Shakespeare’s tragedies revolve around a person of social or intellectual status whose life is ruined by one great mistake or a tragic flaw. Hamlet reveals Shakespeare’s gift for dramatic characterization and brilliant poetic imagery. Shakespeare truly understands the human mind and sympathises with the problems an individual faces. This he does through his powerful language and striking visual imagery. Shakespeare wrote the play around the turn of the 17th century Elizabethan London was full of intellectual and artistic ideas, Hamlet is probably one of Shakespeare’s most studied and popular plays.
Loosely based on Danish history, the play most likely has its origins in Histories Tragiques. The atmosphere was politically turbulent and dangerous. When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet he was already very experienced and a master of poetic techniques and stagecraft. He began to attempt radical new ways of engaging his audience. Hamlet’s popularity is due to his artistic exuberance, rich and varied incidents, characters and language. We observe Hamlet’s decoration of love for Horatio and his friend’s tender fare well. Shakespeare’s heroes have preoccupation with self and are introspective in nature.
His tragic heroes are haunted by their conscience seeking their true selves agonizing over what course of action to take, as they follow what can often be understood as a kind of spiritual progress towards heaven or hell. Hamlet is an intensely theatrical play. It richly displays Shakespeare’s interest in his own profession as actor and playwright, and the London theatres at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Shakespeare’s plays are written for the stage and so are intended to be performed and seen by audience.
The work of art mimics the beliefs, assumptions and prejudices of the society of which it is produced. Hamlet was produced at a time of intellectual religious and political controversy. The rice of capitalism tested the absolute power of the monarchy. Hamlet dramatizes the struggles of the Elizabethan period. During the Elizabethan times, evocative passages reflected philosophical thoughts, these thoughts were often spoken in verse and rhyme also was used to convey excitement and passion. There was no real scenery and so setting was created through the magic of words.
In Elizabethan theatre tragedy occurred when the essential good in a person is wasted when evil or tragic flaw overcomes the person. Shakespeare made events of the past have relevance to the present and the events also had a universal significance. In Hamlet the ghost of his father adds to the element in the play. In Elizabethan revenge was thought to be noble and manly and there can be order only if man can control his passions. Use of soliloquies and the use of dramatic irony would be considered as a literary tradition.
Hamlet portrays the inner turmoil of an alienated melancholy young man ordered by a ghost to avenge his father’s death. His emotional journey results in great harm to others as her travels from deeply troubled questioning or “to be or not to be–” and the calm acceptance to “let be. ” It tells us about human life and responsibilities, it “holds up the mirror up to nature,” Use of metaphors and similes are the lifeblood of Shakespeare’s language. The images often form clusters. In Hamlet a number of images of sickness and disease are descriptive of the unwholesome condition of Denmark.
There is also much beauty; dignity and majesty included the poetry of Hamlet. Shakespeare is able to capture a spontaneous outburst of emotions very effectively through his language and choice of words. In Elizabethan time punning was very popular, Shakespeare shows mastery of style and diction. The passage which talks about the qualities of a man show Shakespeare can write prose with as much power as verse. This is one of the finest passages in the play. The speeches in Hamlet are distinctive absorbing and engrossing.
They deal with fundamental human problems. The dramatic significance sustains the readers’ interest as the play builds up tension. Shakespeare has uses forceful imagery and dialogue to keep up the reader’s interest. Shakespeare has shown the emotions that are related to relationships. Shakespeare has used the element of valuing relationships to make the scenes more dramatic. In Hamlet’s first appearance Shakespeare uses ‘action’, ‘play’ and ‘show’ as he angrily denies his grief, which is merely signified, in his outward appearance.
The play presents Hamlet as a clever and thoughtful person who doesn’t like to rush into things. An effective opening to a play should establish the themes to the play. Hamlet does this very well as one of the main themes in the play is death and a ghost is a good way to show death. Shakespeare uses the opening scene to show his ideas. Through his language he summarizes what is going to happen. At the beginning of the play fear, uncertainty, mystery, tension and gloom are the key elements, which create an overall negative atmosphere.
Both the environment and the characters of the play create the atmosphere in the Act 1 Scene 1. “Tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart,” this quote proves that it is very cold and the characters react in such a way that they are a reflection of such atmosphere. By informing the readers of the past events of Denmark he states the effect on the present and the future, through which he sows the seeds of tragedy. The opening scenes of Hamlet tell us a lot about the play. This is done through the use of language, literary devices, pace, structure and historical, social and cultural references.
An effective opening to a play should establish the themes to the play. Hamlet does this very well as the main theme in the play is death and a ghost is a good way to show death. The language and broken rhythms in the first scene generates an atmosphere of unease, apprehension and confusion. An unexplained phrase “sick at heart” anticipates the images of physical and mental illness, which colour the whole play. He begins the play with a short question, “Who’s there? ” this question sums up the feelings of fear, uncertainty, tension and perhaps curiosity.
What has this thing appear’d again to night” adds to the supernatural element in the play and adds to the suspense in the reader’s minds, and on the other hand the characters “Barnardo, Marcellus and Horatio” believe that the ghost can in fact be an evil spirit or it has come as a warning of trouble to come. When Horatio is told about the ghost by Marcellus and Barnardo, he does not believe it and says “tis but our fantasy… ” The appearance of the ghost at this moment adds to the dramatic tension in the scene. However when the ghost appears again Horatio’s first words after seeing the ghost are, “it horrors me with fear and wonder. Horatio then states that the ghost has come back in order to carry out unfinished business he becomes more cautious.
When he tries to speak to the ghost, the ghost feels “offended” and “it stalks away. ” This instance was probably the start of the drama in the play as it is the ghost who is the cause of Hamlet acting upon his feelings. Drama is made when Horatio shouts, “Stay! Speak, speak I charge thee speak! ” the repetition and exclamation create real anxiety. The final speeches of Act 1 Scene 1 are atmospherically poetic as Horatio explains how cockcrow was the summons for any wandering ghost to return to its prison.
The beginning of Act 3 scene 2 presents Hamlet as a planner. He plans the play carefully and this is shown by his instructions to the players, his instructions reveal his fondness of drama. He makes important points on an actor’s performance, we see this in line such as, “Let your own discretion be your tutor. ” He wants the play to have the right affect on the King so he mention to them to, “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc’d it to you, trippingly on the tongue. ” He wants every detail correct for the right affect. He tells them not to be overdramatic, but also “Be not too tame, neither.
He wants the play to reflect the past, this also shows that Hamlet is clever, being indirect by telling the king he knows of his fathers’ murder. He wants to touch the kings’ conscience. Making him think about what he has done and the consequences of his actions. He says: “The purpose of the playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature”. When Hamlet is talking to the players he speaks in prose, which suggests some informality, and that Hamlet gets on with the players, but he also has some authority over them.
The play is also a chance to test the reliability of the ghost. In Act 3 Scene 2 we also see Hamlet’s abrupt dismissal of Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, which shows the dramatic contrast to his wholehearted praise for Horatio. It tells us that a person who is balanced, and does not over dramatize is always appreciated. Hamlet is pleased with the play within the play he uses rhyming to show his happiness when talking to Horatio.
“O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive? This shows that Hamlet is pleased with the play and the play has served its purpose and proved the reliability of the ghost. This part of the play shows Hamlet is nervous, by using rhyme it makes him sound out of breath and speeds up his speech; it also shows his careful planning to detail in the play paid off. The play also has had an affect on the audience, when the king gets up they will not know why, they will be wondering what the dramatic exit of the king means, it may also change their opinion of the king, they may realize he is an angry mysterious character.
Hamlet’s outburst towards his mother and the society is powerful. Shakespeare’s use of words and phrase add to the dramatic element of the scene. Words and phrases like “the counterfeit presentment of two brothers”; “compulsive ardour” and “precedent lord” show the anger in Hamlet’s tone. At the end of the play, when Hamlet is successful in bringing out guilt onto Claudis’s face, there is a line with the same word repeated three times to show his guilt, fear, and nervousness. “Lights, lights, lights! This part of the play shows Hamlet as excitable, by using rhyming it makes him sound out of breath and speeds up his speech, it also shows his careful planning to detail in the play paid off.
The will also have had an affect on the audience, when the king gets up they will not know why, they will be wondering what the dramatic exit of the king means, it may also change their opinion of the king, they may realize he is an angry mysterious character. Shakespeare’s settings always tell the reader of what is coming up next. Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn, and the hell itself breathe out. ” In this particular line, we see that the atmosphere tells the audience that something unpleasant is awaiting the main character. A metaphor has been used, for hell is given the human quality of breathing. Another very dramatic technique of Shakespeare is using cross-reference. “I will speak daggers to her”, when Hamlet talks at the end of Act 3 Scene 2 to himself, he brings out the evil side of himself, it suggests that he is capable of sin. Hamlet indicates that he will be “cruel, not unnatural. I will speak daggers to her, but use none. ”
This indicates that the drama has effected him and he is going to act upon it, this adds to the dramatic significance of the play as he does put his words into actions in Act 3 Scene 4 where while avoiding physical harm, he still plays mind games and accuses his mother of murder and where Polonius is killed is sure realistic in nature. More emotions of the characters are shown as the scene becomes more intense. “O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart to twain” emotions are piled on to give increase the dramatic effect in the scene.
Both Hamlet and his mother are sharing their feelings with the reader, which shows how colossal their emotions are. Both are trying to show their anger towards each other. “I must be cruel only to be kind. ” Hamlet expresses his thoughts and feelings towards his mother are very touching and are comprehended by the reader. Hamlet tries to show what his mother did was wrong and was disrespectful to his father. “To give the world assurance of a man. This was your husband. ” Shakespeare uses supernatural imagery to suggest Hamlets’ evil side.
Now could I drink hot blood, and do such bitter business, as the day would quake to look on. O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever the soul of Nero enter this firm bosom Let me be cruel, not unnatural. ” The king now knows that Hamlet knows what happens to his father and he is in danger of losing his position as king and his wife. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a soliloquy is used to create 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 his soul in order for the readers to have real and true sense of how the character feels and how the character thinks. It is only through these literary techniques and dramatic devices that we are able to understand the extent of Hamlet’s turmoil. Hamlets soliloquy gives a dramatic effect to the play; his confused state of mind is usually seen only through his soliloquy. We also meet a new phase of Hamlet as he exposes a new sentimental and emotional side, which is new to us.
The language is given great dramatic force as repeated words, phrases, rhythms and sounds add to the emotional intensity or a moment or scene, heightening theatrical effect. Repetitions occur with the structure of speech for example as Horatio challenges the Ghost in Act 1 Scene, “If thou hast any sound or use of voice, Speak to me… Oh speak… Or if thou hast up hoarded in thy life Extorted in the womb of earth, For which they say you spirits oft walk in death, Speak to it. Stay and speak. ” In the final dramatic scene Act 5 Scene 2 of Hamlet, the violence, so long delayed, erupts with dizzying speed.
Characters drop one after the other, poisoned, stabbed, and, in the case of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, executed, as the theme of revenge and justice reaches its conclusion in the moment when Hamlet finally kills Claudius. The final scene depicts the greatest sympathy towards Hamlet, as Laertes and Claudius have combined forces against him. Claudius is willing to take any measures necessary to eliminate Hamlet, as shown when he does not prevent Gertrude from drinking the poisoned wine. In this scene Hamlet is portrayed as the victim. Claudius, with the help of Laertes is out to kill him.
It appears that Hamlet is facing death because of his loyalty and honour towards his father. This makes the audience feel hi death is a tragic loss. The language in this scene has a cold tone, and it is not very difficult to understand the situation. In certain lines we see that forceful words have been used, such as, “Grinding of the axe” and “My head should be struck off. ” The mention of weapons, tells the reader that something unpleasant is awaiting the characters in the play. Shakespeare creates an atmosphere with the trumpets and drums, making the particular moment in the scene memorable.
The drama in the scene becomes immense as successions of deaths occur. This makes the scene very dramatic to the audience as they see continuously watch bodies fall. The relationship between Hamlet and his mother is first broken as she drinks the poisoned cup that was meant for Hamlet. Shakespeare uses language to show the tone of treachery when the queen is dying. The drink, the drink! I am poisoned. ” The death of the queen comes as a shock to the audience and the reader. Hamlet goes wild after his mother is killed. “O villainy! Ho! Let the door be locked. Treachery! Seek it out. Hamlet realizes it was the king who had betrayed his mother. He forces the king to drink the left over poison as the punishment.
“Drink off this poison. Is thy union here? Follow my mother. ” Hamlet forces Claudius to drink the poison and so he also dies. Shakespeare shows his expert analysis on the psychology of the human mind as he has beautifully shown the Hamlet’s temperament. The language used is poignant but also forceful as Hamlet takes his revenge on Claudius. Laertes who feels guilty about being at fault for the unfortunate death of the king and queen committing suicide, “exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.
Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee. ” The language is very poignant as there is a tone of plea in Laertes’ speech. The deaths makes the visual effect on the audience is very dramatic. Drama is continued till the end of the scene as before dying Hamlet says many touching words. He talks in a poignant tone about the world showing his deep analysis of the world. “And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain. ” Shakespeare has brought out the true feelings of the character. Horatio even after Hamlet’s death continues to perform his duties as a friend.
Before Hamlet died he tells Horatio to his story. To tell my story. ” And Horatio does not disappoint his friend. Indeed, Hamlet does all the criteria of a tragic hero by the time Fortinbras arrives. In the final scene he is a man of action who is killed by circumstances rather than any direct fault of his own. The unexpected death of all the characters makes the end very emotional, and frightening. Hamlet’s last words to Horatio tell us of his dedication to him, “Now crack a noble heart. Goodnight sweet prince. ” This line has a double meaning and does not clearly tell the audience of what Hamlet is actually trying to say.
Shakespeare’s expressions and comparisons are natural and spontaneous. His style reflects the character of the person speaking to the same man in different moods may speak differently. One of Shakespeare’s favorite language methods is to accumulate words or phrases rather like a list, “so shall you hear… Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts” such lists add to the force of argument, enrich atmosphere, amplify meaning and provide extra dimensions of character. The question of who we are and why, where have we come from, where we have to go, where we will go next, where we will end up are all expressed in the play.
All in all Hamlet leaves us with a message that life is indeed worth living, even by imperfect people in an imperfect world, where “revenge should know no bounds” Hamlet is not so much a play as a companion for life. Hamlet is a family drama, and since we are all members of a family it sustains our interest. The focus is on family relationships like brother and sister, father and son, father and daughter, mother and son, friendship and friendship betrayed, importance of duty to ones own country, to those in power of oneself, to God, to truth are all cleverly interwoven into the play and generate the plays electricity (interest).
In Hamlet Shakespeare dramatizes in a memorable way issues central to everyone’s critical self. His language offers to make thrilling theater and also having dark, ironic, melancholy, passionate, contemplative, desperate, violent tones used throughout adds to the dramatic effect that remains true to the spirit of the play. As usual, Shakespeare has researched information about his main character and then changed him into the dramatic personage that he becomes. I feel Shakespeare has very cleverly used the Ghost to heighten dramatic interest and the death of Hamlet at the end of the play to heighten the tragedy.
The end results of Shakespeare’s changes are the creation of a powerful and memorable protagonist and a dramatically effective play. All in all I feel the play is not only a tragedy entertaining people but it puts forward to us a very moralistic situation, where it tells us of what rebellious attitude of a man can lead to… and where no human can have control of his/her state of mind in situations which Hamlet himself went through, where his evil side took over his good.