeare uses it to add fuel to the fire,

and help elaborate on the larger theme of revenge.