Literature Analysis of “Hamlet” and “Death of a Salesman”

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

Firstly, the characters in both Hamlet and Death of a Salesman display the urge to follow society’s standards which leads to betrayal. In Death of a Salesman, Willy as he speaks to Happy and Biff mentions, “That’s just what I mean. Bernard can get the best marks in school, I understand, but when he gets out in the business world, understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. You take me, for instance. I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. “Willy Loman is here!” That’s all they have to know, and I go right through”. This portrays that Biff and Happy are individuals who are blind followers, falling for Willy’s dream. They have never seen what Willy has accomplished and based their choices on what he tells them. It is evident that Willy not only demonstrates a lack of knowledge when it comes to business and how it functions but also a complete misunderstanding of a Greek God, Adonis whom he proudly and excitedly compares his sons to. Willy’s mind is filled with the approach that if people, more specifically his sons will only accomplish in the real world because of their appearance. He is conveying that society leans towards an individual who has the looks rather than one who is intellectual. This illustrates that Willy has led his sons in the wrong direction about being more confident about the way look instead of striving towards hard work and demonstrating intelligence, representing the element of betrayal. Another example of this in Death of a Salesman is when Willy says, “You and Hap and I, and I’ll show you all the towns.

America is full of beautiful towns and fine, upstanding people. And they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. The finest people. And when I bring you fellas up, there’ll be open sesame for all of us, ’cause one thing, boys: I have friends. I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own”. This shows that Willy’s idea of success is achieved by knowing the people around and developing relationships in which he has an advantage. Most people are liked by individuals that surround them such as their friends. To Willy, however, only great men are truly well-liked and that is what determines their success or failure. Willy takes a lot of pride in how society sees him, to him he is someone who holds a big position in New England. He is so caught up in his success stories that he fails to see that his life is no longer that way. He constantly feeds these stories into his son’s minds, allowing them to reach his level of “success” but fail to do so. This shows how society has created a false representation of the American Dream, however to Willy’s it seems as if it is the right one. Similarly, in Hamlet, as he is disgusted by his mother’s actions states, “She married—O most wicked speed! To post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!”. Hamlet as he expresses the hatred towards his mother feels betrayed. In the time of pain and sorrow, perhaps he requires his mother’s unconditional love and support, however, she marries his uncle. This demonstrates that Gertrude may feel that without a King she will not prosper representing the idea of society acting as a huge influence for an individual. In the Elizabethan era, it was understood that a woman is considered less as compared to men. Without a man by her side, the women cannot rule the country. This resulted in Gertrude betraying her son because Claudius takes his throne. “I have a daughter—have while she is mine— / Who in her duty and obedience, mark, / Hath given me this”.

Secondly, it is evident in both texts that betrayal is tied closely to one’s self-deception. In Death of a Salesman, Biff as he is angry at his father for asking him to be someone he is not exclaims, “…why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am…”. This portrays that Biff has spent his life trying to live up to an impossible falsehood and a vision of himself that never existed, one where he is chasing his father’s dreams. Biff‘s true self is displayed by his real feelings and desire, while the false self is controlled by his father’s actions and expectations. This causes betrayal towards Willy, as Biff believes that he has his own dreams and desires one where he is free from his father’s influence. As Biff constantly tries to live up to his father’s expectations his own ambition is pushed further and further. Death of a Salesman contains another example of self-deception as Willy states, “They don’t need me in New York. I’m the New England man. I’m vital in New England”. This represents how Willy is presenting himself as a person who is well recognized. He displays a false image to his family, especially his sons causing him to betray those dear to him. He does not understand that in the process of him temping his sons to follow his dreams he is hurting his sons in the process. His sons constantly believe that their father is very intelligent and well-liked, and they try to follow the same pathway, however, they are unable to reach their father’s goals as Willy has created a sense of self-deception. Willy pushes his sons towards his idea of success when really they end up in failure.

Perhaps he is afraid of what his family will think of him when he reveals the reality of what his life is, a complete failure. In the same manner, in Hamlet, as the ghost reveals their true self speaks, “Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, /With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts— / O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power / So to seduce!—won to his shameful lust / The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen …”. This displays how Cladius has represented a false image of himself, someone who he truly is not. He presents himself as a virtuous king, but in reality, he is power-hungry. Claudius fuels off corruption and wants nothing by power hence why he became King. He has done so by gaining Gertrude’s trust and love by luring her into his trap. He does not realize that he betrays his queen in the process of his selfishness. The fact that he poisoned the King to earn his position on the throne just shows how greedy he is for power, he does not possess any acts of kindness for Denmark or Gertrude. This idea is also evident in Hamlet when Polonius offers advice to his son, Laertes as he goes off to France, he explains, “…Give thy thoughts no tongue, / Nor any unproportioned thought his act. …Beware / Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in, / Bear ’t that the’ opposèd may beware of thee. …This above all: to thine own self be true …”. This explains how Polonius acts as if he is a wise individual, but in reality, everything he says contradicts his statement. He creates an image where he trusts and cares for his children but shows no signs of trust. He betrays his son when he sends a spy to France to check on Laertes. Perhaps he sends a spy to France because he is worried about what Laertes’ behavior might reflect on his reputation. The character he truly presents himself is perhaps more concerned about his position in Denmark rather than the well-being of his children. This idea causes betrayal towards Laertes as he does not trust his own son, but acts as if he is a man of great prestige.


Cite this paper

Literature Analysis of “Hamlet” and “Death of a Salesman”. (2020, Oct 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/literature-analysis-of-hamlet-and-death-of-a-salesman/

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out