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Attitudes Towards Kings in “The Thousand and One Nights” and “Hamlet”

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There are different attitudes towards kings in two different and very popular tales, The Thousand and One Nights (TTON) and Hamlet. This essay seeks to scrutinize those attitudes. There are two brother kings in TTTON, King Shahrayar and King Shahzaman who enjoy absolute power. Claudius is the king of Denmark in Hamlet. Both in TTON and Hamlet, the kings have absolute control over their people, but the kings of TTON are more vengeful and merciless than Claudius. They have no sympathy for their people and their murderous fury sets new records. Also, they are not insecure of the power they have unlike Claudius. Claudius is conniving and desperate to preserve power. Following discussion will explore attitudes towards these kings in TTON and Hamlet.

Hamlet’s attitude towards Claudius is extremely resentful because he cannot seem to get over the fact that his uncle poisoned his real father. He thinks of the king very hatefully and continuously remains preoccupied by devising new schemes to bring the king down. The public’s attitude towards Claudius also lacks generosity and goodwill because the latter is not protective of the public’s interests and is only self-obsessed. The previous king was very caring, but Claudius only cares about himself. So, the public resents him too. Claudius is a practical example of moral and political corruption, so everyone resents him in Hamlet. He is liked by none and everyone thinks of him in negative terms. Such is the attitude towards Claudius in Hamlet. Claudius himself claims that “Oh, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven” (Act III, Sc 3, li. 37). This means that Claudius’s crime is so rotten that its rotten smell could be felt as far away as heaven. Now, the two kings in TTON are even more vengeful and murderous than Claudius. At least, Claudius is not seen killing a virgin every night. But, King Shahrayar goes too far away in madness after discovering his wife’s infidelity and vents out his frustration and anger on common people. This leads the public to be extremely fearful of him. Every person secretly hates the two kings in TTON, but no one dares to speak up about their hatred. No one has any goodwill for the two brother kings and everyone wants to get rid of them to save their daughters from the evil eyes of the two brothers. However, near the end of the story, attitude towards King Shahrayar changes when he is finally transformed by the faithful behaviour of Shahrazad calling her “pure, holy, chaste, tender, straightforward, unassailable, ingenious, subtle, eloquent, discreet, smiling, and wise” (Mardrus and Mathers 532).

Concluding, the above discussion proves that attitudes towards the kings in the two stories are both same and different. For example, though all kings differ on the level of atrocities they commit, public attitudes towards them are resentful. They make others hate them because of their bad behaviours. No one has any sympathy for them because they are not concerned with the public. It is because of their evil attitudes that they gather so much criticism from the public.

Works cited:
Mardrus, J.C., and Mathers, E.P. The Book of the Thousand and One Nights, Volume 4. Routledge, 2013. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Classic Books Company, 2001. Print.

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