Motifs Between Wuthering Heights And Hamlet

Modified: 5th May 2017
Wordcount: 1565 words

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The human mind is comprised of a myriad of personalities, emotions, and states, all of which greatly influence the way we act. Many authors now explore these deep crevasses of the human psyche, and demonstrate their overwhelming power over others, altering the natural course of life greatly. Two such literary works that investigate mental power are Hamlet and Wuthering Heights. William Shakespeare’s and Emily Brontë’s texts both have relatively similar motifs, the most prominent of which are the suppression of youth, rage, and revenge.

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The suppression of youth by their superiors can be seen in both passages. Hamlet is usurped by his scheming uncle Claudius, who stepped in to take the throne, even though it rightfully belonged to the young prince. When Young Fortinbras of Norway was repressed by his uncle, who had also taken the throne rightful to him, his uncle clearly had power over him, as Claudius announces, “we have here writ / to Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras / – Who, impotent and bedrid, scarcely hears / Of this his nephew’s purpose – to supress / His further gait herein” (Shakespeare I.ii.27-31). Claudius believes that the uncle does have formidable power over Fortinbras and has the ability to cease his mobilization of troops, if it be directed at Denmark. After the passing of Mr. Earnshaw, Hindley became the owner of the Heights, and the head of the family. He decided to oppress Heathcliff, as he resented him, and refuse him rights to basic needs, such as an education with the curate. Much later, Heathcliff felt that because he was abused and mistreated by Hindley years ago, it is his right to quell Hareton, his only child. This was all before Hindley’s passing. Instead of treating Hareton properly, as the nephew he is, Heathcliff oppresses Hareton, and treats him more like a servant than a close relative. Legally, the Heights should’ve been inherited by Hareton, but Heathcliff had intervened and took over it by force. “In that manner Hareton, who should now be the first gentleman in the neighbourhood, was reduced to a state of complete dependence on his father’s inveterate enemy” (Brontë 183). Heathcliff had interfered with Hareton’s legal rights, and in doing so, took over Wuthering Heights, and ultimately Thrushcross Grange as well. Oppression can often spur anger in the victim leading to catastrophic results.

Rage has led to many problems in both novels, oftentimes which have disastrous results. Two characters that have extensive anger management problems are Hamlet, and Heathcliff. Throughout the novel, Heathcliff’s rage seems to have been spurred on from his early childhood, due to Hindley’s relentless abuse. This constant mistreatment had compounded over the years, and eventually, Heathcliff had become a cruel, savage beast towards the end of his life. The same can be said for young Hamlet, in his self-titled play. From the beginning, he is portrayed as a meek youth, simply mourning his father’s death. Subsequent being informed of his father’s murder by means of his uncle, Hamlet’s sense of violence increases with every passing scene. Similar to a scene from Shakespeare’s own Macbeth, Hamlet call upon greater powers to make him become more violent: “Now could I drink hot blood, / And do such bitter business on this day / Would quake to look on. / Let me be cruel, not unnatural / I will speak daggers to her, but use none” (Shakespeare III.iii.374-6, 379, 380). Here, his morality vastly changes from more passive to more vicious. This rage is thoroughly released through that final ‘friendly’ duel with Laertes, which culminates in the deaths of Hamlet, Laertes, and the King and Queen. A similar idea can be traced to Heathcliff’s life, where soon after his lover Catherine had passed away, he had begun to turn more aggressive. Most of this anger was channelled towards Hareton, the only child he could abuse as retribution towards Hindley. The remaining fault had fallen onto younger Cathy, who Heathcliff had punished after she had become his prisoner. Even towards the end of his life, Heathcliff’s rage had dominated a majority of his lifestyle. His fury and violence was curbed by nobody, not even his wife, Isabella Linton. Out of anger, Heathcliff exclaims, “I have no pity! I have no pity! The more the worms writhe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails! It’s a moral teething; and I grind with greater energy, in proportion to the increase in pain” (Brontë 150). His ruthlessness eventually leads to his turn to insanity, and ultimately, his own death. Rage is seen in both the play and novel, in both of which lead to death. This rage can build up over time, and culminate as being expressed in the form of vengeance.

The most common and strongest motif shared between these two texts is the notion of revenge; revenge that oftentimes leads to death. In Shakespeare’s play, the ghost of his father demands that Hamlet exact revenge on his uncle, who had killed his father. “If thou didst ever thy dear father love – / Revenge his most foul and unnatural murder.” (Shakespeare I.v.23, 25) Claudius has committed the ultimate sin, one found in the Bible: the murder of Abel via his brother Cain. Hamlet believes that although his father’s death should be avenged, it would be foolish to murder the King, providing only the absurd reason that ‘a ghost told him to’. The entire play is centered on young Hamlet plotting his revenge against Claudius, and continually hesitating in fulfilling his father’s ghostly, profound commands. His revenge is finally enacted on the King when Hamlet’s inevitable and sudden death is realized, and he takes action and finalizes the course of action. Laertes, the late Polonius’ eldest, desires to seek revenge against Hamlet, for he had accidentally murder his father, and drove his sister, Ophelia, mad. Laertes’ intent to kill Hamlet during their noble swordfight gives rise to even his own demise, as Hamlet picks up his poison-tipped sword and scratches him with it as well. Upon hearing of Claudius’ evil plot to eliminate him, Hamlet takes matters into his own hands and finally executes his uncle, as his ghostly father had commanded. Heathcliff kept many grudges throughout his years. The initial upset comes from Hindley’s constant abuse of Heathcliff as a child. This emotionally upsets him, although he keeps it bottled up until he returns from his three-year absence, to extort revenge on his dilapidated brother. “Afterwards settle my score with Hindley; and then prevent the law by doing execution on myself” (Brontë 97). Once he has taken over the Heights, and effectively the entire Earnshaw family, he feels as though he has dealt with the situation. Edgar and Isabella Linton had both made rude remarks about Heathcliff’s race, being the only dark man for miles. He had kept these verbal assaults in his mind for a while, until he had the power to extort revenge upon them. Catherine betrays Heathcliff by marrying Edgar Linton. This greatly angers Heathcliff, and instead of harming his true love Catherine, he decides to take his anger out on Isabella Linton, Edgar’s sister. After Isabella and Edgar Linton die, Heathcliff still does not feel satisfied with his vengeance. He then continues to exact revenge on his despicable brother’s son, Hareton. But even then, his anger is fuelled by his lover Catherine’s death. After his son, Linton, is forced to marry young Cathy, Heathcliff unleashes more anger on her, by isolating her from society in her room. At around this time, he feels as though he has achieved his own heaven. “My old enemies have not beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives – I could do it, and none could hinder me. But where is the use? I don’t care for striking, I can’t take the trouble to raise my hand!” (Brontë 306). Heathcliff feels as though he had the chance now to exact revenge on more people who had angered him throughout the years, but finds no use to it. His life is nearing to an end, and this vengeance would be futile. Finally, once Heathcliff had breathed his last and his revenge had all been exhausted, the falling action begins. Revenge throughout both literary works lead to the deaths of numerous characters, including Hamlet, Laertes, Claudius, Gertrude, Hindley, Isabella, Edgar, and Linton.

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The themes of the suppression of youth, rage, and revenge have profound effects in Hamlet and Wuthering Heights, both of which cause numerous deaths. Hamlet and young Fortinbras are suppressed by their uncles, while Heathcliff does most of the oppression against his undesired relatives. This spurs rage in Hamlet, whilst Heathcliff’s rage increased exponentially throughout the novel. These rages lead to revenge against other family members; Heathcliff against the youth of the novel, and Hamlet against his King and mother. Both these texts share these common themes, which strengthen the plot as a whole, and increase the suspense and intrigue of the reader, making them instant literature classics.


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