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The Murder in the Play “Hamlet”


Hamlet is a play with a strong focus on interpersonal relationships. Despite the plot of the play setting events across a multitude of locations, most of the pivotal events revolve around the friends and family of Hamlet, specifically, their involvement in the murder. This journal response will provide ideas on whether most murders are committed by people close to the victim or not.

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The Response

The reason for this notion might lie in multiple aspects of homicide. Murder is an extremely serious crime and requires a strong motivation to go through, as the consequences for it are severe. These consequences are not only judicial in nature, but are also psychological, societal and for some, spiritual. Of course, not every murder has a motivation, as there are outliers in every case, but the majority of cases rely on such motivation. This kind of motivation can be created after a prolonged contact with the person (Peters 28).

This is one of the reasons for why family members and friends more often become murderers. The homicide statistics in Canada show that 87% of all solved homicides were perpetrated by someone who knew the victim (Cotter 1). Another study shows that divorce and marriage issues play a strong part in homicide cases that involve intimate partners (Bourne et al. 389). This type of homicide is reflected in the text of Hamlet. The King, Claudius, Hamlet, Polonius and Gertrude all die by the actions of their friends and family for one reason or another. The motives themselves are inconsequential, but the emotion behind them is the leading cause of homicide. Claudius decides to murder his brother out of resentment and jealousy. His ambition for power and negative feelings toward his brother consume his reasoning enough to motivate his murder. A study suggests that despite the emotional nature of the motivation, murders in the family are often planned in advance.

More than 80% of all the examined cases involved elements of planning, which shows that the actions themselves are dispassionate, and are not accidental (Juodis et al. 299). These crimes are often used for dramatic narrative in detective stories, but the fiction often strays far from the fact. Perhaps, this is what makes the murder in Hamlet so effective. It starts with premeditated murder, and the main character is driven by a desire for revenge through another premeditated murder. This makes his death through premediated murder very fitting.

Another aspect of homicide is the ability to perform it. A criminology study of serial killers suggests that they were able to gain the trust of their victims before the crime was committed (Laurence 2). Trust often plays a crucial role in homicide as it allows the killer to get closer to the victim. Serial killers often assumed professions that would allow them access to people’s homes such as door-to-door salesmen (Fox and Levin 55). An unsuspecting victim is less likely to struggle and is more vulnerable inside their home.

This trust is much stronger between friends and family members as it often develops over many years, and even if such trust is not present, an outsider is likely to assume that it exists. This is exactly what allows Claudius to murder his brother. Before the murder, Claudius already had a high status. He was a royal man and a brother of the King. Therefore, he was able to gain easy access to the King during his most vulnerable time. Claudius was not suspected by any guards when he poisoned the King in his sleep, and even if they were, they would not be able to do anything about it. The King did not suspect anything either, but his trust would lead to his downfall. These and previously mentioned facts explain why murder among family and friends is more common than murder by a random stranger.

Works Cited

Bourne, Paul Andrew, et al. “The Psychology of Homicide, Divorce, and Issues in Marriages: Mental Health and Family Life Matters.” International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, vol. 17, no. 2, 2015, pp. 389-405.

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Cotter, Adam. Homicide in Canada, 2013. Juristat: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2014.

Fox, James Alan, and Jack Levin. Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. SAGE Publications, 2014.

Juodis, Marcus, et al. “A Comparison of Domestic and Non-Domestic Homicides: Further Evidence for Distinct Dynamics and Heterogeneity of Domestic Homicide Perpetrators.” Journal of Family Violence, vol. 29, no. 3, 2014, pp. 299-313.

Miller, Laurence. “Serial Killers: I. Subtypes, Patterns, and Motives.” Aggression and Violent Behavior, vol. 19, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-11.

Peters, Richard Stanley. The Concept Of Motivation. Routledge, 2015.

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