In the three texts “Hamlet”, “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “On my first son” all the authors use language devices and features to portray messages to the audience about powers they cannot control. The author ideas are based on their life experiences which will be explored as part of the context, which influenced the authors to write those texts. Some examples of language devices are metaphors and personification where the author express their ideology on the forces they cannot control and what they feel about that. Metre is another language feature which may or may not be present throughout the texts but this may indicate certain themes they are trying to push forward. A few common themes which all the texts share in common are death, revenge, fate, supernatural and love. Each of these forces and the way characters respond to it are showed with different linguistic features. However, there are some differences between the way the themes and forces are shown to create an underlying message to the audience.
Hamlet written by Shakespeare, and is based on Hamlets views on the events around him and how he reacts to the sufferings of the world and powers he cannot control. This is interesting as Shakespeare had a son called “Hamnet” who he lost at a young age, and Shakespeare’s suffering to his loss may have influenced his writing in Hamlet, leading to those forces being present. Similarly, in Ben Johnson’s poem it revolves around the loss of his son and is based on true events as his son died at the age of seven. In his poem he also expresses his pain and suffering of the death of his son, and the fact that he could do nothing about it. The difference is he has come to accept the forces he cannot control and that is shown in the language in his poem. Finally, in Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” he talks about how death should be a battle and it should not come easy, which is shown in the title. The influence for this poem had to come from the death of his father, as in one of the stanzas he talks about the death of a father and suggests his emotions towards it.
Death and revenge is a common theme shown in the three texts in different ways that show how people respond to forces they have no control over. In Hamlet he poses the question to himself “To be or not to be…” Hamlet is questioning whether to live or to die by having a philosophical debate with himself. This is one of the ways he deals with his suffering, Hamlet can not deal with the deaths around him so he responds to death by wanting to take his own life. On my First son also uses rhetorical questions “Will man lament the state he should envy.” This line suggests that the author feels that he should feel happy about the state he is in as his son did not live the harsh sufferings of the world, where as Hamlet has the choice to kill himself to end it, the character is trying to see the positive side to the death and dealing with the death of his son in an optimistic way. No rhetorical questions are present in Dylan Thomas’s poem which is because the author deals with death in a different way rather than question the force. By using rhetorical questions it shows Hamlet response to the forces that he is uncertain, and after he goes on to use more questions which suggests that Hamlet is confused and he does not know how to react. Also, constantly using the interrogative shows his uncertainty and is constantly thinking about what to do, that is his reaction. But in comparison to Ben Johnson, he is using rhetorical questions for a different reason that is whether he should feel bad about the death of his son or happy that the does not suffer anymore.
In the play Hamlet experiences the death of his father which he reacts to by saying “Revenge his foul and unnatural murder”. In Do not go gentle into that good night there is a line “And you, my father there on the sad height.” The difference to Hamlet is the choice of words which creates different atmospheres as Dylan Thomas is experiencing grief over the death of his father, but Hamlet is angry and is looking for vengeance. The difference can be interpreted as due to the deaths of the fathers as Hamlets father was murdered but Dylan Thomas’s father died of natural causes. Hamlet uses the metaphor “To die, to sleep…” The way the character is dealing with the forces he has no control over, death in this case, is by comparing death to a sleep and in that sleep all of his suffering will go away. In comparison to Dylan Thomas’s poem he uses the line “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” This suggests that he feels as if death should not come easy and it should be a battle by the repetition of the word “rage”. In Ben Johnson’s poem the experience of his death is similar to that of Dylan Thomas’s where he says “scap’d world’s and flesh’s rage,” the language used is similar but the meanings are different as he is happy as his son did not face the tragedies of the world, and would not have to deal with these forces as well. The reasons for Hamlet speaking in metaphors is that he is angry about his death and feels the way to express himself is to revenge his father’s death. Dylan Thomas is speaking metaphorically to also express the grief of his father, and by repeating the word “rage” it shows his anger, and how strongly he feels about fighting against death. Ben Johnson similarly uses the language he does because he can not control his reaction and expresses the death of his son through anger.
A language feature used to describe death are semantic fields created by the authors. In Hamlet’s soliloquy the author creates a dark tone by using words such as “slings, arrows, whips, scorns and bodkin.” The choice of words has a negative connotations, showing he feels rage towards the deaths he has experienced. In Ben Johnson’s poem the word choice is the opposite “joy, soft, peace and love.” The difference is it makes a more tranquil atmosphere and shows that Ben Johnson has come to terms with death. Dylan Thomas is more similar to Hamlet in word choice as he uses “Burn, rage, dark and lightning” This is because it creates an atmosphere of anger that links with his emotions of the deaths he has experience shown through his semantic fields. The choice of words can be used to see how Dylan Thomas deals with the suffering of death by unleashing anger and fury. The different semantic fields are used to create different atmospheres which reflect the authors response to forces they can not control. Hamlet and Dylan Thomas create a very dark tone which shows that they can not deal with the deaths of their loved ones and are fighting against the idea of death. The reason that Ben Johnson uses more of a peaceful semantic field is that he can now accept death, and he has learnt that there is nothing he can do about it.
Another force that characters have to respond to is fate and supernatural which can be linked together. A similarity between all three texts is the use of iambic pentameter with some slight differences. In Hamlet there is a clear iambic pentameter structure through out the whole play. In Do not go gentle into that good night there is a deteriorating meter where the last line of each stanza has less syllables. Finally, On my first son is written in iambic pentameter. The rhythm of an iambic pentameter could symbolise the beat of the heart. This can be seen as a heart keeps on beating until death, so this can be interpreted as the underlying presence of destiny and fate, by weaving the presence of a heart beat it shows to audiences that all the pain the poets have experienced is due to fate and nothing can be done about it. However the difference with Dylan Thomas’s poem is that he deals with the force of fate with the will to break the chains of fate as he is defying the rules of the iambic pentameter which is defying fate. The other authors characters have acknowledged the idea of fate and are willing to accept it, but Dylan Thomas deals with it by fighting the force and not taking the option that fate presents in his case death. In terms of supernatural forces Hamlet is the only text where it is explored and woven in, alongside with fate. The example in Hamlet is “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.” The quote itself does not show exactly how characters deal with forces they can not control, however the presence of supernatural elements foreshadows the later events that occur so the deaths, that lead to Hamlet questioning his fate. The metaphorical language is used for foreshadowing the future in the plot. The link to a supernatural presence can correspond with a divine entity who controls the characters fates, and therefore suggests that the characters have no choice. By the characters acknowledging the presence of the supernatural it helps understand their responses to the forces around them.
In Hamlet’s soliloquy he talks about his fate by saying “My fate cries out.” The use of personification shows Hamlet as though his fate is that bad and he is experiencing suffering that it is crying out. Also Hamlet describes his fate as “To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” The character believes that his fortune or luck is so bad that are described to as being like slings and arrows. Hamlets response is to decide if it is more noble to suffer the pain or “to take arms against a sea of troubles”. The connotations of slings and arrows are projectile weapons showing that Hamlets fate is the cause to all his pain and suffering. In comparison to On my first Son there is a line where the poet has written “Seven years tho’ wert lent to me, and I thee pay, Exacted by fate on the just day.” The language feature here is metaphorical language as he is describing his son as being lent to him, and the years were paid, but fate had to take him away on the day he died. By using the word “lent” it shows that the author feels fate had given him a short period of time with his son and it was not enough for him. But he has still come to accept his fate. Both texts compared to Dylan Thomas’s response to fate, he uses the simile “Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay.” In this quote it shows the opposite to acceptance of fate as when people are near death it is almost though they are blind, and the heavens is only visible to that person. Another feature Dylan Thomas uses is repetition as he uses “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” The meaning is to fight against the light, so when death is near, also it is in this line that the iambic pentameter is broken. The difference is the other two texts show acceptance of fate where as in do not go gentle into that good night it is the defiance of fate, and also links in with the will of defying death. This shows that his response is to fight against fate, and make sure all his fibres in his body does not allow death to come easy.
In conclusion both Hamlet and On my good son feature similar ideas on responses to the force of fate, as they both have come to accepting it. This is shown through metaphorical language and the iambic pentameter to communicate different messages. However, Hamlet is more similar to the reaction of his father’s death creating semantic fields of anger, that is also a technique that Dylan Thomas used in his poem. Where as the difference in On my first son was that he created a more peaceful semantic field showing that he has come to accept the death of his son linking to the fact that he is also able to accept fate. Ultimately, no matter how the authors/characters react to the forces they can not control, whether they accept fate or not all three texts respond to death with the word “rage”, all creating semantic fields of anger. This suggests that no matter what all humans instinct is to respond to death with anger, and it is part of human nature.