Essay Topics On Fifth Business

Theme of Guilt in Hamlet & Fifth Business Essay example

938 WordsJul 28th, 20134 Pages

There is one human emotion that can paralyse us, lead us to lie both to ourselves and others, to commit actions that we don’t endure, and to cripple any rational thought processes. It is self perpetuating if allowed to get out of control. Its side effects are anger, aggressiveness, fear or reclusiveness. Its symptoms are irrational behaviour, lying, anguish, and lack of self-esteem. It is the strong emotion that can affect our conscience, like an acid drop it corrodes the soul within and in extreme conditions it demolishes one’s life, it is better known as guilt. Guilt is a reoccurring theme in Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that is demonstrated by various characters including, Dunstable Ramsay, Paul…show more content…

Moreover Paul was forced to feel the guilt at a young age, causing him to become frustrated, and that is when he decides to escape from Deptford and runs away with Le grand Cirque forain des St. Vite (Davies, 148), “‘He was my only teacher till I ran away with a circus.’” (Davies, 265).
Equivalently in the play Hamlet, the theme of guilt was developed through Hamlet and his most hateful enemy, King Claudius. Hamlet experiences guilt when he recognizes that he has not yet avenged his father’s death and in Act I Scene ii Hamlet reveals that he is upset and disappointed with himself, as he has not taken any actions to attain revenge from Claudius, the murderer of his father. Hamlet then calls himself, "a peasant slave" and questions, "What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, That he should weep for her? What would he do, Had he motive and cue for passion That I have?" (Shakespeare, II, ii, 529. 538-541). Furthermore, Hamlet later decides to relief his overwhelming guilt by commanding the actors to re-enact his father’s death through The Murder of Gonzago, (Shakespeare, III, ii, 284), in order to confirm that the ghost was being truthful and Claudius did kill his father, “May be the devil, and the devil hath power T' assume a pleasing shape. Yea, and perhaps Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds More relative than this. The play’s the thing Wherein I’ll catch

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All throughout his life, Dunstan harbors a lot of guilt for a variety of things. It’s his guilt that drove him to look after Mary Dempster later in his life. Even other characters in the story feel guilt for things that also centered around the life of Mary Dempster, albeit, more suppressed.


Dunstan obsession with saints is also very evident throughout the story. His belief that Mary Dempster is actually a saint greatly influenced his adulthood.


Deptford is a very traditional town that immediately condemns people who go against the grain. It is their narrow-mindedness that drew a lot of characters away from the town.

Essay Prompts

1.) Why do you think Dunstan became upset with the article that was published in the school publication?

2.) Dunstan resented his mother because of her actions. How do you think her treatment of him influenced his adult life?

3.) Why do you think Boy and Dunstan were to keen on erasing their past in Deptford?

4.) How important was Liesl’s involvement in Dunstan’s life?

5.) What do you think is the meaning of the book’s title and how important is it to the whole plot?

Multiple Choice Study Questions

1.) Why was Percy mad at Dunstan?
a. because he dated Leola first
b. his sled was faster
c. he was wealthier than Percy
d. he punched him

2.) When did the Dempsters take their daily walks?
a. mornings
b. daybreak
c. early evenings
d. after dinner

3.) What year did Dunstan begin his story?
a. 1908
b. 1898
c. 1919
d. 1918

4.) What is Dunstan’s nickname from childhood?
a. Runny
b. Danny
c. Percy
d. Dunny

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