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1. Discuss the atmosphere created at the beginning of the play. What is its relevance to Hamlet’s state of mind? At the beginning of the play fear, uncertainty, mystery, gloom, tension and impending doom are key elements which create an overall negative atmosphere. The atmosphere in the first scene of Hamlet is created by both the environment and the characters of the play. It is excruciatingly cold, dark and quiet in Denmark and as a result of such a mysterious and gloomy atmosphere the characters in the first scene of the play react in such a way, that they too are a reflection of such atmosphere.
” ‘Tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart”1. As readers, we can sense a great deal of tension, misfortune and hesitation among the sentries who guard the castle of Denmark, a country preparing for war. We empathize with Barnardo, Marcellus and Horatio, for it is they who transmit to the readers the general atmosphere.
Right from the beginning, when the play opens, Barnardo the guard emits the general atmosphere through his feelings of fear, uncertainty, tension and perhaps impending doom. The first line in the play sums these feelings up, “Who’s there?
“2. These first line also summarizes the question that Hamlet asks himself throughout the play. For as Hamlet goes mad, he begins loosing his ability to rationalize. He looses trust in almost every character in the play, he also looses his identity and he is often uncertain of what is going on.
There are a variety of purposes for the creation of such atmosphere at the beginning of the play. Shakespearei?? s aim is not only to foreshadow the state of the Castle of Elsinor by the end of the play.
It is also a reflection of Hamlet’s state of mind throughout the course of the play, since the castle’s imprisonment is similar to Hamlet’s obsession and utter confusion. The sudden and mysterious death of King Hamlet and the precipitated marriage of Gertrude (Hamlet’s mother) and Claudius (Hamlet’s uncle) have led young Hamlet to create the same atmosphere in his head. Since there has been no one to ameliorate the state of desolation and confusion in which Hamlet find himself in, his mind soon reflects the same atmosphere as that of the beginning of the play.
There is a constant battle between him where he is no longer able to keep thinking rationally and soon he loses control and insanity takes over him. 2. What are the various interpretations given to the appearance of the Ghost? How do the different witnesses react to it? When Barnardo, Marcellus and Horatio see the ghost, at the beginning of the play they come up with three possible explanations pertaining the nature of the ghost.
They believe that the ghost can in fact be an evil spirit which is embodied in another dead person’s body, in other words King Hamlet’s body for the sentries claim that the ghost that they have seen bears the same figure as Hamlet’s father, “In the same figure like the King that’s dead”3. Another theory relevant to the ghosts appearance is that it has come as a warning of trouble to come. The last interpretation is that the ghosts has come back to carry out unfinished business.
When Horatio is told by Marcellus and Barnardo about the ghost, he does not believe that there is in fact a ghost and he thinks that it is simply an idea coming from the sentries imagination, “Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy… “4. Horatio’s feelings clearly contrast with Barnardo’s and Marcellus’s feelings, for they are fearful that the ghost will appear once again and they have asked Horatio to speak to him, if he is to appear again. However, when the three gentlemen see the ghost appear again they are mainly filled with awe and wonder. Horatio’s first words after seeing the ghost are, “It harrows me with fear and wonder”.
The three men are filled with wonder and a small sense of fear because they want to know what is the true reason for the ghost’s appearance and hence they urge Horatio to speak to it. Horatio suggests that the ghost has come back to carry out unfinished business since it has great resemblance to the dead King in his armor. Because of the same, Horatio comes to believe that the ghost might be some kind of warning that Denmark will be attacked soon. Horatio, Barnardo and Marcellus are quite secretive about the ghosts appearance and hence they decide to tell Hamlet.
Perhaps their secretiveness is due to the fact that if all of Denmark finds out there will be utter chaos and disorder. This in a way is somewhat ironic because in deciding not to confide with King Claudius and other members of the castle, and telling Hamlet, one could say that perhaps they basically start the drama in the play for it is the ghost that instigates Hamlet into acting upon his feelings. 3. a) How does Hamlet’s first soliloquy shed light on his deep depression at the beginning of the play? Hamlet’s soliloquy obviously sheds light on his depression.
However, from the soliloquy we also learn that Hamlet’s depression is not only due to his fathers death, but to his mother marrying his uncle, King Claudius, within less than two months after his mother’s death. “She married-O most wicked speed! To post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets! “5. Hamlet’s depression is so great that he even fill like committing suicide since he thinks that there is nothing left to live for, the only thing that stops him is his fear of committing a sin. “Thaw and resolve itself into dew, or that the Everlasting had not fix’d his canon ‘gainst self-slaugher.
O God! God! “6. This is obviously ironic, since his desires of killing Claudius are also sinful. Hamlet is disgusted at the fact that his mother, at her age, is lustful for sexual pleasure. The soliloquy allows us to see that Hamlet feels that his mother has let him and his father down. It is also through this soliloquy that we see Hamlet’s, Oedipus complex kick in for he begins to compare his father to Claudius and then himself to Claudius, “… married with my uncle, my father’s brother-but no more like my father than I to Hercules”.
In a few words, Hamlet is comparing both his father and him to mythological hero and downgrading himself and Claudius to such an extent that he is seen unworthy of Gertrude’s love. Hamlet’s hate is obviously directed to Claudius since he loves his mother to much to hate her. Nonetheless, he clearly shows his disappointment and calls her a hypocrite since he believes the tears she sheds for King Hamlet’s death are “unrighteous tears” for she seems content with Claudius. Hamlet is too idealistic and his Odeipus complex leads to catharsis.
He falls into nostalgia for he seem to think that he still depends on his father. This shows Hamlet’s stubborn and immature side for he lacks rationality. Ultimately, the first soliloquy in the play not only serves to show us Hamlet’s depression since it also points out the source of such incurable sadness, confusion and distress. Perhaps this soliloquy can be considered the first true insight into Hamlet’s true personality for it is the first time he talks on his own and hence is possible to deduce that the feelings expressed are truthful. b) Discuss the use of the soliloquy as a dramatic device.
In plays such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a soliloquy is used to emit the true feelings of a character. Often when a character speaks with others what he or she says might not necessarily reflect their true feelings. Therefore a soliloquy is a dramatic device whereby a character can pour out his soul in order for the readers to have real and true sense of how the character feel and how the character thinks. Hamlet’s soliloquy is clearly melodramatic one. The exaggeration of his feelings serves to emphasize the true root of Hamlet’s hate and madness.
The soliloquy focuses on Hamlet’s inner most feelings and hence as readers, we are able to obtain a true sense of who Hamlet really is. Hamlet also uses crude, bitter language and obsessive through the onomatopoeia, “O most wicked speed! To post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets! 7” Hamlet also uses hyperbole’s to compare his father to Claudius in an antithetic manner, “So excellent king that was to this Hyperion to a satyr…. “8. Another way that Hamlet exaggerates his view in order to show how terrible it is for his mother to have married Claudius is through the allusion of Greek mythologies, “…
but no more like my father than I to Hercules”9. It is through literary techniques and dramatic devices such as these that as readers we are able to understand the extent of Hamlet’s obsession and sadness. 4. How do you react to Hamlets hero-worship of his father? Hamlet, like many other sons and daughters loves his father very much. However, as we read through the play we come to realize that Hamlet’s hero worship of his father is quiet exaggerated. Although Old King Hamlet might have been a good father and King Hamlet’s hero like worship is simply used to downgrade the new king, Claudius.
Hamlet must obviously be devastated by his father’s sudden death, nonetheless I personally think that Hamlet’s hero-worship of his father is in fact showing his disappointment towards his mother who married Claudius within two months after his father’s death. In hamlet’s eyes Claudius is unworthy of his mother and his father’s throne. Through the hero-worship he tries to prove this point. As readers, we find Hamlet’s description of his father extremely exaggerated. Although we never learn about King Hamlet trough other or in person, the ghost, which is the only appearance of King Hamlet in the play contradicts the hero-worship.
Rather than being noble and wise as Hamlet describes his father, the ghosts makes us believe that he is in fact selfish and arrogant. Rather than letting his son accept the marriage of Gertrude and Claudius with time, he uses Hamlet as an instrument of revenge. It is the ghost who drives Hamlet confused and mad. As readers we ask ourselves what kind of father would let his son go through such pain? It is a shame that Hamlet does not see things this way. However, some characters in the play describe Old King Hamlet as a good king, this might be true to a certain extent the king is humans and hence he might have his negative side.
Unfortunately Hamlet is very biased and has placed a blind eye to this. Nonetheless we should also consider that Hamlet’s hero worship of his father downgrades Claudius to such an extent where he is seen worthless. As objective readers we should be aware that although Hamlet has his reasons for abhorring Claudius, we must be aware that Claudius is a well rounded man in the evil sense. Despite the fact that he killed King Claudius, he is a shrewd politician, this is clearly seen by the way he quickly gets Poloniusi?? s loyalty and also by the way he tries to make the people of Denmark and even Hamlet himself forget about the old King.
Claudius is also shrewd enough to keep a close eye on Hamlet and hence protect himself against any enemy to his throne or wife. Ultimately I would conclude by saying that as expected the hero-worship is biased. Hamlet emits many of his feelings, rather than objectively analyzing the facts presented to him. 5. What have we learned so far about Hamlet, either from his own mouth or from other character’s comments? We have learned from characters such as Ophelia that Hamlet was not the insane and unbalanced man he seems to be at the beginning of the play.
In fact, after Ophelia is used as bait to prove Poloniusi??s theory on Hamlet right she describes him as he was before his father died. Opheliai?? s description of Hamlet seems to be a hyperbole for he is described as the epitome of man and prince. In Opheliai?? s eyes Hamlet would have been the King that would have brought peace and stability back to Denmark for he possessed unique qualities which make him great: ” O, what a noble mind is here oi?? erthrown! The courtieri?? s, soldieri?? s, scholari?? s, eye, tongue, sword, Thi?? expectancy and rose of the fair state, The glass of fashion and the mould of form, Thi?? observi?? d of all observers, quite, quite down!
An I, of ladies most deject and wretched, That sucki?? d the honey of his music vows, Now see that noble and most sovereign reason Like sweet bells jangled out of tune and harsh, That unmatchi?? d form and feature of blown youth Blasted with ecstasy. O woe is me Ti?? have seen what I have seen, see what I see”10. Ophelia assures that it was Hamlet’s perfection which made her fall in love with him. He was smart, a good speaker, and good swords fighter, a man of fashion etc. However due to his diametrical change, he is the complete opposite and hence he is no longer as attractive.
In a few words, according to Ophelia, Hamlet was perfection personified. The change in Hamlet has been so great and so shocking that we can argue that it is during Opheliai?? s realization of such change that she starts being infected by Hamlet’s madness. Hamlet’s change has been so great that he has traveled from two completely opposites poles. He transformed himself from rational to emotional, from unselfish to selfish, from smart to idiotic, from stable to unstable, from a man who had control over himself to a man who is lost and confused.
It is from this great change within Hamlet that we learn that he has been severely affected both emotionally and psychologically by his father’s death and by the marriage of his mother to Claudius. 6. Write short character sketches of the following: * Claudius Claudius, king of Denmark is Hamlet’s uncle and Gertrude’s husband. He is a shrewd man and a smart politician. He is able to discretely tell the people of Denmark to get over the death of their previous King and get on with their lives. “Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death the memory be green…
yet so far with wises sorrow think on him together with remembrance of ourselves”11. He has been able to murder his brother, Old Hamlet without suspicion of anyone but Hamlet and as readers we can tell that he is avaricious since through his crude act he is able to marry the queen and obtain the thrown. However, Claudius is smart enough to try and stop Hamlet for morning, “‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet to give these mourning duties to your father… but to persevere in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness, ’tis unmanly grief…
“12. However, Claudius tries to hard to make Hamlet get over his sorrow and this only makes Hamlet more suspicious of him. We can perceive that Claudius a cold and heartless man for he seems to think of his brother’s death as something that was bound to happen sooner or later. From the first two acts we can see that he does not seem to regret having killed his brother in cold blood. * Laertes For the first few acts in the play, Laertes seems to be a mirror image of Hamlet. However later on in the play we learn that in fact, they are total opposites.
Laertes, like Hamlet, loves and respects his father and his sister (Hamlet loves Ophelia as a women and Laertes as a sister). Before going to France, Laertes has an important talk with Ophelia. in which he shares of Hamlet’s true intentions towards Ophelia. “Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister, and keep you in the rear of your affection out of the shout and danger of desire”13. Hamlet also loves Ophelia very much although it might not seem so. His love for her only begins to decay when Ophelia rejects him. Another similarity between Hamlet and Laertes is that they both respect and follows their father’s advice and love them very much.
From Hamlet’s soliloquy, we are aware that he has a great respect for his father and is willing to kill Claudius to show that he is an honorable son. In the same way, Laertes respects and loves his father very much. Perhaps what distinguishes Laertes and Hamlet is their attitudes. This difference in attitude is made very obvious when we see how the characters react to their father’s death. Laertes is very impulsive and immediately goes back to Denmark to revenge the death of his father, “…
Let come what comes, only Ii?? ll be revengi??d most throughly for my father”14. Hamlet on the other hand, sulks on his father’s death and does not head immediately to kill Claudius, however he unconsciously kills Polonius instead. Hamlet and Laertes are both very careless when they decide to revenge their father’s death, this leads to more tragedy’s and misfortunes in the play. * Gertrude Gertrude is a character similar to Ophelia in the sense that she too is dependant on men. The fact that almost immediately after King Hamlet dies she marries Claudius shows her need to be loved, cared for and to feel secure.
Her desire to feel safe and her dependence on men is so great, that she does not even bother to consider what Hamlet might feel or think only after she gets married. It is because of careless decisions such as that and her poor judgement that the tragedy in the play grows further. * Ophelia Ophelia is portrayed by Shakespeare as a simple young woman who is deeply influenced by what others have to face. Rather than making her own decisions she humbly accepts what her father, Polonius and her brother Laertes tell her to do. Ophelia often relies on her father and brother as a source of what to belief and what to think.
Although this might seem like a good characteristic since it shows her obedience, it is fact negative since it shows her weakness of mind and her constant dependence on others. It is as if she had no mind of her own, “I do not know, my lord, what I should think”15. She seems to love Hamlet very much, “My lord, he hath importuni?? d me with love in honourable fashion”16. However rather than following her heart, or relying on her emotions, she decides to rely on Polonius and decides that Hamlet is not a good man for her. Therefore, she accepts the fact that she has been forbidden from seeing Hamlet.
Opheliai?? s willingness to listen to her father rather thank to think of her own reaches to such an extent where as readers we ask ourselves if she has any self imposed values or morals. When her Polonius uses her as a bait to prove to the King that Hamlet is mad for Opheliai?? s love, she accepts and has no regrets. Not only does Ophelia risk the possible relationship she and Hamlet could have, but she is also willing, without regret to take part in an immoral act.
Opheliai?? s attitude causes her to deny feeling of love, hate, guilt, happiness etc.which not only compose an important part of women, but of all human beings. Although in the play others might see her as a good and innocent women, to us readers she is almost an automaton who has no desire to live life at its fullest and experience all the wonderful and sorrowful things it has to offer.
Ophelia is like a frog in a pond, she does not know that there is a bigger world outside with many things to offer. It is in fact ironic that Ophelia is an antithesis to Laertes. She seem to be happy staying at home and does not bother to fight for her independence and the freedom to be who she wants to be.
* Polonius Polonius is quite an antithetic character since rather than being a wise and honorable man we see him as a hypocrite and opportunistic man, who overestimates his intelligence. Throughout the development of the play, we notice how Polonius is a hypocrite for he only cares about how other characters perceive him and therefore acts differently with each character. For example, with King Claudius, Polonius wants to be seen as a wise and competent man. He therefore intervenes in the Kingi?? s personal problems, in this case Hamlet.
He immediately suggest that Hamlet has gone mad for Opheliai?? s love. Polonius comes with a precipitated decision rather than carefully analyzing or observing Hamlet and then coming up with possible explanations. Another evidence of hypocrisy in Polonius is that he immediately claims loyalty and devotion to Claudius when he had already claimed the same of Old King Hamlet. Also, he often tries to impress the King and the Queen so that he is in fact seen as a wise man. “My liege and madam, to expostulate what majesty should be, what duty is, why day is day, night is night, and time is time”17.
Perhaps the most despicable example of how Polonius tries to impress the King is the fact that he is willing to sacrifice his daughter’s integrity and sense of moral just to spy on Hamlet. The fact that Polonius uses his own daughter as bait in order to prove that he is right simply shows his callousness. Poloniusi?? s hypocrisy reaches such an extent where he rather put at risk the respect his son has for him, than allow others to have a bad impression of him. When Polonius allows Laertes to go to Paris he sends a servant Reynaldo in order to make sure that Laertes is not trying to make him look bad.
Therefore he is willing to sacrifice his son’s honor and reputation over his, “… put on him what forgeries you please… “18. This once again shows Polonius constant need to impress others. In the play we later on realize that Polonius is in Hamlet’s words a, “… tedious old fool”19. However, although Polonius might seem like the jester of the play, symbolically his character is very important for he reflects the weakness of Claudius in the throne, for Cluadius often listens to the advise of this senile man rather than thinking analytically and coming up with his own decisions.
Polonius hypocrisy is also a constant reminder of the artificial world in which Hamlet lives in, for there are lies and masks everywhere. 7. Hamlet calls Denmark an “unweeded garden” (Act 1 Scene 2 Line 135). Where do you see signs of rottenness. When Hamlet refers to Denmark as an “unweeded garden” he probably refers to an overall decay happening within Denmark. Perhaps, in the eyes of Hamlet the first sign of rottenness is his mother’s lust for Claudius. For Hamlet, his mother’s lustfulness is not only what rottens his own sanity.
It is also foreshadows many signs of rottenness to come. By using the imagery of garden, we notice that there is an allusion to the Bible, whereby the “unweeded garden” is like the garden of Eden. “… the imagery here is that of Eden falling apart. Indeed, his father’s ghost makes this same connection, saying that he was stung by a serpent while in his garden (1. 5). Thus Denmark under Old Hamlet can be viewed as Eden, whereas now the serpent, in the form of Claudius, has taken over”20.
Perhaps for the analytical reader, the first visual sign of decay comes from the visual image of Denmark being fortified against attack, this can be seen as a symbol of enmity, avariciousness, and hate rather than a sign of peace, “… Denmark is indeed something of a prison… “21. The first scene of the play itself foreshadows the impending doom and rottenness to come, Horatio even refers to the apparition of the ghost as: “… this bodes some strange eruption to our state”22. Perhaps we can consider the death of King Hamlet as the sign or spark which contaminas the rest of Denmark with its rottenness.
The appearance of Old King Hamlet is also somewhat rotten as Marcellus says, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”23. Once again, this statement foreshadows the tragic end of the play, and it also shows the source of where all rottenness comes from. If the ghost would have never appeared to brainwash Hamlet even further, then perhaps the rottenness would have not spread even further. The arrival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are also another sign of rottenness for by spying on Hamlet, on behalf of King Claudius, they “…
become the willing instruments of a corrupt king, abandoning the principles of friendship… “24. Even when Polonius lets allows Laertes to go to France, it is a sign of rottenness for he then send his servant Reynaldo to spy on Laertes. He even tells him to make up rumors about Laertes “‘And in part him. But’, you may say, ‘not well; but if’t be he I mean, he’s very wild, addicted so and so’-and there put on him what forgeries you please… “. This is in fact very ironic since Polonius is willing to hurt his son’s reputation in order to protect him and see whether or not he has matured.
Later on in the play however, there are even more signs of rottenness such as Polonius’s death, Opehelia’s madness and eventual death, etc. 8. Hamlet accuses himself for failing to act (Act 2 Scene 2 Lines 544-570). What do you think are the main causes for his delay? Perhaps one of the main reasons why Hamlet does not revenge his fathers death immediately is his conscience. Hamlet constantly reminds himself that if he kills Claudius he will be committing one of the gravest sins of all, murder, “… or that the canoni??gainst self-slaughter… “. As readers we can deduce that Hamlet is a pious believer of God.
Therefore, by killing Claudius it, Hamlet would consciously be disobeying God’s command. Hamlet wonders if he is worthy of doing such an act. Even in his soliloquy, Hamlet accuses himself of being a coward mad since he cannot get himself to kill his father’s murderer. The situation is simple. Hamlet has to revenge his fathers death. However, we see that when Hamlet conscience comes into place the situation is no longer as simple as it seems.
The feelings of guilt and duty clash within Hamlet, causing him to delay his actions and to truly go mad. As readers we come to deduce that perhaps Hamlet’s feeling of cowardliness come because the real reason why he wants to kill Claudius is because he is jealous that Claudius married his mother, but not because his father was assassinated by Claudius. We also come to question whether Hamlet really wants to kill his Claudius. After the appearance of the ghost we come to think that Hamlet mainly wants to kill Claudius because he feels pressure from his father, rather than because the hate is driving him mad.
Perhaps Hamlet can cope living alongside a man he despises without having to kill him, because the guilt would be too much for Hamlet to bare. However we wonder whether Hamlet can keep on living, knowing that he has ignored his father and let the business unfinished. The dilemma between conscience versus duty is what keeps Hamlet delayed for he cannot figure what is the right thing to do. It is his duty as a son, to do as his father wishes, but it is also his duty as a god-fearing man to keep up with God’s commandments. 9. What can we deduce about events and characters before the action of the play?
Before the action of the play, it is hard to come up with any concrete or reliable piece of evidence which would allow us as readers to come with certain conclusions. Before the action of the play, it is too soon to deduce whether in fact Claudius kills Hamlet, or whether Gertrude is aware and feels guilty?
BIBLIOGRAPHY www. gradesaver. com Shakespeare W, Hamlet, Oxford University Press Handout, The state of Denmark http://www. netcomuk. co. uk/~iandel/answ2. html www. 123students. com 1 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1 Scene 1 Lines 8-9 2 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1 Scene 1 Line 1 3 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1 Scene 1 Line 44 4 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995.
Oxford University Press, Act 1 Scene 1 Line 26 5Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 156-157 6 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 130-132 7 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 156-157 8 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 2, Line 139-140.
9 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 152-153 10 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 152-163 11 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 1-7 12 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 87- 94 13 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 3, Lines 33-35 14 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 4, Scene 5, Lines 135-136 15 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 3, Line 104.
16 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 3, Lines 110-111 17 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 86-89 18 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 19-20 19 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 2, Scene 2, Line 219 20 www. gradesaver. com 21 Handout, The state of Denmark 22 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 1, Line 72 23 Shakespeare W, Hamlet, 1995, Oxford University Press, Act 1, Scene 5, Line 90 24 Handout, The State of Denmark.
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