He implicitly challenges, in almost all his plays, the conventional ideologies that are built up around the institution of the court. These are of courtesy and good relations towards other members of the court and the public domain which are controlled by respectability, diplomacy and honesty. Queen Elizabeth is said to have stated “we princes are set on stage in sight and view of all the world. “1 The above ideological institution is too good to be true. Shakespeare presents use with an accurate and present portrayal of the court.
Today it is considered the norm but new historicists draw attention to the fact that he dramatises disruptions in the royal court at a time, the sixteenth century, when the absolute power of the monarchy was being tested by the irresistible rise of capitalism. For example, rather than his plays which involve the court being a powerful, imaginative expression of Shakespeare’s comprehension of the universal and timeless human condition, the play is perceived as a outcome of Elizabethan culture, as it passed through a period of extraordinary upheavals.
They dramatise the struggles of its time, whilst also reflecting society of today in the light of the court, Looking at the above characteristics of the court, I believe that the depiction of the court is built up mainly on character and the opinions of others towards that figure. I am going to concentrate on the characters in the plays ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’ and consider their relation and role to the institution of the court. Shakespeare looks at motifs such as power, ambition, persuasion and loyalty which corrupt these ideals of the court.
As a body they may appear a model of authority but when looking into individual characters and how they perceive the court we realise it is far from ideological. Additionally I will contemplate how politics moves the narrative and provokes context within the play. Without the support of political ties, Hamlet would not carry the extensive depth as it does. For instance, when the ghost of Old Hamlet visits Horatio and the guards, in the opening scene, Horatio remarks that once the old King had slain the old Fortinbras and, in victory, taken some of his lands.
He continues that the young Fortinbras could be is gathering up an army to, possibly reclaim this land. Without this apparently unstable political situation, the ghost may not have received the same attention. In addition, the reader/audience would not have been provided with this important information about the old King’s heroic character which so sparks Hamlet’s admiration, which has plenty to do with Hamlet’s actions later on. It is interesting at the end of the play that right before he dies, Hamlet bestows the rights to the land on Fortinbras.
They are both sons who have lost their fathers for political reasons: the old King killed Fortinbras’ father for the land, and Claudius murdered the old King for power. Political power, that is. This ending is in many ways a convoluted reflection of the events of the past. It would be wrong to say that Hamlet is not a political play—the lust for power is a driving force in it, as is the need for political control of Denmark, as King, that sets it all in motion.