How The Dying Words of Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius are Presented in Hamlet
A work of William Shakespeare, Hamlet, is a five-act written in 1609 about a tragedy that happens in Denmark. A ghost of the slain King of Denmark tells his son to avenge his death by killing the current king, who is Hamlet’s uncle. Hamlet fakes madness, and contemplates life and death before seeking revenge. Afraid for his life, Hamlet’s uncle comes up with a ploy to end Hamlet’s life. The play has a tragic end as it ends with a duel where Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius all die under tragic circumstances. Discussed in this essay is how the dying words of Gertrude, Claudius, and Laertes are typical of the way their characters are presented throughout the play.
Laertes dies on the stage during the performance between him and Hamlet. He dies by his own hand after getting stabbed with the poisoned blade that he was plotting to use to kill Hamlet. In his dying words, Laertes says, “Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet: Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee, Nor thine on me” (5.2.3985). The context of these words is after he gets stabbed by the blade he had planned to use to kill Hamlet. Hamlet stabbed Laertes as he was hiding behind a curtain as he eavesdropped on a conversation between the little Prince and his mother as the play was going on. Alongside Claudius, Laertes had plotted to kill Hamlet during the duel. Laertes dying words speak to his honesty and integrity. This is demonstrated by the fact that, although too late, he acknowledged Hamlet to be a victim of political conspiracy at the highest levels. Hamlet admits that he was wrong for being part of a ploy against the Prince. Laertes’s apology to Prince Hamlet indicates that he was an honest man. He realized that Claudius was using Hamlet as a pawn in a game of politics. The scene reveals that Laertes has always known the circumstances of the former King’s death.
Gertrude, the queen, also dies on stage after she is accidentally poisoned by Claudius after taking poisoned wine intended for Hamlet. Gertrude’s last words were “No, no, the drink, the drink, –O my dear Hamlet, — the drink, the drink! I am poison’d” (5.2.3965). Gertrude says these words in Act 5, Scene 2, where she drinks poisoned wine intended for Claudius. These words real her naïve personality and unloyal character as portrayed throughout the text. She is too naïve to see Claudius for who he is. If we wanted, Claudius could have stopped her from taking the wine, but he did do so to protect his plan of killing Hamlet. She married Claudius soon after the deal of her late husband, King Hamlet, Claudius’s brother. It is ironic that Gertrude dies the same way as her husband. They were both poisoned by Claudius, and nothing was accidental; he killed them in cold blood. It remains unclear whether Gertrude was involved in King Hamlet’s death, but whatever the case might be, she suffered the same fate. Her death is sad and speaks to what happens when people get attached to the wrong people.
Claudius also dies on stage and is killed by Hamlet, who was also at the brink of death. Claudius says, “O, yet defend me, friends: I am but hurt” (5.2.3985). The context of these words is the final scene of Act five, where Hamlet and Laertes are having a duel. Claudius words illustrate self-pity and a lack of self-awareness as he was calling out to his supposed friends for help. However, Claudius friends are inexistent. His dying words paint him as exactly who he was in the entire a play-a liar and coward. He pleads for assistance from his imaginary friends, although he got what he truly deserves. There is nothing noble about Claudius’s last words. As usual, Claudius is selfish; he is always thinking about himself and not other people. Claudius has the chance to make up for his past mistakes and all the misery he has brought on everything. Not to mention the deaths, moral decay and suffering he brought upon the Kingdom of Denmark. Instead of making up for his mistakes, he chooses a rough path of pride and self-pity. He finds it easy to own up to his mistakes rather than doing the right thing. Claudius says, “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go” (3, 4). Hamlet had the chance to kill Claudius before, but he found that he had retreated to his chambers to pray. Hamlet almost drew his sword to kill him, but he could not do it while he was praying for fear he might to heaven, yet he deserved hell. Hamlet does not know that Claudius is unable to pray. This paints Claudius character as a hypocrite who pretends to be prayer but deep down, he is a murderer.
In closing, the dying words of Laertes, Gertrude and Claudius in William Shakespeare play Hamlet reveal their true characters. Laertes comes as an honest and a man of integrity, Gertrude is painted as naïve and unloyal, while Claudius comes off as being selfish, self-pitiful, and lacking self-awareness. Readers can learn a lot about family relationships and friendships from Hamlet. People’ character can be deceiving hence the need to be careful with the people one keeps around.