Brotherly Love in Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Hamlet

Many of William Shakespeare’s sonnets deal with the motif of love. Shakespeare describes this love as unconditional, true, and unfading, but he never says if this love is of the romantic type. Although one could argue that his sonnets are solely about romantic love, there are several sonnets that could be describing brotherly love, which could then be related back to his famous play Hamlet.

In Hamlet, the play’s titular character learns from a ghost that his father was murdered by his uncle, the current king. Hamlet then makes meticulous plans to find his uncle’s guilt and to avenge his father’s death. During all of this, Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, is by his side and aids him when needed. The brotherly love found between Hamlet and Horatio can be also described as unconditional, true, and unfading as well. Although Hamlet learns of his father’s murder through a ghost and later tells Horatio his plans for revenge, Horatio does not question him despite Hamlet’s ideas not being based on much evidence and his unrealistic plans, an unconditional love that is described in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 that entails an indestructible love. Horatio also continues to help Hamlet as the play progresses although Hamlet clearly seems to going mad, an unfading love that withstands the test of time as described by Sonnet 73. And lastly, Horatio displays true brotherly love found in Sonnet 29. Horatio chooses to not betray Hamlet, unlike the rest of the characters in the play, and he sticks by Hamlet’s side after Hamlet returns from England and in the final fight. Although Hamlet seems to no longer believe in romantic love, he is able to believe in the brotherly love shown by his best friend Horatio.

Questioning Queen Gertrude

Queen Gertrude of Denmark is one of the minor characters of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. One question that is unanswered in the play is why she seems so loving to King Claudius, the brother of her first husband King Hamlet. In other words, could she have played a role in King Hamlet’s death?

In the play, it is said that she had married Claudius only one month after her first husband’s death. One month is quite a short period, especially when you consider that she was mourning. If she had truly loved King Hamlet, I believe she would have been mourning for a longer time and most certainly would not remarry. Does that mean she loves Claudius and killed King Hamlet in order to marry him? Not exactly, but it may explain why she is so passive and dependent toward Claudius, taking his side rather than taking her son Hamlet’s side whenever Hamlet argues with Claudius, and even tells Claudius about Polonius’ murder. This may also explain how she acts when confronted by Hamlet in Act III, Scene IV as she seems to feel guilty for marrying Claudius, a man who cannot compare to King Hamlet. But if she truly did play a role in King Hamlet’s death, she receives her punishment in the end as she drinks from the poisoned cup and dies, somewhat similar to how King Hamlet dies from being poisoned as well.

A Man Named William Blake

William Blake, not William Shakespeare, but William Blake was an 18th century English poet, but was known as an engraver during his time. (Fun Fact: He did the illustrations for John Milton’s Paradise Lost.) He grew up in a Protestant family and rejected orthodox Christian ideas. He did not believe that God was a higher being that ruled over mankind. This idea can be seen in his poem “A Divine Image” as he discusses the contradiction between humans being created “in God’s divine image”, yet are hateful, cruel, and sinful. This can also be found in “The Tyger” as he questions how God could make a creature so vicious, while he questions how God could make a beautiful creature in “The Lamb”. His poem “The Lamb” also shows his view on humanity and divinity and how they are combined in the great being that is Jesus, who is often referred to as the “Lamb of God”.

(I just realized that I had only saved this post and did not post it, so sorry for the late posting.)

Waiting for Godot: Live

Watching a production of Waiting for Godot, especially a production directed by the playwright Samuel Beckett himself, is certainly an experience different from just reading it. In the play, the description of the stage setup is as follows: “A country road. A tree.” There is also a “low mound” somewhere on the stage. This very brief and vague description allows some creative leeway in setting up the stage, such as maybe adding a background or props to make the setting look more realistic, yet Beckett insisted on only these several items for the setup; in the production he directed, there was just a tree, a rock, and the gray stage floor and background, almost as if the characters were in a box. By creating a “box” for the characters to be in, it is like Vladimir and Estragon are stuck, emphasizing an absurdist theme that I had mentioned in the previous post; although time passes and some details of what happens in the days are different, they are stuck in a general and endless cycle and cannot get out. Also, by staying simple, the audience is able to focus more on the characters.

Seeing the live adaptation also allowed me to further develop a theme that I wasn’t quite sure about before. I thought that Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot was like humans waiting for Judgment Day and the return of Jesus. Although Beckett said that Godot is not God, he insisted that when pronouncing the name “Godot”, the emphasis should be placed on the first syllable, as in GOD-oh, instead of the second syllable, which we pronounce it as (guh-DOH). This emphasis on the “God” part makes one believe that Godot might, in fact, be God. This would make sense as Vladimir and Estragon don’t know what Godot looks like or when he will come. Also, the two discuss repenting before Godot’s expected arrival, and the small business that they have with Godot is “a kind of prayer” (13). And furthermore, Godot’s messenger boy mentions that his brother is beaten while he is treated nicely, somewhat similar to the story of Cain and Abel as Abel was favored by God.