At father first, Hamlet’s trusting friend Horatio is wary about the truth of a ghost appearing but to his horror to the truth is apparent through the change of his tone. “It harrows me with fear and wonder” (Page 5). Horatio and Marcellus debacle about the figure concluding it may be the late King Hamlet, ruler of Demark. The ghost itself is a motif that foreshadows trouble for Denmark. The confronting image of the ghost was shocking to the audience as it was believed within the Elizabethan era to be consequential.
Marcellus and Horatio discuss the events of Denmark’s preparation for war as a result of invasion by Fortinbras of Norway. It was said to be that King Hamlet killed Fortinbras’ father attaining land that Fortinbras now desires to retrieve. The natural order was disrupted with King Hamlet’s sudden death impacting the Danish society that was evident in the Elizabethan era.
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It was important to have a structured society and have a strict hierarchy of class whom Shakespeare had incorporated into his paly. Act 1, Scene 2, introduces the prominent character Hamlet and the flaws of his troublesome family.
The scene begins with Claudius – brother of King Hamlet – addressing the grief of Denmark with the sudden death followed by his marriage to Gertrude – King Hamlet’s wife. “Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen” (Page 15) was outrageous towards the audience as the Elizabethan society could not condone to incest behaviour. “With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage” (Page 15) contradicts Claudius through the oxymoron where his anguish appears false. However, Hamlet’s grief and misery is manifest and apparent to others. The metaphor, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you? , (Page 19) spoken by Claudius expresses Hamlet’s immense grief. Hamlet suggests to continue his study in Wittenberg, however, his mother, Gertrude and surprisingly Claudius urge him to remain together. Although, Claudius does not pledge for Hamlet to stay out of love but political motivation fearing the popular prince will be a reminder of Denmark’s unfortunate loss. Hamlet’s soliloquy portrays his inner depression causing his contemplation of death. This soliloquy questioned the unthinkable wishing bitterly that God had not made suicide as sin.
The Elizabethan period was against this criminal act shocked with Hamlet’s quires about the reason of life. “’tis an unweeded garden” (Page 23) continues to illustrate Hamlet’s depression through a metaphor of seeing the worst in everything. King Hamlet had an important influence over his son being compared to as “Hyperion”, (Page 23) a sun god through mythological allusion. To the contrary, Gertrude, is compared as “Like Niobe” who should have mounded but wedded instead reconciling with Hamlet’s feelings of betrayal. Hamlet’s virtue and gentleness is displayed with his kindness to others who are beneath him.
Horatio and Marcellus enter explaining to Hamlet the events that have unfolded where he has faith that it is true. The deception, betrayal and covered truth among these characters demonstrates a dysfunctional family and unstable monarchy. Act 1, Scene 3, discovers a sub plot within the play of a family who have a diverse influence and impact within the play Hamlet. Before leaving on his travels, Laertes sincerely cares for his younger sister, Ophelia, by giving a warning of her compassionate feelings towards Hamlet. “A violet in the youth of primy nature,/Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting” (Page 31).
Through comparison, Laertes expresses that Hamlet is merely exploring his youth driven by his developing hormones and fears that Ophelia will be overcome when he causes her misfortune. Within a monarchy and as within Elizabethan society, royalty are forbidden to freely choose who they wish to be wedded to. Similarly, Hamlet of royal and noble blood will first have to consider what is beneficial and constructive for the state rather than himself. Laertes is considered a ‘foil’ of Hamlet as they both continue to contrast each other emphasising distinct characteristics of another character.
Within this scene, the reoccurring motif of family advising each other is apparent when Polonius instructs both Laertes and Ophelia to behave in certain ways. Polonius demands Ophelia to abandon her relationship with Hamlet, using a simile, “like a green girl” (Page 37) to validate her foolishness. Ophelia, as any woman in the Elizabethan society abides to her father’s wishers, “I shall obey, my lord” (Page 37). Within Act 1, Scene 4, Hamlet is confronted with his desperate emotions of consulting the ghost choosing to follow him to the forest. The air bites shrewdly, it is very cold” (Page 39) creates imagery of the scenery which Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus are enduring to encounter the ghost. Their preparation for the supernatural is driven into conversation with the sound of trumpets signally Claudius’ celebrations demonstrating Hamlet’s thoughts of his uncle as hateful and intolerable. Hamlet expresses himself about the traditions of the Danish not being accustomed or agreeing to it. He further discusses human nature and the tragic flaw of humans when ironically the ghost appears.
The ghost beckons for Hamlet to follow him as he debacles whether it is truly his father. Marcellus concluding with a metaphor, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Page 43) validates the ghost’s intentions are negative as feared in Elizabethan society. Act 1 Scene 5, the ghost commands Hamlet to revenge revealing the secret of the King’s unnatural death. The Catholic religion states that purgatory is a temporary place that is reached for those who have not been condemned for past sins and need to be cleansed before continuing. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Page 45). The ghost pressures Hamlet to acknowledge that Claudius killed his father and he is to avenge him. The King’s spirit explains to him that as he slept in his garden, a villain poured poison into his ear and states that Claudius has corrupted both Denmark and Gertrude, seducing her by lust. “Leave her to heaven” (Page 49). The King’s spirit instructs Hamlet to allow fate to punish his mother for all her faults and mistakes that will remain within her conscious. “O villain, villain, smiling damned villain! (Page 51). Hamlet detests Claudius’ behaviour of containing no sympathy and sadness. Horatio and Marcellus enter and swear on Hamlet’s sword that they will remain silent about what has happened. Hamlet’s plot is uncovered where he will pretend he is a madman. Act 1 of Hamlet is the first step of a revenge tragedy – the exposition stage. The plot was effectively outlined and established for the audience where the secrets and mysteries of different characters within Hamlet are identified leading to Hamlet’s road of revenge.