Hamlet

Act 1 scene 2: Gertrude states ‘all that lives must die’ and ‘passing through nature to eternity’. Hamlet takes this as a direct accusation that his mourning is fake. He is surrounded by people in court that seem unaffected, as if nothing shocking has happened. He appears to feel it is his mother that is acting her bereavement. Sounds insincere – further backed up by the rhyming couplet. Context – no one in court (expect Hamlet) is wearing mourning dress. During those times, it would have been worn for at least a year after the death of a king, so would have been interesting for the audience and sparked many questions surrounding his death and respect.
Act 1 scene 2 – Hamlet’s soliloquy. He states ‘with such dexterity to incestuous sheets’ Hissing sibilance conveys Hamlet’s disgust at his mother and uncle in bed together. It suggest Hamlet is unable to come to terms with their marriage, finding it repulsive and vulgar. Also refers to his disgust at his mothers quick re-marriage; suggests he struggles greatly with understanding why she mourned so little for his father. Context – this parallels with the scandal surrounding Mary Queen of Scots. She did not have a proper period of mourning for her husband, Henry, and remarried a few months after his death. She furthered the scandal by marrying Bothwell, the man commonly believed to have murdered her husband.
Act 3 scene 1 – Hamlet’s soliloquy. Seems as though its purpose was to present Hamlet as detached and moral, something which seems to play throughout the soliloquy. The metaphor ‘take arms against a sea of troubles’ suggests that his duty to avenge his father is deeply affected. Perhaps he implies that it is similar to committing suicide, which is a sin but also a relief for those suffering? The use of ‘sea’ could suggest his emotions and decisions change quickly, similar to rough or calm seas. Critic – Alex Newell within ‘The Soliloquies of Hamlet, 1991’ described his soliloquy as ‘entirely motivated by reason, untouched by passion. In its academic method and style, the speech carries the stamp of Hamlet’s identity as a student, formally posing a “question” or topic for debate’.
Hamlet, Polonius and Ophelia Hamlet calls Polonius a ‘fishmonger’ in act 2 scene 2. This was Elizabethan slang for ‘brothel keeper’, possibly suggesting Polonius was abusing his daughter for his own motives, similar to the owner of a brothel. In act 3 scene 2, Ophelia’s use of the word ‘commerce’ links to prostitution once again. Hamlet suggested Ophelia retire to a nunnery; he could be suggesting that she should escape the corruptness they were surrounded by, or, implying she had already lost her virtue and should work in a brothel. ‘Nunnery’ was also Elizabethan slang for a brothel.
Act 3 scene 3 – Claudius’ soliloquy. He appears to pray and repent for his sins (killing old king Hamlet). Critics have suggested Claudius’ soliloquy’s differs greatly from Hamlet’s. There is little tension or confusion; his words are delivered without faltering. Critics have also suggested it is the “steady-eyed despair” that were heard in many of Macbeth’s soliloquies in the final stage of a tragedy. The line ‘Yet what can it when one cannot repent?’ suggests Claudius has similar morals to Hamlet, creating a deeper understanding of his character. Perhaps Claudius realizes that his actions can never be underdone; he is realizing the implications of his sins and that they can never be forgiven? Ironically, as Claudius understands he cannot escape what he has done, it is this prayer that saves his life. Hamlet chooses not to as killing his uncle in prayer means he will go to heaven, something which Hamlet wants less than anything.

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