“THE DEAD AMONGST THE LIVING” IN HAMLET AND FRANKENSTEIN William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet and Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein are challenging literary works that both have the same theme about the dead amongst the living. Both protagonists Hamlet and Victor Frankenstein endure hard times after their beloved father/mother dies. Victor’s mother and Hamlet’s father play a significant role in their upbringing. Therefore, their deaths bring to them inexpressible nostalgia for the past. Memories of their parents still linger in their minds.
Both characters deal with the death of their family members in a similar way, which is Prince Hamlet and Victor Frankenstein are both haunted by the death of their loved ones and suffer from traumatic memories of their father/ mother. As the result of the trauma from this loss, they try to isolate themselves from society and seek for a way to fulfill the nostalgia for their happy childhood with their parents. In Hamlet, the prince of Denmark’s actions after his father’s death reveals that he’s traumatized by the memory of his father, which are due to the “unnatural” actions of the new king Claudius.
Hamlet is literally haunted by his father’s memory. He says to Horatio in grief “ My father – me thinks I see my father” (I. 2. 183). The thoughts about his father always linger in his mind. Hamlet can see his father “ in [his] mind’s eyes (I. 2. 185), is a proof that he is almost traumatized by his father’s memory. His father’s death and his mother’s hasty remarriage to Claudius turn his world into “ an unweeded garden / that grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature” (1. 2. 135,136). After Hamlet sees his father’s spirit, the last thing the old Hamlet says to him “ Adieu, adieu, Hamlet.
Remember me” (I. 5. 91). The fact that no one except Hamlet mourns for old king’s death make the memories of his father appear more clearly to him. Instead of grieving for the old King, Claudius announces his sudden marriage to Hamlet’s mother Gertrude as an act of patriotism to ensure the safety of Denmark. This action of Claudius appears to be “ unnatural” to Hamlet, which leads to the prince’s depression. The most beloved person in Hamlet’s world just passes away and everyone even his mother tells him to stop grieving for the dead, trigger the memory for his father.
After the reunion with the ghost, Hamlet learns the true story of his father’s death and agrees with his father to avenge for his murder. His well-known soliloquy “ To be or not to be- that is the question” (III. 1. 57) reveals a question pondering in his mind. He wonders whether it is better to take action and confront problems or it is best to commit suicide. Hamlet realizes that he is bearing an enormous burden, which is to murder the new King, Claudius. In an attempt to fulfill his father’s command, he becomes obsessed with revenging for his father’s death.
As the plan to expose Claudius’s murder, Hamlet feigns madness in front of everybody; however, sometimes Hamlet becomes mentally mad, which is a result of his trauma for the loss of his father. Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein is also haunted by the memory of his mother His mother’s death because of diseases and illness leads to Victor’s trauma of losing his mother. Why? The scarlet fever takes away his mother, which concurs his ambition to “ banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but violent death”( II. 2). He is totally distraught at losing his mother at such a young age. Victor confides to Walton “No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. ” (II. 39) He describes his family as a happy one and his parents as “ the very spirit of kindness and indulgence”. (II. 39) As a teenager, he becomes increasingly fascinated with the mysteries of the world. He is interested in natural philosophy, which “ has regulated [his] fate” later on. All of sudden, the “ most irreparable evil” (II. 45) takes away his beloved mother.
As in many children’s lives, their mothers play an important role in their childhood; therefore, Mrs. Frankenstein’s death and lasting memory lead to his nostalgia for the happy childhood. Even though Victor’s mother is a minor character, she is a key, which leads to an explanation for Frankenstein’s motivation and psyche. His mother’s death propels Victor’s desire to go against all diseases. It is difficult for him to accept that his mother dies so sudden. As a result, he begins to play with corpse with an attempt to create new life and fulfill the nostalgia for his mother.
Victor’s ambition to construct an animated creature from corpses and blood is a direct result of his traumatic memories of his mother. He gets really into making dead things out of life again after his mother passes away. To Frankenstein, his mother’s death is “ an omen … of [his] future misery”(III. 44). His mother dies right before he is about to get into university. It takes long time for him to believe that his mother has departed forever. It’s such a grief and sorrow for him as he can never ever see “ the brightness of beloved eyes” and listen to “ the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear” of his mother again( III. 5). In an attempt to fulfill the void of his mother’s physically absence, he devotes his live to exploring the “secrets of heaven and earth” (II. 39). To explore unknown powers and the deepest mysteries of creation, he begins to study how the human body is built (anatomy) and how it falls apart (death and decay). He hides himself from everybody, neglects everything else- family, friends, social life and study to complete the creature, which is the result of his future misery. It is tragically ironic that Victor’s manage to replace his mother by inanimate body causes the death of the rest of his family.
Another proof shown that Frankenstein is experiencing traumatic memory is that she shows up in Victor’s dream. He still thinks of his mother and strives to create a companionship that he so long lives without. In Hamlet, Hamlet’s plan to pretend that he is mad in front of everybody results in isolating him from society, from people who care and love him. In order to find evidences for his father’s murder, he uses madness as a shield to protect him from the King. However, the more he appears “ mad”, the more he becomes mentally mad. He is too overwhelmed by the madness and fall into a deeper state of loneliness.
He ignores his family, his lovers and his friends and becomes more ambitious with the revenge for his father. The fact that Hamlet does not share with anyone (except for Horatio) about his hatred towards his uncle and his mother’s hasty remarriage and his secret revenge contribute to his loneliness and isolation. The person that could have helped him the most and shared a part of his grief is Ophelia. However, as a part of his plan, Hamlet distances himself from Ophelia, whom he truly loves. He does that by insulting her and convincing her that he is mad and never has a feeling for her 'I loved you not' (III. . 117) 'Get thee to a nunnery... Marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them' (III. 1. 135-137). As well as his murder of Ophelia’s father, he makes her life sorrow and Ophelia actually encounters madness and commits suicide. Hamlet also isolates himself from his friends. After he hears from the ghost about Claudius’s murder, he warns his friends that he will “put an antic disposition on ” (I. 5. 58). What is “antic”? “Antic” is an old word, which means, “clown” or a performer who plays a role of “grotesque”. In this context, Hamlet means he is going to retend to be a madman. Hamlet has to appear mad in front of everybody in order to expose Claudius’s crime. In his plan, he does not allow to have a close relationship with everyone even his best friend, Horatio with a purpose of making Claudius believe that Hamlet has lost his mind. Since old King dies, Hamlet has only the queen, Gertrude as the only family member. However, due to the hasty marriage between his mother and Claudius, it pulls Hamlet further away from his mother. When Hamlet confronts his mother about her action in marrying Claudius, he reveals to her that Claudius murders his father.
He considers the marriage between his mother and Claudius as “an act that blurs the grace and blush of modesty/Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose /From the fair forehead of an innocent love/And sets a blister there”(III. 4. 45). Hamlet accuses her of weakness and lust for Claudius, who kills her ex-husband. Then he implores her to condemn her sins in the cruelest way. Hamlet shows his madness and anger towards his mother, which reveals his disdain towards Gertrude and Claudius. Overall, throughout the play, Hamlet is the loneliest character, who has to cope with secrets, deception and despairs leading to his downfall.
Similarly in Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s pursuit of discovering the secret of life draws him father and farther away from those he cares and loves. He is so ambitious to “ explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation” (III. 49) that he ignores his family, his friends, and the world outside. He spends months alone in his apartment building a body to reanimate. He cuts off from society and seeks for glory rather than caring for his family. He foolishly believes that he can replace God as a creator of species. Victor admits, “[his] eyes were insensible to the charms of nature” (IV. 6). He completely neglects his father, his friends, who have been disquieted by his silence for so long. Victor knows that he makes the entire family worried about him but he could not tear his thoughts from his work. Victor says, ' Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on, and turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread' (V. 60). This quote truly expresses Victor’s loneliness. After he finishes constructing the creature, he soon realizes that he just creates a real monster. He feels terrified, paranoid and unsociable. The beauty of the dream vanishes, and disgust fills [his] heart”. (V. 59) He spends too much time and effort for this project while neglecting his family who are disquieted by his silence for so long. Victor quotes that his heart is in the sickness of fear. He is afraid and he needs someone to be with him during his time of traveling. Eventually, he confesses to Walton that “If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind”( IV. 6). In conclusion, the two protagonists in Hamlet and Frankenstein both experience traumas after their beloved one dies. They are haunted by the memory of their parents, which leads to nostalgic connection to the past. To fulfill the void of the death person, Hamlet and Victor Frankenstein isolates themselves from the ones who love. Hamlet himself becomes mentally mad with the revenge for his father, while Frankenstein devotes his life creating the monster that takes away everything from him and ends up dying in loneliness.
The two protagonists choose to deal with the death of their family members in the horrible and destructive manner. When one of the family members dies, even though it is hard to accept the truth, people should learn how to let them go to heaven in the most peaceful way. WORKS CITED Shakespeare, William, and Philip Edwards. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985. Print. Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Maurice Hindle. Frankenstein. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.