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Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Shakespeare's Hamlet. Comparison and Contrast - Essay Example

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Two stories, Henry James' “The Turn of the Screw” and Shakespeare's “Hamlet” both deal with the themes of the supernatural and madness. However, these themes are given different treatments in each of these stories…
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Henry James The Turn of the Screw and Shakespeares Hamlet. Comparison and Contrast
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"Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Shakespeare's Hamlet. Comparison and Contrast"

Download file to see previous pages This paper aims to prove the existence of these themes in both texts, and how the differences in their treatment affect the overall plot and moral of both stories. The Supernatural The supernatural theme is one of the guiding forces in these literary pieces. The difference lies in what these ghosts do in the stories. In “The Turn of the Screw,” the ghosts do not do anything tangible and seem to be existing only in the governess' mind. In fact, the governess, in one of her conversations with Mrs. Grose about the ghost, says excitedly, “I know, I know, I know” when Mrs. Grose asks her “But how do you know?” (James 25). Mrs. Grose's reaction is one of astonishment and anticipation, but not of belief. This is consistent throughout the novel. Also, the ghosts' identity are presented according to how the governess sees them. She is the only one who actually admits to encountering the ghosts, so it is impossible to really declare the veracity of their existence. This presents readers with the dilemma of distinguishing the governess' state of mind --- she could either be in desperate desire to protect the children, or she might merely be hallucinating. During Mrs. Grose and the governess' first conversation about the ghost, it is apparent that the former, despite acting in astonishment to the latter's tale, does not speak of having encountered the ghost in the house (James 21-26). Also, when the narrator starts to read according to the governess' personal notes, the narrative is filled with subjective statements such as “I remember,” “I recollect,” “I recognized,” and “I reflected” (James 7-9). This provides the possibility of reading the governess as either insane (antagonist) or overprotective (protagonist), and the children as either victims (protagonists) or just plain evil (antagonists). With these two opposing reading of the characters, the plot can then be looked at as a story where either the governess is the victim of the children's actions, or the children are the victims of the governess' mentality. It is worth remembering that during the 19th century, faith in the traditional teachings of Christianity is on the decline (Smith and Haas 26). The supernatural theme in the story could be a reflection of how people, during the Victorian period, try to seek for ways to accept and understand death (Smith and Haas 29). On the contrary, in “Hamlet,” the ghost instructs Hamlet to avenge his death --- a solid action. It is true that Gertrude, Hamlet's mother and widow of the former king, does not see the ghost in the closet scene, so it can be argued that the ghost is merely a product of Hamlet's imagination. However, Bernardo, Marcellus and Horatio witness the appearance of the ghost even before Hamlet does. Horatio, the level-headed friend of Hamlet, even says “At least the whisper goes so: our last king, / Whose image even but now appear'd to us (Shakespeare I.1.80-1). The ghost is Hamlet's father, the former King of Denmark. It can be said that Shakespeare maximizes the “power and magic” of the supernatural, where the ghost can choose who sees it. This creates the assurance that Gertrude is free from guilt regarding her ex-husband's murder, and leaves the audience with the question about the nature of Claudius and Gertrude's relationship. Letting Gertrude see the ghost alters the plot in some ways and turns her from protagonist to antagonist. Also, it would render her purposeless in assuring the rest of the characters that Hamlet is indeed insane (Knights and Knights ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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