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In The Crucible and Hamlet, the main themes of manipulation, ambition and religion are used frequently. Nonetheless, these themes are found in either the initial conflict, climax or conflict resolution for the plays. The initial conflict reflects the theme of ambition, manipulation starts to fail during the climax, and religion is a common theme throughout both plays but can be seen during the conflict resolution. In The Crucible, Abigail is considered to be the antagonist and in Hamlet, the villain is Claudius who kills his brother in order to become King. Both these characters put to use these themes, and have many things in common in terms of their goals. Three main themes are found common between the antagonists of both plays, and ultimately, they intertwine with one another.
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Manipulation plays a great role in both The Crucible and Hamlet. Claudius was the most manipulative character in Hamlet, he was the antagonist. Abigail from The Crucible was also the villain and antagonist in the play and was not able to meet her end goal just like Claudius. The striving King manipulated the people of him using his remarkable language and speech which he used as his weapon. He used his language to persuade the people of the kingdom that he is a noble and loyal King; also, he used this to manipulate Gertrude into believing that he is a good man and can replace her husband. In The Crucible, Abigail also has a weapon, however it is not like the one Claudius has. Abigail has leverage against Proctor. Thus, Abigail uses Proctors adultery as influence over John and uses it to manipulate the entire town. The only people who know the antagonists true intentions are the protagonists of the story. The quote “A murderer and a villain,/ A slave that is not twentieth part the tith/ Of your precedent lord, a vice of kings,/ a cutpurse of the empire and the rule/ that from a shelf the precious diadem stole,/ And put it in his pocket-“(Shakespeare, act 3, scene 4), was said by Hamlet while talking to Gertrude and convincing her that Claudius is not the person she thinks he is. He says that Claudius is a murderer and he was able to take the throne by stealing using his manipulative powers. The only two people who knew who Abigail really was, was John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor, the audience sees this when Proctor says, “She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore’s vengeance, and you must see it.”(Miller,73) .
The theme of ambition is recognized in the initial conflict of both stories. The initial conflict in Hamlet was the sighting of the ghost, when Hamlet finds out what happened to Hamlet Sr., his father, the audience understands how ambitious Claudius really is. Claudius would do absolutely anything to maintain his power, so the audience understands, because it is said that he killed his brother in order to become King. The initial conflict in The Crucible is when the girls were dancing in the woods the audience sees that she would curse just to be with him. Abigail’s main objective is to be with John Proctor. She was the cause of the deaths of innocent people in the town. Claudius killed his brother for his objective and Abigail had no problem killing innocent people of Salem just so she could be with John. Claudius knew what he did was wrong but cannot come to admit it to others. His ambition blurred his ability to admit and take the blame for the death of his brother. In act 3, scene 3, he reflects on his guilt,” My fault is past. But oh, what form of prayer/ Can serve my turn, ‘Forgive me my foul murder’?” (Shakespeare, Scene 3 Act 3). We do not see this form of confession about her wrong-doings from Abigail. She was there to complete her goal, and was not able to do so; therefore, she ended up leaving Salem.
Religion plays a great role in both stories, we see this particularly in Hamlet. Claudius goes into confession to reflect on his sins, which is ironic because if he cared so much about cleansing his soul, why would he commit murder in the first place? At the most, he should admit to his guilt and deal with the consequences. However, in his confession we see that he cannot bring himself to resign his assets, he says, “I am still possessed/ of those effects for which I did the murder, / my crown, mine own ambition and my queen.” (Shakespeare, Act 3, Scene 3). In the Crucible, society is so sure about the existence of the devil, and they are all religious, therefore, Abigail uses religion to get what she wanted. She knew that if she used religion, she would have an effect on society as a whole. Which she tries to do by saying that she is associated with the Devil.
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In conclusion, the main themes of manipulation, religion and ambition play a great role in Hamlet and The Crucible. These three themes are common in the antagonists of the plays and also are found in either the initial conflict, climax or conflict resolution. In both plays, the protagonists know the truth behind everything. Claudius occasionally showed signs of guilt as well as signs of love towards Gertrude. However, Abigail only showed signs of love toward John Proctor, and throughout the story there are no signs of human feeling from her. All these themes are intertwined with one another. In the Crucible, Abigail uses religion as a form of manipulation to attain her goal. In Hamlet, ambition causes the death of Claudius’ brother, which results in him manipulating Gertrude and the kingdom, and ultimately allows him to show human feelings in confession. Therefore, the audience notices that both antagonists share common themes that occurred in each play.
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