Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Lewis Carroll’s The Mad Gardener’s Song are two works that have had a significant literary impact. Although “Hamlet” is seen as a meaningful literary piece that focuses on problems of all time, the latter work is more controversial among readers. “Hamlet” and The Mad Gardener’s Song have similarities, such as satire, metaphors, and personification. However, while Carroll’s piece is frequently considered merely comical poetry produced with the aim of entertainment, along with Shakespeare’s magnum opus, both are profound pieces highlighting the theme of selfish human nature.
The central theme of the “Hamlet” play is the human vices that include corruption and hypocrisy. The protagonist, Hamlet, wants to uncover the truth about two-faced individuals. The young man decides to take revenge on his mercantile uncle for killing his father. Likewise, The Mad Gardener’s Song is an educational poem that also indicates the true faces of people. While the poem, unlike “Hamlet”, is supposed to be humorous, it still contains criticism about the characters the author is speaking about. While illustrating how the protagonist pities others or undergoes hardships, the author narrates about the characters who are hostile, such as the character’s relative who did not want to accept him in the house: “Unless you leave this house,” he said, “I’ll send for the Police!” (Carrol 12). In this sense, the authors draw a parallel between the bad and good characters.
Hamlet is one of the most significant characters in this Shakespearean play. He is the prince of Denmark and portrays a young adult and lover seeking explanations and retribution for his father’s death. He refers to himself as brave in Act I while criticizing himself for doing little to shed light on the real cause of the death of his father (Shakespeare). Via such a situation, the readers observe how the protagonist is the victim and is confined in the building with individuals who have malicious intentions. Claudius, Hamlet’s father’s sibling, is also a key figure in the play. In Act II he uses poison to kill his brother, then ascends to the throne. His persona comes out as a crafty and deceitful man (Shakespeare). In this sense, Shakespeare used a large number of characters throughout the play, each of whom played a unique part. The plot is based on the confrontation of two sides, Hamlet and the new king’s confidants.
In a similar way, the poet Carroll uses a variety of characters throughout the work to represent the main theme. The characters in the poem are people who the author is uncomfortable with and does not like. For example, in the second stanza, Carroll speaks about how hostile the protagonist’s relatives are to him. The author introduces new animals or characters the author criticizes. Another example is a letter from the protagonist’s wife, who could have left him since, after reading the letter, the gardener realized “the bitterness of life” (Carrol 6). In this sense, the main character is against the rest of the characters.
In Hamlet, there is no specific narrator as the actions are described by a third party. This gives the reader an objective description of the evil and good characters. However, at certain points, such as in Act II, the reader is given long monologues of the protagonist, which helps the audience to get acquainted with the young man more to understand why he is almost the only misunderstood person with a good heart in the play. Similarly, in Carroll’s work, the narrator is the author who illustrates the difficulties of the mad gardener and his difference from the rest of the characters.
Shakespeare has always employed metaphorical language to help his readers relate to the characters and events he is portraying. The personification of ideas is still employed today as one of the figurative languages. In Act I, Rosencrantz’s remark that “the world’s grown honest,” which implies that the world is capable of bringing truth, is an illustration of this (Shakespeare 97). Wordplay is another example of figurative language used in the play. Hamlet tells Claudius in Act 1, scene 2, “Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun” (Shakespeare 25). Here is a pun where the term sun can auditorily sound like a son, which illustrates the humorous fact that Claudius is now Hamlet’s stepfather. Meanwhile, Carroll’s poem’s most important use of figurative language is personification. The author finds a way to compare people, such as a banker’s clerk and a sister’s husband’s niece, to a buffalo and hippopotamus (Carrol 1). The poet makes comparisons between many objects, individuals, and animals in each stanza of the poem.
The play and poem define the numerous aspects the authors wish to portray using imagery and diction. Shakespeare’s use of language in the interaction between the ghost and Hamlet is evident since it enables the reader to understand the ghost’s resentment and sentiments towards his brother (Shakespeare). The ghost continues to speak negatively so that the reader might feel sympathy for him. Additionally, the poem makes extensive use of imagery to depict the individuals who have outraged or otherwise offended the author. He illustrates two villains using the allusion to snakes.
It is clear from the two pieces that the protagonists and the narrator are both offended by something or someone. Thus, it is evident that hatred is indeed a common topic in the given works. In the play, Hamlet does not like his uncle or people who only did something for personal gain, which makes him not only angry but opposed to the elite. In turn, the poem’s speaker compares people he despises to animals who do not embrace the gardener. In this sense, the authors show how the protagonists are confronted by everybody. While the authors emphasized the good nature of the main characters, they gave other characters malicious and deceitful natures and illustrated how the bad characters refused to accept protagonists due to hypocrisy and self-interest.
The setting of both works differs and has a different variety of settings depending on the piece. For example, in “Hamlet”, the setting has an important role in the development of action. Yet, while each action indicates different locations within the territory, the overall setting of the play is the castle in Denmark (Shakespeare). Meanwhile, the setting of “The Mad Gardener’s Song” is different in each stanza. Throughout the poem, the protagonist goes from his personal domain to roads and banks.
Hence, while Shakespeare’s greatest work is a profound play that emphasizes the issues of life and death, Carroll’s poem is only humorous poetry written for entertainment purposes, demonstrating how two literary works are significantly different from one another in terms of topics, plot, narrators, characters, and setting. In this sense, the works have different use of settings and the plot, where the setting plays a key role. Furthermore, topics, narrators and characters are intertwined in the works, indicating the ambiguity of characters in “Hamlet” to shed light on the theme of life and death and only one character in Carroll’s poem. Still, the use of language and diction are similar due to the intense use of figurative language.
Carroll, Lewis. The mad gardener’s Song. Bobbs-Merrill, 1967.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Penguin, 1998.