Inclass, we have read Hamlet by WilliamShakespeare, Pride and Prejudice byJane Austen and watched Alfred Hitchcock’s celebrated film Notorious. While both watching and reading these great works I cameto realize how each of them represent the theme of desire in very distinctways. Even though most people tend toequate the word desire with love or lust, it can also be portrayed in otherforms. By consuming the works ofShakespeare, Austen, and Hitchcock I found that they each depicted desire in adifferent light which helped drive the stories that they were telling.
In thispaper, I hope to argue how even though the authors use the theme desire in theworks, they each define the term in different ways which in turn helps drivetheir plot. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one of the most known and popular plays in literaryhistory. The play represents many themes, however the one that I would like tofocus on is this idea of desire. In the play, Shakespeare depicts the theme ofdesire when highlighting Hamlet’s desire for revenge against his uncleClaudius, the person who murdered his father.
Throughout the play, Hamlet spends the majority of his timecontemplating his uncle’s murder instead of actually going through with the actuntil the end. Hamlet’s desire for vengeance against his uncle plays aprominent role in developing the plot because it’s what ultimately leads to himbecoming ‘mad’ and obsessed with the idea of murdering his uncle. For example,when Hamlet is watching the play put on by Claudius and realizes that he isguilty, his desire for revenge grows stronger but he still contemplates if heshould do it. Hamlet’s burning desire for revenge functions as the main featurethat helps develop the idea of death throughout the play. For example, in Act 4Scene 5, when Hamlet states “O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody, orbe nothing worthy!” the idea of death and knowing that if he went through withit he would be responsible for his uncle’s death becomes a scary thought forhim and causes him to go mad. His soliloquies throughout the play also play abig role in the theme of desire as Hamlet goes back and forth with the idea ofkilling his uncle which in turn fuels his desire for revenge. Even thoughdesire is most often portrayed as healthy, in the case of this play, desire isconsidered to be problematic and its was ultimately drives Hamlet to go crazyand kill his uncle and ultimately what leads him to his own death.
InJane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice,the theme of desire becomes evident when analyzing the relationships betweenthe characters. Throughout the book, desire is expressed in more ways than oneand the desire between the characters becomes difficult to come by because ofthe social norms in their society. In the novel, Austen portrays desire asrestricted desire and displaced desire. Desire is restricted because thecharacters are unwilling to express how they truly feel about each other. Inthe case of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship Darcy refuses to admit his love for Elizabeth and it’s not until the endof the novel when Darcy finally admits his love for her when he states toElizabeth “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you(34.4).” Darcy also displaces his desire for Elizabeth towards the beginning ofthe novel when he is incapable of expressing his love for Elizabeth because ofhis pride and his social standing in society.
For example, during the dancescene, Darcy states about Elizabeth that she is “tolerable; but not handsomeenough to tempt me.” In the novel, Austen uses desire as something that thecharacters use to defy the norms of society and do what they ultimatelydesire. I believe that Austen viewsdesire as healthy and essential in providing the characters with the decisionto ignore societies view on marriage and do what they want to do instead.InAlfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, IngridBergman’s character Alicia is portrayed as a dangerous object of desire ratherthan a desirable object. For starters, she is introduced in the beginning ofthe film as the daughter of a convicted spy.
Due to the outcome of her father’strial, Alicia acts up and uses alcohol, partying, and men as a way of escapingher sadness about her father’s criminality. Alicia is presented as a dangerousobject of desire through her characteristics and her actions. Throughout thefilm, Alicia is portrayed as dangerous, threatening and “the bad guy” whileDevlin is presented as “the hero.” For example, in the end of the film, Devlincomes to Alicia’s rescue when she gets poisoned by Sebastian’s mother. In thisfilm, Desire functions as a way to portray Alicia as dangerous and corruptwhile Devlin is portrayed as a victor who comes to her rescue.
Even though bothAlicia and Devlin desired each other, Alicia’s strong desire for Devlin’s lovecauses her to make choices that almost killer her in the end. Shakespeare,Austen and Hitchcock all use the idea of desire drastically differentthroughout their work. On the one hand Shakespeare uses desire to help drivethe plot while Austen uses desire to help the characters defy societal normsand make individual choices and Hitchcock uses desire as a catalyst that leadsAlicia to do the things that she does and in turn represents her as a dangerouswomen who men shouldn’t desire. Even though the idea of desire can be found ineach of these works, the authors each use it in very distinct ways.