Hamlet: Revision quotes/context/critics

“Tis bitter cold” Pathetic Fallacy and foreshadowing of supernatural events. Implication that all is not well in the state of Denmark.
Theme of Madness Runs throughout the play and is highlighted through the character of Hamlet and then reinforced by Ophelia and is linked through their lack of closure between themselves individually and their fathers.
Why is Claudius’ last speech in this scene (4.4) a soliloquy? How does it compare to his last soliloquy in 3.3? Being the sole character on stage whilst revealing internal thoughts and feelings is what makes Claudius’ (4.4) speech a soliloquy. Here, it is evident that Claudius is still plagued by his guilt over his actions, particularly in the line “thou must cure me” as cure has connotations of elimination, remedy and freedom (in this instance, to be free of Hamlet as he is the enemy – Claudius is aware of his suspicions). Similarly, in his 3.3 soliloquy, this notion of being haunted by his actions is strongly apparent in the line “I am still possessed of these effects for which I did the murder”. This contrasts with Claudius’ previous soliloquy (3.3): ” What if this cursed hand were thicker than itself with brother’s blood – is there not rain enough…to wash it white as snow” – “cursed” alludes to infection, poison, evil (could link contextually through how society believed illnesses were a form of punishment from God). Religious references are prevalent in his 3.3 soliloquy – the juxtaposition of “blood” with the metaphor “white as snow” could imply how Claudius yearns to be absolved of his sins as white carries connotations of innocence/purity, new beginnings (like a blank canvas – he wants to be free from his guilt). However, the gothic imagery of “thicker than itself with brother’s blood” could be associated with sin, wrath, malice and power (all motives which drove Claudius to commit treason), subsequently further conveying how he wishes to be made anew. Shakespeare’s use of “must” implies desperation and when paired with “my joys were ne’er begun” again reinforces the concept of his guilty conscience as it is suggested he will never be happy/have peace of mind until Hamlet is dead and no longer around to remind him of his treacherous actions.
How does Hamlet confuse Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this scene? (and critics) Act 4 Scene 2-(Hamlet has just gotten rid of Polonius’ body. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern question him about the whereabouts of the body) Hamlet refuses to give a straight answer, once questioned, and instead confuses them both by slyly implying that they are now under the King’s control. He calls Rosencrantz a “sponge” and that he “… soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities”. This suggests that both of them are working as spies for the King and that they would prefer to reap the rewards from the King than be Hamlet’s trustworthy friends. The theme of Madness is evident in this scene as Hamlet is quite rash and manic throughout, which emphasises his (possibly feigned) madness.Critics-Wilson Knight: “He [Hamlet] is in fact the poison in the veins of the community”. This can be seen throughout most of the play but is clearly evident in this scene as Hamlet has just killed a man, with no regrets, and hidden the body. He has also turned against two of his old friends and insulted them without any hesitation. It can be seen that there is evil within Hamlet and that he is indeed the “…poison within the veins of the community”.Marilyn French: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sacrifice the bond of human friendship to a coial propriety”. This statement opposes the previous Critics views, specifically in this scene, as it states that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the cause of the awkwardness between them both and Hamlet. This due to them both wanting praise and rewards from the King, rather than valuing a reliable, trustworthy friendship.
Claudius is well aware of how the people of Denmark feel about Hamlet. Why is Hamlet beloved? What qualities does he have that would appeal to the public? (act 4, scene 3) “He’s loved of the distracted multitude.” this suggests that Hamlet has the love of the country but Claudius believes it is because they do not look directly at him, as suggested by “distracted”. Hamlet could appear to be beloved as he is young and the son of the former king who was much loved and respected due to his fair and successful reign. To the people Hamlet would be the next generation and therefore it is implied that they prefer him to Claudius, as suggested in the way that he does not punish Hamlet severely for killing Polonius, because he knows the people will not respect his decision and instead will focus on how he is treating Hamlet harshly. Another interpretation is that Hamlet was popular due to being considered good looking by the people.
4.1 Does Claudius’ emphatic “O Gertrude, come away!” show he does not believe her? In some productions of the play Claudius is angry; in others Claudius maintains a loving tone. Which do you think is more plausible given the circumstances? It may be interpreted as disbelief as Claudius makes it clear that he thinks Hamlet is truly mad and is no longer capable of any sense of morality. Yet, it may be taken as Claudius acting in a loving manner, as he is attempting to protect Gertrude from her violent son. In the circumstances, I think Claudius would be angry, as Hamlet’s sudden action shows that he is no longer passive and is explicitly seeking revenge; thus putting Claudius in grave danger (“It had been so with us, had we been there”).
How would you describe Claudius’ reaction to the murder? Does he show any grief over the death of Polonius? His own safety is foremost on his mind, but can we find a note of sympathy in his first words after he learns of Polonius’ death — “O, heavy deed!”? 4.1 After the death of polonius, Claudius’ immediate concern is for his own safety: “It had been so with us, had we been there” suggesting he feels vulnerable but also showing Claudius to be selfish, only thinking of himself despite one of his close associates, Polonius, dying. Claudius’ use of a triple: “To you yourself, to us, to everyone” creates a feeling of panic, showing Claudius knows he will pay for his wrongdoings/crimes. However, Claudius shows a brief glimpse of sympathy initially: “O heavy deed”, but this seems more of a condemnation of Hamlets actions than mourning for Polonius.
Why does Claudius think England will help him carry out his plan? 4.3 Claudius thinks that he will help him due to the debt England feels towards their country.
Do you think Gertrude is telling the truth when she says Hamlet “weeps for what is done”, or is she again trying to soften Hamlet’s offense? We know Hamlet is remorseful or do you think Gertrude is speaking metaphorically? 4.1 Gertrude refers to Hamlet’s “weeps” after he has killed Polonius. “Among a mineral of metals base shows itself pure”. Gertrude believes Hamlet’s madness is disguising his true, honest nature and suggests his action are not a fault of his own as he is “mineral” and “pure” implying his precious moral ground hidden behind a facade of “coal” or madness. However, it seems Gertrude’s motherly instinct is attempting to cover for Hamlet’s wrongdoing as she is trying to justify the murder of Polonius for the person she believes or perhaps wants Hamlet to be and cannot fully accept Hamlet’s madness or facade of madness in an act of revenge.
Nearly half of all the lines spoken by Hamlet to Claudius occur in this short scene, which frequently is omitted in stage productions due to the length of the play. What do you think of the dramatic significance of this scene? 4.3 Hamlet’s interactions with Claudius throughout 4.3 are very intense as Claudius wants Hamlet to be sent away as soon as possible so that Hamlet is no longer a burden to Claudius and Gertrude. Despite Gertrude’s attempt to justify Hamlet’s actions Claudius is determined to have Hamlet sent to England. “For thine especial safety” Claudius lies to Hamlet that he cares and his sending to England is for his own protection instead, Claudius plots to ask the King of England to help Claudius to kill Hamlet once he arrives in England:”After the Danish sword and thy free awe pay homage to us.”Claudius has no intention to protect Hamlet and corruptly plots to kill him, lying to his wife Queen Gertrude and Hamlet further implying Claudius’ character to be deceitful and sly.
Does the Gentleman’s description of Ophelia remind you of Ophelia’s description of Hamlet in 2.1?4.5 “She is importunate,Indeed distract. Her mood will needs be pitied.” this description of Ophelia’s demeanour suggests she is insistent and appears disturbed in her need to approach the king and Queen. It also suggests that the Gentleman feels sorry for her and suggests they conform to her wishes due to this. when compared to Ophelia’s description of Hamlet earlier in the play so “piteous in purport As if he had been loos├Ęd out of hell To speak of horrors” Ophelia references “piteous” which suggests that she felt sorry for him which is why she did not resist his advances. Hamlet too was said to be distracted and speaking in nonsensical verse. “to speak of horrors” suggests that he was given purpose to tell other people, this could link to the way that Ophelia wants to talk to the king and queen as matter of great importance. Another link between the comparison could be the fact that Hamlets madness stemmed from not being able to mourn his father as he was not at peace. Ophelia also was unable to lay her father to rest due to his murder and Hamlet hiding the body. therefore it could be argued that the similarity in their madness could be due to the similar ways in which they entered the mental state: through the murder of their respective fathers.
4.4 Many comparisons can be made between Fortinbras and Hamlet. Both are young princes, both are seeking revenge for a slain father, and both have had their crown taken by an uncle. But there are also some key differences between them. How many can you think of? Why does Hamlet admire Fortinbras? A key difference may be Hamlet’s lack of action, as Fortinbras is a very forward and decisive whilst Hamlet is much more passive and indecisive. Additionally, Fortinbras’ resolve to maintain his honour at the cost of danger appears to contradict Hamlet’s irresolute approach when seeking to avenge his father and thus protect his honour and throne….
Hamlet is not without its share of improbabilities and contradictions. In his discussion with the Captain, Hamlet believes that Fortinbras’ motive for fighting over such an insignificant piece of land is “the imposthume of much wealth and peace”, but in Hamlet’s soliloquy he says it is Fortinbras’ value of honor that makes him “find quarrel in a straw.” Might there be a way to explain this incongruity? Is it possible that the passage “Two thousand souls…dies” (lines 25-30) should belong to the Captain instead of Hamlet?Act 4, Scene 4 Initially, Hamlet insults Fortinbras’ eagerness to fight over useless territory, calling it an “imposthume of much wealth and peace” – implying he has too much privilege therefore makes a big deal out of small affairs, potentially suggesting he is consumed/obsessed with respect.However, later when he is alone, Hamlet changes his opinion, now showing a respect for Fortinbras in his soliloquy. Hamlet this time says it is Fortinbras’ high regard for honour which is a more respectful interpretation: “Rightly to be great/ is not to stir without great argument, But greatly to find quarrel in a straw” a.k.a – willingness to fight over essentially nothing if it means you will protect your honour is a sign of greatness. Hamlets new found respect may be explained by his persistent indecisiveness – as presented throughout the story, his interpretation of Fortinbras is ironically another example that he simply cannot make up his mind. Perhaps Hamlets respect comes from his willingness to become a man of action, much like Fortinbras is being.
Can you elaborate on the sorrows Claudius lists in lines 61-78? Is there any sincerity in Claudius’ speech? Act 4, Scene 5 Claudius does not appear truly sorry for his actions, he shows to be concerned with the results but seemingly refuses to accept responsibility. He refers to Ophelia as “Poor Ophelia” as if he pities her, also saying: “Oh, this is the poison of deep grief” – suggesting Ophelias own grief has poisoned her mind – almost ignoring the fact that he has responsibility and his actions have affected those closest to him. In what seems like the only remorse Claudius shows, he says: “For good Polonius’ death, and we have done but greenly” says he admits he buried polonius too hastily but still refuses to hold his hands up, suggesting to me that he is not truly sorry. Finally, Claudius says: ” gives me superfluous death” which highlights a selfish attitude and despite listing Ophelias grief and troubles.. some at his hand, he still focuses attention on himself, therefore I believe he totally lacks sincerity.
Can you explain the dramatic irony in Claudius’ line, “And where the offence is, let the great axe fall” (line 197)? Act 4, Scene 5 In this line the dramatic irony is that Claudius is essentially calling for justice against those who have oppressed, making it ironic given that it is revealed Claudius has committed a variety of offences in the play: including killing his own brother and then marrying his ex-sister-in-law, Claudius is somewhat the main protagonist in the play (at least from Hamlets perspective) therefore its ironic that he calls for justice.
The fear of Polonius and Laertes has prevented Ophelia from sharing her true feelings throughout the play; however, in her insanity, she speaks freely. Do Ophelia’s explicit songs give us a better sense of her relationship with Hamlet? Act 4, Scene 5 Yes I definitely think that with insanity Ophelia speaks freely, and part of the discloses details of her relationship with Hamlet. Ophelia sings: “And I a maid at your window, to be your valentine” – shows Ophelia loves Hamlet and cares for him. She goes on to say he “let in the maid that out a maid, never departed more” – he took her virginity. Ophelia highlights that Hamlet promised to marry her so they would have sex, but then after, refused to marry her because she wasn’t a virgin anymore. This shows Ophelia’s frustration at Hamlets indecisiveness and shows him to be manipulative to Ophelia who was emotionally vulnerable. Ophelia also shows frustration about being unable to tell who actually cares for her and who doesn’t: “How should I your true love know from another one” – she is upset and emotionally damaged from her relationship with Hamlet.
Why is Claudius’ admission that they have not buried Polonius properly important later in the scene? Act 4, Scene 5 It is important as it is essentially used as propaganda against Laertes. Laertes is angry at the circumstances of his fathers death/burial shown when he says: “His means of death, his obscure funeral”.. “that i must call’t in question” highlighting Laertes’ apprehension. Claudius uses this to incite Laertes to kill Hamlet, implying it will give closure to Laertes and his family but actually will merely fulfil Claudius’ aims. Claudius says: “and where the offense is let the great axe fall” calling for the guilty party to be punished with death. The fact that Claudius did not bury Polonius properly somewhat leads to/sets up the finale of the play. I think it is also important to note that it is ironic that Claudius calls for justice and for the guilty party to be killed, he himself dying at the end. And also that earlier in the scene Claudius, for once, acknowledges some guilt towards how Polonius’ funeral/burial turned out.
Context link to Hamlets indecisiveness Hamlets indecisiveness may be Shakespeare representing the social climate he wrote in. The political situation was one of significant instability (and somewhat indecisiveness) as there were countless attempts to remove Elizabeth from the throne, and as such England was nervous. This perhaps influenced Shakespeare’s work given that Hamlet almost embodies this indecisiveness and internal turmoil through his actions during the play.
Patriarchy/misogyny in Hamlet Hamlet appears to create a connection between female sexuality and moral corruption – particularly when evaluating his mothers responsibility in his fathers murder/disgrace. Hamlet says “Frailty, thy name is woman!” – essentially women are weak. The motif of female inferiority occurs at various times in the play and may be a revealing factor in Hamlets attitude, potentially explaining his dysfunctional relationship with Ophelia.
Critic for Hamlets indecisiveness Dr Johnson says “Hamlet is distracted by contrasting nature of his desires and overwhelmed by the magnitude of his own purposes” – Johnson may be referring to the notion that Hamlet contemplates becoming man of action as supposed to simply a man of words. And as such has a respect for Fortinbras who is a man of action. Johnson suggests this is at the root of Hamlets indecisiveness.
Use of metatheatricality Shakespeare implements metatheatricality, essentially a play-within-a-play and a self-reference to the drama. The metatheatricality is used so that Hamlet may further demonstrate his unforgiving attitude as he uses it to try and catch Claudius out. Hamlet asks the actors to “play something like the murder of my father. Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his looks” this almost forces Claudius to reveal his guilt but also showing Hamlets reluctance to give up or forgive Claudius.
context for Hamlets unforgiveness Hamlets unforgiveness is perhaps shakespeare reflecting the mourning of the country when the highly popular Queen Elizabeth 1st died, the people found it difficult to move on/forget such an important monarch and this is similar to Hamlet clinging on to the memory of his father (Old King Hamlet) and seeking to avenge him.
Contextual link to Claudius’ treatment of Laertes/ Polonius/ Rosencrantz + Guildenstern Corruption: Elizabeth I bestowed privileges on a select group of sycophantic advisers in her later years – leading to furious rivalry in court
1.1 “Who’s there?”… Context As the opening line, “Who’s there?” appears to foreshadow the themes of treachery, betrayal, corruption and instability that are present throughout the play. These themes may be linked to Elizabeth I’s reign, as she fought off plots in her earlier years from Catholics attempting to instate her cousin Mary Stuart, and different Popes had ex-communicated her for her rejection of Catholicism + said it would be “no sin to invade England!”. Quite clearly, this sense of tension is reflected within Hamlet, and may be taken as Shakespeare demonstrating the uneasiness apparent at the time.
Hamlet as a tragic hero 1. Hamlet was born into nobility, is educated at the prestigious Wittenberg University, and spends his whole life having people pay homage to him (“Hail to you lordship!” Horatio, 1.2).2. Hamlet’s world is shattered when his father dies, and he is faced with a problem he cannot surmount. He becomes depressed, angry, irritable, and sullen. 3. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is arguably his inability to act, or rather, his indecisiveness. His internal conflict stops him from actually doing something. He has the perfect opportunity to kill Claudius (3.3) but stops himself and allows it to pass him by.4. Hamlet’s fall from greatness is by his own hand. In an effort to collect information to incriminate his uncle, Hamlet pretends to go mad; yet this is his fatal mistake. Because of his tragic flaw, he justifies his ‘madness’ as an attempt to do the right thing – this is his hubris. He doesn’t understand that by destroying his relationship with Ophelia + Gertrude, he is causing the downfall of the people he loves. 5. Whilst Hamlet is dying, he begs Horatio to right the wrongs he has committed and set the story straight. He accepts his death nobly and refuses to commit suicide. In turn, he does actually win a small victory, as Claudius has been vanquished and Hamlet will live on in people’s memories.
Critic interpretation of Hamlet’s soliloquies Alex Newell (on the function of Hamlet’s soliloquies): “imagery that constitutes the play’s verbal and visual projection of man as divinely made with… godlike reason but subject to having his mind overwhelmed by passion…with irrevocable tragic consequences”
Critic interpretations of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy G. Wilson Knights: “Commentators differ as to whether Hamlet’s “To be or not to be; that is the question” refers to the proposed killing of Claudius or to the killing of himself… I now think that both are somehow included, or rather surveyed from a vantage not easy to define”. Richard T. Brucher: “Hamlet equates conscience with cowardice”.John Dover Wilson uses Hamlet’s mood in his first soliloquy (1.2) to explain the mood in the “To be” soliloquy; “He is back again where he was when we first had sight”. Wilson’s view appears to be referencing the sheer intensity of Hamlet’s anguish (which is supported by the rant-like nature of both soliloquies) alongside his reluctance to act out; ideas that occur simultaneously within both soliloquies.
Gertrude links to context Gertrude’s forced silence: may be linked with the way Elizabeth did not speak and agree “I observe and remain silent”, and her diplomacy and resolve to tread a moderate religious path – she wisely didn’t jump into things easily. Gertrude’s impossible position after the death of King Hamlet: may be linked with Elizabeth’s acknowledgement of the patriarchal structure of the time – “I have the body of a weak and feeble woman but the heart of a king”. The danger of Gertrude marrying unwisely: may be linked with the same potential problem for Elizabeth. If she married a European prince, England may well have become lost to foreign control, yet if she remained childless there was a threat that civil war may break out. Hamlet’s repulsion towards Gertrude’s sexual behaviour: Elizabeth’s virginity and the cult of poetry (ex: Spenser’s ‘The Fairie Queen’) may be linked to Hamlet’s regard of Gertrude’s “wrong” sexual behaviour.Hamlet’s repulsion towards Gertrude in general: may be linked to the country’s concern of an ageing sexual monarch. Elizabeth was a mother to the country, but no longer able to be a realistic lover. This problem with reconciling the mother and lover figure may lie at the root of Hamlet’s attack on Gertrude.
Horatio and mean length utterance… At the beginning of the play, Horatio’s speech is fairly lengthy in comparison to the other characters, which appears to instate his intellectual authority as a scholar. However, as the play continues, Horatio’s speech shortens and becomes very direct, which appears to reflect his credibility and rationality as a character; thus sparking admiration towards him from the likes of Hamlet, and defining him as a trustworthy, loyal member of court.
Which line shows us that Hamlet no longer doubts Claudius’ guilt? “O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound” (3.2)
Critic interpretations of Hamlet’s inner turmoil “To kill in revenge is to sink to the same moral level as the killer. Hamlet delays because he is resisting his own moral disintegration”Dr Johnson: “Hamlet is distracted by the contrasting nature of his desires and overwhelmed by the magnitude of his own purposes” Coleridge + Romanticism view: “Hamlet was a man whose intellectual energy and alertness understandably made action impossible” McKenzie: “With the strongest purposes of revenge Hamlet is irresolute and inactive” McCary: “Hamlet broke many rules – one being the rule of action over character”
Shakespeare + the Renaissance Shakespeare was born towards the end of the renaissance period + was one of the 1st to bring the renaissance’s core values to theatre. He updated the simplistic, 2-dimensional writing style of pre-renaissance drama by focussing on creating “human” characters with psychological complexity (Hamlet is possibly the most famous example of this). The upheaval of the accepted social hierarchy allowed Shakespeare to explore the humanity of a character regardless of their social position (ex: Hamlet is a prince). He also used his knowledge of Greek and Roman classics when writing his plays; before the renaissance, these texts had been suppressed by the Catholic Church.
“A little more than kin, and less than kind” Here, Shakespeare’s black humor is evident as “kind” has multiple meanings; Hamlet’s unforgiving nature is apparent as “less than kind” suggests his bitterness and disgust towards Gertrude and Claudius’ marriage, whilst also implying how their union is unnatural for “kind” carries associations of disturbances of nature and misalignments with lawful/common behavior. “More than kin” further serves to emphasize the closer relations Hamlet now has to Claudius as he is now both his son and nephew, possibly reflecting his opinion of their marriage being incestuous. The Book of Common Prayers included a “table of kindred and affinities” which stated family members were not permitted to be married to each other (including a dead brother’s wife) and, although this ban was lifted during Elizabeth’s reign, this is perhaps why Hamlet’s strong interpretation is so shocking to Shakespeare’s audiences as it was still seen as an unholy (and therefore sinful) marriage.
Act 5 Scene 2King : ‘Hamlet, this pearl is thine; here’s to thy health.’ ‘Pearl’ in folklore is said to be the ‘tear drops of the moon’. This use of symbolism could be to suggest or even foreshadow the death of the Queen, as a moon is often representative of fertility and the ‘teardrops’ may foreshadow her downfall or death. Perhaps the use of ‘thine’, which suggests the pearl belongs to Hamlet; is enforcing the idea that his mothers death or even his own death are a result of his own actions. This is again another way in which Claudius pins blame on others.
The Ghost Theme of Supernaturalism Old King Hamlet, meets Hamlet in Act 1 and calls upon him to avenge him. Act 1 Scene 5 = “Revenge his foul + most unnatural murder” – Hamlet suspects Ghost may be a devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder.
Hamlet: “The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold”Theme of Supernatural/gothic tone, evokes supernatural imagery. “Bites” – air is personified to be dangerous. Pathetic fallacy – “It is very cold” – representing events in the play but alternatively may convey/suggest a shadow passing over them, linking to supernatural … the ghost.
Act 1, Scene 1, Opening, Theme of Supernaturalism Bernardo: “Who’s there?”, Francisco: “Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself”, This opens the play and takes place in a gloomy, gothic castle which evokes supernatural imagery – immediately introduces the theme, unnerving the audience but also conveying the ambiguity that will remain at the heart of the play.
Context – Theme of Supernaturalism In Shakespeare’s time people thoroughly believed in the supernatural e.g. Witches, even a Witchcraft Act 1593! People were very superstitious e.g. “Bless you” after sneezing (keep away the devil) Shakespeare incorporates his societies’ fascination with the supernatural into his work and makes supernaturalism as prevalent in the play as it was in society.
Critic Peter Goldman. Theme of Supernaturalism. “The Ghost hearkens back to the late medieval world of magic and superstition … In a crucial way the whole plot of Hamlet depends upon the Ghost” – This supports that the supernaturalism of Hamlet remains a crucial aspect at the heart of the play and that it incorporates prevalent feelings from its time both making supernaturalism important to the play and representative of its time.
Act 3, Scene 2 – “when Churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood” Theme of Supernaturalism Supernatural/gothic tone and mood – almost foreshadowing death as there is no death up to this point (other than ghost, BUT we know everyone dies) – supernaturalism in predicting/foreshadowing the future.
DECEIT: “slight sullies on my son” – Polonius (2.1) Gives us insight into Polonius’ deceptive nature through his willingness to spy on his own son. Use of sibilance implies that Polonius is sneaky, manipulative, and sly. Shakespeare’s use of this subplot emphasises Polonius’ flaws and this works in turn to accentuate his role as a deceitful, untrustworthy character.
DECEIT: “To draw him on to pleasures and to gather,so much as from occasion you may glean” – Claudius (2.2) Claudius projects himself as considerate and caring in regard to Hamlet’s wellbeing, however this works to highlight his misleading nature. By reinforcing Claudius’ desire to gather information over Hamlet in an attempt to link him to treason or deceit, we are shown his longing for control/ power. The use of directive language also emphasises Claudius’ determination for power as he adopts the tone of an assertive leader.
DECEIT: “The present death of Hamlet.” – Claudius (4.3) Claudius deceives Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about Hamlet’s voyage to England, telling them that Hamlet must leave Denmark in the interest of public safety. In truth, Claudius plans Hamlet’s assassination once he is on English soil, and so Claudius’ deceit is in the form of an explicit lie. Shakespeare’s use of end-stopping adds finality to Claudius’ decision to have Hamlet murdered, and further enhances the conviction with which Claudius is assuring himself power/control via deceit.
DECEIT: “So shall you hear…of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause” – Horatio (5.2) Here, Horatio appears to be acknowledging that the deceit of numerous characters caused several deaths throughout the play, and so as a theme deceit is integral to the plot development of the play. His reference to “unnatural acts” earlier on in his speech seems to perhaps suggest that deceit is something that comes unnaturally to the characters (and humankind in general), and so may be the reason for their inevitable downfall.
DECEIT: “Read on this book, that show of such an exercise may colour your loneliness” – Polonius(3.1) Polonius deceives Hamlet when he, for the benefit of Claudius, arranges for Ophelia to meet Hamlet by accident to determine whether his irrational behavior is the result of “the affliction of his love” (3.1). So skilled is Polonius at the art of deceit that he has Ophelia pretend to read a prayer book to deflect any suspicion that might arise from her lurking alone in the corridor; Hamlet will believe she is simply meditating in seclusion. Shakespeare’s use of imperatives also links with the theme of patriarchy, and so Polonius is portrayed as a sneaky, condescending character.
DECEIT: context -Throughout her reign, Elizabeth I had to fight off plots from Catholics attempting to instate her cousin Mary, and different Popes had ex-communicated her for her rejection of Catholicism (links to idea of Claudius taking King Hamlet’s throne, Hamlet seeking to get rid of Claudius, + Claudius seeking to get rid of Hamlet). -Behind the scenes, James I was plotting to try to overcome Henry VIII’s decree that no-one of the house of Stuart acceded the throne (links to Claudius murdering King Hamlet in order to acquire power as king). -Elizabeth bestowed privileges on a chosen few sycophantic advisers in her later years, leading to furious rivalry at court (links to ideas of corruption and Polonius’ relationship with Claudius).
DECEIT: critic Kurland: “The whole play is informed by the uncertainty engendered by James’ manoeuvres and threats to secure the English succession” – links to the tension created throughout the play as a result of the ongoing lies and plotting between characters, and shows that the theme of deceit is integral to the plot development and overall tone of the play.
Language and structural techniques used and the effect of these: critic The American philosopher Mary Salter (1988) has stated “Hamlet’s nature is philosophical, reflective, prone to questioning and therefore is aware of larger moral implications in any act.” she suggests that Hamlet is a man of thought, who thinks with logic and reason. The structure of the play supports this idea through the use of soliloquies, which highlight the turbulent inner thoughts of Hamlet as he contemplates how to act in response to the way in which Claudius has acted. “to be or not to be” supports this as it suggests he does not know whether to act or not, suggesting Hamlets inner turmoil which could support the idea of him being “aware of the larger moral implications of any act”.
Language and structural techniques used and the effect of these: Context The use of language by the grave diggers in Act 5 scene 1- Ophelia’s funeral- could be suggested to reflect the view of the people at the time when Shakespeare wrote the play. ” Is she to be buried in Christian burial when she willfully seeks her own salvation?” at the time suicide was seen as a great sin and those who committed it where not permitted to have a Christian burial, however Ophelia was granted on due to her status at court. The dialogue between the two gravediggers represents the opinion of the people. they do not approve with the fact that Ophelia will receive a Christian burial, it can be suggested to be similar to the reaction of the people of the time if it happened in Elizabeth’s court.
WOMEN: “But good my brother, do not, as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whilst like a puffed and reckless libertine, himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, and recks not his own rede.” (Ophelia, Act 1 Scene 3, Line 46-51) The theme of patriarchy is prominent here for it is suggested that it is contradictory and hypocritical of Laertes to preach the importance of his sister remaining virtuous whilst he himself is fickle and careless by sleeping with multiple women without commitment. “Dalliance” (usually used when referencing casual sexual relationships) has connotations of recklessness, lack of care and brief involvement, as reinforced by “puffed libertine” which implies of Laertes freedom and right as a male to flit between lovers, again emphasizing the gender inequality within society at the time. “Steep and thorny way to heaven” could allude to sin; Shakespeare could be using the inter-contextual link to the Bible to reference the crown of thorns Jesus wore before being crucified, perhaps reinforcing the concept of becoming a fallen woman by having pre-marital sex as being sinful. Some readers may argue, however, that “steep and thorny” could suggest how it may be painful/difficult for Ophelia to remain virtuous until marriage.
language and structure- “and by opposing end them? To die to sleep;no more; and by a sleep to say we end” This quote illustrates the structure in which Shakespeare has written Hamlet- “iambic pentameter” a kind of rhythmic pattern that consist of five iambs per line. This creates a feel of flow and introduces some rhyme. this is traditionally used by Shakespeare when Nobles are talking in his plays.
WOMEN: Patriarchy and Power (Act 1, Scene 3)WOMEN (critic): Wendy J Rogers “women who comply with the social order are lost without it; those who defy it can know no other fortune than to be lost within it” Polonius belittles Ophelia, particularly in the line, “think yourself a baby”, suggesting how he feels she needs taking care of and lacks the maturity to handle herself (perhaps due to her gender) as “baby” carries connotations of weakness and defenselessness, as well as immaturity). Male dominance is further highlighted within the structure of this act – both Polonius and Laertes’ lengthy monologues pontificate, perhaps reinforcing the notion of males making the decisions, particularly as Ophelia’s lines are short and concise, thus conveying her submissive nature. The line”I shall obey, my lord” (line 136) highlights this submissiveness, whilst also supporting the critic Wendy J Rogers, suggesting her lack of power as she accepts Polonius’ commands without question. Ophelia could be viewed as a woman who complies with the ‘social order’ for she is controlled by the opinions of her father and brother, thriving within these confinements – she is “lost” without this structure after her father dies, resulting in her descending into a madness which she does not survive.
language and structure- I could a tale unfold whose lightest wordWould harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, This quote suggests that the Ghost will not tell Hamlet the whole truth behind his desk for fear of causing him distress. The use of the words “harrow up thy soul” imply that they may damage his soul, which was seen as the entry to the after life. Some readers may argue that the use of “harrow” has connotation of horror which could cause madness, therefore it could be suggested that this foreshadows Hamlets madness, or alternatively inspires him to act mad.
language and structure- “, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!Is it not monstrous that this player here,But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,” This quote suggests that Hamlet is unhappy with himself and his inability to act upon his fathers murder. He compares himself to the player who got emotional over a play. the use of the adjective “monstrous” could suggest he is questioning his own lack of emotion towards the situation, and whether he is a monster for not having acted sooner. The noun “passion” implies that Hamlet does not feel deeply about the need to get revenge for his father to the depth which he thinks he should.
WOMEN: “Frailty, thy name is woman” (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 146) Here, Hamlet has personified weakness in the female form, perhaps suggesting he views women as purely delicate beings, incapable of being strong in their decisions as he is referring to Gertrude’s moral weakness (for she remarried mere months after Hamlet Senior’s death). However, it could be implied that Hamlet does not blame his mother for her “o’er hasty marriage” as it is in her nature, as a woman, to be frail (easily coerced by Claudius, who took advantage of Gertrude’s sexuality).
language and structure- “O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt,Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,” This quote suggests Hamlet is experiencing unhappiness and feels as though he has been marred by his fathers death and the way his mother has moved on to what he sees as an incestuous relationship with his uncle. The use of the noun “melt” suggests that he wishes to lose his physical form, some readers may argue that “melt” could also suggest that he wished he could feel uncaring towards his mothers new marriage, this is supported by “thaw” which has connotations of change.

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