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An overview of types of love in hamlet a play by william shakespeare

The Shakesperean world is impressed, as a whole, with an unmistakable joy in healthy living. This tells habitually as a pervading spirit, a contagious temper, not as a creed put forward, or an example set up. It is as clear in the presentment of Falstaff or lago, as of Horatio or Imogen. And nowhere is it clearer than in his handling of the relations between men and women. For here Shakespeare's preferences and repugnances are unusually transparent; what pleased him in the ways of lovers and wedded folks he drew again and again, and what repelled him he rarely and only for special reasons drew at all.

Criminal love, of any kind, holds a quite subordinate place in his art; and, on the other hand, if ideal figures are to be found there, it is among his devoted, passionate, but arch and joyous women. It is thus possible to lay down a Shakesperean norm or ideal type of love-relations. It is most distinct in the mature Comedies, where he is shaping his image of life with serene freedom; but also in the Tragedies, where a Portia or a Desdemona innocently perishes in the web of death.

Even in the Histories it occasionally asserts itself as in Richard II's devoted queen, historically a mere child against the stress of recorded fact. In the earlier Comedies it is approached through various stages of erratic or imperfect forms. And both in Comedy and Tragedy he makes use, though not largely, of other than the 'normal' love for definitely comic or tragic ends.

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The present study will follow the plan thus indicated. The first section defines the 'norm. The third traces the gradual approach to the norm in the early Comedies. The fourth and fifth sections, finally, discuss the treatment, in Comedy and Tragedy, of Love-types other than the norm. The Shakesperean norm of love, 1 thus understood, an overview of types of love in hamlet a play by william shakespeare be described somewhat as follows.

Love is a passion, kindling heart, brain, and senses alike in natural and happy proportions; ardent but not sensual, tender but not sentimental, pure but not ascetic, moral but not puritanic, joyous but not frivolous, mirthful and witty but not cynical.

His lovers look forward to marriage as a matter of course, and they neither anticipate its rights nor turn their affections elsewhere. They commonly love at first sight and once for all. Love-relations which do not contemplate marriage occur rarely and in subordination to other dramatic purposes. Tragedy like that of Gretchen does not attract him.

Romeo's amour with Rosalind is a mere foil to his greater passion, Cassio's with Bianca merely a mesh in the network of lago's intrigue; Claudio's with Juliet is the indispensable condition of the plot.

The course of love rarely runs smooth; but rival suitors proposed by parents are quietly resisted or merrily abused, never, even by the gentlest, accepted. Crude young girls like Hermia, delicate-minded women like Desdemona and Imogen, the rapturous Juliet and the homely Anne Page, the discreet Silvia and the naive Miranda, are all at one on this point. And they all carry the day.

The dramatically powerful situations which arise from forced marriage -- as when Ford's Penthea The Broken Heart or Corneille's Chimene Le Cid is torn by the conflict between love and honour -- lie, like this conflict in general, outside Shakespeare's chosen field.

And with this security of possession his loving women combine a capacity for mirth and jest not usual in the dramatic representation of passion. Rosalind is more intimately Shakesperean than Juliet. Married life, as Shakespeare habitually represents it, is the counterpart, mutatis mutandis, of his representation of unmarried lovers.

His husbands and wives have less of youthful abandon; they rarely speak of love, and still more rarely with lyric ardour, or coruscations of poetic wit. But they are no less true. The immense field of dramatic motives based upon infringements of marriage, so fertile in the hands of his successors, and in most other schools of drama, did not attract Shakespeare, and he touched it only occasionally and for particular purposes.

Heroines like Fletcher's Evadne A Maid's Tragedywho marries a nominal husband to screen her guilty relations with the King, or Webster's Vittoria Corombona The White Devilwho conspires with her lover to murder her husband, or Chapman's Tamyra Bussy d'Amboiswhose husband kills her lover in her chamber; even Hey wood's erring wife, whom her husband elects to 'kill with kindness,' are definitely un-Shakesperean.

II The norm of love lent itself both to comic and to tragic situation, but only within somewhat narrow limits. The richness, depth and constancy of the passion precluded a whole world of comic effects. It precluded the comedy of the coquette and the prude, of the affected gallant and the cynical roue, of the calf-lover and the doting husband; the comedy of the fantastic tricks played by love under the obsession of pride, self-interest, meticulous scruple, or superstition.

Into this field Shakespeare made brilliant incursions, but it hardly engaged his rarest powers, and to large parts of it his 'universal' genius remained strange. We have only to recall, among a crowd of other examples, Moreto's Diana El Desden con el DesdenMoliere's Alceste and Celimene, Congreve's Millamant, in Shakespeare's century; or, in the modern novel, a long line of figures from Jane Austen to The Egoist and Ibsen's Love's Comedy to recognize that Shakespeare, with all the beauty, wit and charm of his work, touched only the fringes of the Comedy of love.

The normal love, not being itself ridiculous, could thus yield material for the comic spirit only through some fact or situation external to it.

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It may be brought before us only in ludicrous parody. We laugh at the 'true love' of Pyramus and Thisbe in the 'tedious brief' play of the Athenian artisans, or at that of Phoebe and Silvius, because Shakespeare is chaffing the literary pastoral of his day.

Hamlet's love, itself moving, even tragic, becomes a source of comedy in the solemn analysis of Polonius. Or again, the source of fun lies in the wit and humour of the lovers themselves.

Some of them, like Rosalind and Beatrice, virtually create and sustain the wit-fraught atmosphere of the play single-handed.

But Shakespeare habitually heightens this source of fun by some piquancy of situation almost always one arising from delusion, particularly through confusion of identity. It is a mark of the easy-going habits of his art in comedy that he never threw aside this rather elementary device, though subjecting it, no doubt, to successive refinements which become palpable enough when we pass from the Two Gentlemen to Cymbeline.

But his genius made perennially delightful even the crude forms of confusion which create grotesque infatuations like those of Titania, Malvolio, Phoebe, Olivia. More refined, and yet more delightful, are the confusions which bring true and destined lovers together, like the arch make-believe courtship with which Rosalind's wit amuses and consoles her womanhood, and that other which liberates the natural congeniality of Beatrice and Benedict from their 'merry war. Rosalind's wit is that of a woman many fathoms deep in love; Beatrice's ears tingle with remorse at the tale of Benedick's secret attachment; Viola's gallant bravado to Olivia conceals her own unspoken maiden love.

And Portia crowns her home-coming to her husband and her splendid service to his friend with the madcap jest of the rings.

Such jesting is in Shakespeare a part of the language of love; and like its serious or lyrical speech, is addressed with predilection to love's object. Again, the normal love offered in itself equally little promise of tragedy. No deformed or morbid passion, but the healthy and natural self-fulfilment of man and woman, calling heart and wit and senses alike into vigorous play, it provided equally little hold for the criminal erotics in which most of Shakespeare's contemporaries sought the tragic thrill, and for the bitter disenchantment and emotional decay which generate the subtle tragedy of Anna Karenina or Modern Love.

Tragic these healthy lovers of themselves will never become; they have to be led into the realm of pity and fear, as into that of laughter and mirth, by the incitement or the onthrust of alien forces.

Here, too, Shakespeare's habitual instrument is delusion; only now it is not the delusion which deftly entangles and pleasantly infatuates, but that which horribly perplexes and rends apart.

The blindness of Claudio, of Othello, of Posthumus, of Leontes, is provoked by circumstances of very various cogency, but in each case it wrecks a love relation in which we are allowed to see no flaw.

The situation of innocent, slandered, heart-stricken womanhood clearly appealed strongly to him, and against his wont he repeated it again and again. Even after leaving the stage, he was allured by the likeness of the story of Henry VIII's slandered queen to his Hermione, to reopen the magic 'book' he had 'drowned.

Hermione and Hero, Desdemona and Imogen, are to his graver art what Rosalind and Beatrice and Portia are to his comedy. But while the tragic issue is directly provoked by the alien intervention, it is clear that almost all its tragic quality springs, not from the operations of lachimo or lago, but from the wonderful presentment of the love they wreck. Shakespeare's supreme command of pity springs from his exalted faith in love. The poet of the Sonnets is implicit in the poet of Othello.

And the dramas themselves abound in lyric outbursts, often hardly called for by the situation, in which his ideal of wedded love is uttered with the poignant insight of one who was probably far from having achieved or observed it himself. Love's not love When it is mingled with regards that stand Aloof from the entire point.

Or of Imogen, blind to all but the path of light and air that divides her from Milford Haven: I see before me, man; nor here, nor here, Nor what ensues, but have a fog in them, That I cannot look through. Even Adriana, in the Comedy of Errors, expresses the unity of married love with an intensity which we expect neither from this bustling bourgeoise nor in this early play: For know, my love, as easy mayst thou fall A drop of water in the breaking gulf And take unmingled thence that drop again Without addition or diminishing, As take from me thyself and not me too; II, ii.

But there, where I have garnered up my heart, Where either I must live, or bear no life, The fountain from the which my current runs, Or else dries up: The husband in these cases, it is true, neither forgives nor condones, and Shakespeare unlike Heywood gives no hint that he would have dissented from the traditional ethics on which Othello and Posthumus and Leontes acted, had their wives in fact been guilty.

The wives, on the other hand, encounter the husband's unjust suspicions, or brutal slanders, without a thought of revenge or reprisal. Desdemona, Imogen, Hermione, alike beautifully fulfil the ideal of love presented in the great sonnet: Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove.

In one drama only an overview of types of love in hamlet a play by william shakespeare he represent ideal love brought to a tragic doom without a hint of inner severance. The wedded unity of Romeo and Juliet is absolute from their first meeting to their last embrace; it encounters only the blind onset of outer and irrelevant events; nothing touches their rapturous faith in one another.

This earliest of the authentic tragedies thus represents, in comparison with its successors, only an elementary order of tragic experience; set beside Othello, it appears to be not a tragedy of love, but love's triumphal hymn.

Yet it is only in this sense immature. If Shakespeare had not yet fathomed the depths of human misery, he understood completely the exaltation of passion, and Romeo and Juliet, though it gives few glimpses beyond the horizons of his early world, remains the consummate flower of his poetry of ideal love. III The beauty and insight of Shakespeare's finest portrayals of the comedy and the tragedy of love were not reached at once.

His conception of love If was still, at the opening of his career, relatively slight and superficial; his mastery of technique was equally incomplete.

The early plays accordingly abound with scenes and situations where from either cause or both the dramatic treatment of love is not yet in the full sense Shakesperean. It will suffice in this sketch to specify two types of each.

The young Shakespeare, as is well known, showed a marked leaning to two apparently incongruous kinds of dramatic device paradox and symmetry. In the riotous consciousness of power he loved to take up the challenge of outrageous situations, to set himself dramaturgical problems, which he solves by compelling us to admit that the impossible might have happened in the way he shows.

  • The dramatically powerful situations which arise from forced marriage -- as when Ford's Penthea The Broken Heart or Corneille's Chimene Le Cid is torn by the conflict between love and honour -- lie, like this conflict in general, outside Shakespeare's chosen field;
  • The present study will follow the plan thus indicated;
  • It is merely a piteous surrender, which breaks her heart, overthrows her delicately poised reason, and removes one of the last supports of Hamlet's trust in goodness;
  • Chaucer lived to mock at the legendary magnanimity of Griselda, so devoutly related in the Clerkes Tale; and it was only the young Shakespeare who could have made Valentine's astounding offer, in the Two Gentlemen, to resign 'all his rights' in his bride to the 'friend' from whose offer of violence he has only a moment before rescued her V, vi;
  • The letter to the Countess, of III, iv;
  • And this awkward question remains unanswered, notwithstanding the evident effort to allow us to believe in Helena's innocent good faith.

A shrew to be 'tamed' into a model wife. A widow following her murdered father's coffin, to be wooed, there and then, and won, by his murderer. A girl of humble birth, in love with a young noble who scorns her, to set herself, notwithstanding, to win him, and to succeed. Paradoxical feats like these were foreign to the profound normality under whatever romantic disguise of Shakespeare's mature art.

How does Shakespeare present aspects of love in Hamlet?

But the audacity of the young Shakespeare showed itself in another way. His so-called taste for 'symmetry' had nothing in common with the classical canons of balance and order. It was nearer akin to the boyish humour of mimicry. If he found a pair of indistinguishable twins producing amusing confusion in a Roman play, he capped them with a second pair, to produce confusion worse confounded in the English Comedy of Errors. And so with love.

Navarre in Love's Labour's Lost and his three lords, like the four horses of an antique quadriga, go through the same adventure side by side. All four have forsworn the sight of women; all four fall in love, not promiscuously but in order of rank, with the French princess and her ladies, whose numbers, by good fortune, precisely go round. But love itself is not, as yet, drawn with any power. Berowne's magnificent account of its attributes and effects IV, iii. The 'taffeta phrases' and 'silken terms precise,' the pointed sallies and punning repartees, full of a hard crackling gaiety, neither express passion nor suggest, like the joyous quips of the later Rosalind, that passion is lurking behind.

We are spectators of a rather protracted flirtation, a 'way of love' which was to occupy a minimal place in his later drama.

  • That you are well restored, my lord, I'm glad; Let the rest go;
  • It will suffice in this sketch to specify two types of each;
  • Jacques, and where the pilgrims bound thither found lodging.