Hamlet and the Man in the Iron Mask

2 February 2017

The Man in the Iron Mask, by Alexandre Dumas, and Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, both follow similar plot lines and relate to each other through their themes. Shakespeare and Dumas both discuss themes of family, justice and judgement, lies and deceit, loyalty and the consequences of revenge. These major themes blend seamlessly in the stories of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Man in the Iron Mask. The themes are consistent throughout the play and the book, ultimately addressing the search for truth and justice in each of the protagonist’s situations.

Although a number of similarities exist between the two stories, they approach the subject of loyalty differently. What Shakespeare and Dumas have discussed in their stories demonstrates a similar challenge, the search for the truth behind the lies. Hamlet and Philippe suffer mentally as they consider the consequences of their actions and inaction. As other characters become tied to their reactions, they too pay a price for their involvement.

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First, in both books there are themes about the consequences of revenge.

The main theme is that revenge leads to destruction instead of solving the problem, ultimately escalating the primary problem further. Both forms show justice and judgement in the revenge displayed towards the kings. In the play of Hamlet, the main character is confronted with the ghost of his father who reveals that his death was not an accident but a murder. As Hamlet takes revenge, other people become involved and a cycle of revenge for death takes place. In order to accomplish what he knows as justice, Hamlet uses sound judgement as he takes revenge, both physically and emotionally, on those around him.

In the Man in the Iron Mask, the musketeers want to take their own revenge on the king for the lack of food for the starving people in the village and his cruelty in general toward his people. Vengeance in this book turns into a cycle as the three musketeers take revenge on the king; the king later takes revenge onto his people. The son of the recently deceased king is known to us as a young man named Hamlet. The truth of the death of his father becomes known to Hamlet when his father’s ghost appears to him, explaining that he was murdered with poison at the hand of his own brother, Hamlets uncle.

This method of death by poisoning foreshadows the death of the main characters later in the play. Prince Hamlet then devotes himself to avenging his father’s death, but delays the physical death of his uncle in order to torture him psychologically. The people involved enter into a deep melancholy and madness as Hamlet lets go of his closest relationships, judging family and friends for their disrespect toward his dead father. Hamlet psychologically tortures his uncle by arranging for a play named “Mouse Trap. ” Hamlet plans it so that it parallels his father’s death, in an effort to witness Claudius’, Hamlet’s uncle’s, reaction.

Claudius goes through physiological distress as he begins to wonder if Hamlet knows the truth behind the death of his father. Claudius then runs out of the theatre in order to pray for forgiveness. Hamlet follows and begins to draw his sword as this becomes the ideal moment to enact justice onto his uncle. However, Hamlet takes notice that Claudius killed his father while his father’s sins were unforgiven. King Hamlet had no time to repent due to the fact of his murder and was left to the divine to judge him. Hamlet decided to kill Claudius another time, perhaps when the king is drunk, angry or in the middle of an immoral act.

This way, there would be no uncertainty about whether Claudius would go to Hell or not. Hamlet admires his father to the extent that he is determined not only to kill Claudius but also to make him suffer the wrath and judgement, sending him to a similar afterlife in Hell. (Shakespeare pg. 85 Act III, Scene 3). As Hamlet goes to his mother in anger, he is determined to inflict pain on her emotionally, using his own judgement again to enact justice. “Nay, but to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love Over the nasty sty. ” (Shakespeare pg. 89. Act III, Scene 4).

As the queen cries out for help, Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius, Claudius’ adviser, as he thrashes his sword into the curtain in hopes that it is Claudius. This causes Ophelia, Polonius’ daughter, great distress as she quickly becomes psychologically distressed and senseless. “And will ‘a not come again? And will ‘a not come again? No, no he is dead, Go to thy deathbed, He never will come again. ” (Shakespeare pg. 109. Act IV, Scene 5). In this state of mind, she dances to the river and falls in, drowning to her death. Laertes, Ophelia’s brother and Polonius’ son, arrives from his travels.

He is enraged and takes revenge for the death in his family. King Claudius takes this opportunity to turn Laertes against Hamlet as he devises a plan with Laertes so that they both can take their revenge on him. Again poison is used for the death. Poison is placed in a cup of water that is offered to Hamlet during a sword fight. Furthermore, Laertes places poison on his sword before the duel. This scheme radically backfires on the King as his new wife, Gertrude, drinks out of the cup, and Laertes and Hamlet get stabbed with the poison. In the end Claudius is forced by Hamlet to drink the poison and all four major characters die to poison. Shakespeare pg. 140 Act X, Scene 2). Fortunately, before his death, Hamlet was finally successful in his revenge as the details surrounding the death of Hamlet’s father become revealed to the crowd of people watching the dual. Therefore, by taking revenge, it leads the avengers to their own destruction as they took justice and judgement into their own hands and accomplished what they had promised. In The Man in the Iron Mask the theme on the consequences of revenge in justice and judgement are similar to that in Hamlet, as it begins a cycle of death.

In this novel, justice is whatever King Louis XIV says it is. This explains how the system of government worked in France during the 16th and 17th century. At the beginning of the novel, Paris is starving but King Louis XIV is more interested in economic gain and seducing women. Madame de la Valliere becomes the woman after whom the king is lusting and sends Raoul, her finance to war. As Raoul begins to become depressed from his broken heart, he is sent off to battle. According to the king’s orders, he is sent to the front lines and all men are to abandon him. Raoul inevitably dies in battle.

When Athos, Raoul’s father, hears about the death of his son, he becomes enraged at the king. Athos forcefully criticized the King for his behaviour regarding La Valliere and the death of his son. Aramis, Athos and Porthos band together with a plan to replace the king (Alexandre Dumas, chapter 10. pg. 79). This plan involves the replacement of King Louis XIV with his twin brother. The three musketeers free the imprisoned Philippe who has been behind prison doors for six years and placed in an iron mask. In the end, all three musketeers die and Philippe is placed back in prison hidden, forever beneath the mask of iron.

Although all of the characters in the novel seek out revenge, their efforts fall short of being truly successful. The Man in the Iron Mask and Hamlet show the consequences of revenge depicted in each of the characters’ struggles to take justice into their own hands. Their revenge ultimately results in a cycle of death. The main difference between the play Hamlet and the novel The Man in the Iron Mask is the theme of loyalty. In the play, loyalty remains consistent as Hamlet is loyal to his father and his vengeance. However, in The Man in the Iron Mask, loyalties are continually being changed as the characters are pitted against each other.

The characters in the novel are expected to always be loyal to King Louis XIV; however, this requirement in the king’s subjects conflicts with loyalties between friends, family, and the self-interest of the musketeers. This main theme demonstrates that the search for the revelation of truth comes at the price of either breaking loyalties or staying true to loyalties, and facing death in the process. In Hamlet, there are several different characters that portray loyalty continuously throughout the novel. The main character, Hamlet, shows his loyalty to his father, growing angry at the fact that he was murdered by his uncle.

When his father asks Hamlet to take revenge on Claudius, Hamlet becomes enraged and his willingness to take revenge becomes revealed. “Ghost: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. Hamlet: Murder? Ghost: Murder most foul, as in the best it is But this most foul strange and unnatural. Hamlet: Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift, As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge. ” (Shakespeare pg. 29 Act I, Scene 5). Hamlet stays loyal to his father’s memory through the whole novel, seeking revenge on Claudius until he is able to kill him, accomplishing this task as he dies alongside Claudius.

Loyalty is also shown by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, courtiers and former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg. They are summoned by the new king, Claudius, to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange, negative and morbid behaviour. Their loyalty to the king causes them to lose Hamlet’s friendship and respect. As Hamlet discovers this, he arranges their death, making them pay for their betrayal to him with their lives. Loyalty is also shown in Act I, when Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo reveal to Hamlet what they see of ghost of his father. They also swear to keep silent about the event, which remains kept secret throughout the novel.

Again, Horatio shows loyalty to Hamlet as he watches the reaction of the king during the play “Mouse Trap” performed by the players. He later tells Hamlet about the facial reactions of the king as he watched the performer kill the fake king, revealing his guilt in the murder of Hamlet’s father. However, in The Man in the Iron Mask, loyalties change continuously, most notably demonstrated in the ending of the famous friendship of the three musketeers. The broken loyalties within the kingdom break the trust of all characters through scandals and lies. For xample, the queen gives her loyalty to Philippe but sacrifices Philippe for her political stability. Also, Aramis demonstrates betrayal in his disloyalty to the new prince Philippe. At the beginning of the novel, Aramis praises Philippe through his love, respect and service; however, he leaves Philippe to fend for himself without a backward glance. Aramis chooses his career advancement over his friendships and loyalties. This is revealed to us by his treatment of Porthos and Philippe, when he suggests Porthos be killed to preserve the secret of Philippe.

Another example of disloyalty is when Aramis, one of the main three musketeers shows true and loyal feelings to Philippe, but chooses political stability gain over faithfulness to Philippe. “A friend’s word is the truth itself. If I think of touching, even with one finger, the son of Anne of Austria, the true King of this realm of France; if I have not the firm intention of prostrating myself before his throne; if, according to my wishes, to-morrow here at Vaux will not be the most glorious day my King ever enjoyed, – may Heaven’s lightning blast me where I stand! Aramis had pronounced these words with his face turned towards the alcove of his bedroom, where d’Artagnan, seated with his back towards the alcove, could not suspect that any one was lying concealed. The earnestness of his words, the studied slowness with which he pronounced them, the solemnity of his oath, gave the Musketeer the most complete satisfaction. (Alexandre Dumas, chapter 14. pg. 104) Later on in the novel it is clear that Aramis no longer feels any real loyalty to Prince Philippe. “Warn the Prince, and then- do what? Take him with me?

Carry this accusing witness about with me everywhere? War, too, would follow,- civil war, implacable in its nature! And without any resource- alas, it is impossible! What will he do without me? Without me he will be utterly destroyed! Yet who knows? let destiny be fulfilled! Condemned he was, let him remain so, then! (Dumas, chapter 21 pg. 231) By the end of the novel, King Louis XIV has obtained absolute power, where his word is law, accepting no disagreement to what he says. Aramis desires to have influence and power alongside of King Louis XIV. Soldier, priest, and diplomat; gallant, greedy, and cunning; Aramis took the good things in this life as steppingstones to rise to bad ones. Generous in mind, if not noble in heart, he never did ill but for the sake of shining a little more brilliantly. ” (Alexandre Dumas chapter 6. pg. 34). In order to live and have power, loyalty needed to be kept to the king. Philippe’s friends chose loyalty to Philippe; and they were killed as a result. In the end, after the death of his friends, Aramis retreats to a Spanish estate in his glorious riches.

The Queen, however, wants the kingdom to succeed and she sees that the only way to do so is to listen to the people. The people beg for food and help from the king. However, King Louis XIV shows no compassion towards his people and is only interested in personal pleasure. For the sake of the country, Anne of Austria, the Queen and mother of Philippe, chooses to help her son, but as her power begins to decline she sacrifices Philippe for her political stability. In Hamlet and The Man in the Iron Mask loyalty is portrayed differently. Both stories show that being loyal exacts a high price.

The death of all those who are loyal in these stories is an example of the high price that must be paid. In Hamlet, loyalty is continuous throughout the play, but in The Man in the Iron Mask, there is no loyalty when power begins to corrupt the characters. Therefore, all these examples show that the portrayals of the themes of loyalty in Hamlet and The Man in the Iron Mask are very different. In Hamlet, the truth is found through the loyal bonds of Horatio as he tells the story of the death of the true king. In The Man in the Iron Mask the truth of Philippe is revealed to the kingdom through the courageous acts of the three musketeers.

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