Some of the ways in which Shakespeare creates a sense of disorder in Hamlet
Hamlet was written during the seventeenth century during which Britain was going through a time of social anxiety there was no certain heir to throne as Elizabeth was nearing her end of her reign. This uncertainty is mirrored in the play through the death of the king of Denmark and so highlights a key subject in Elizabethan lives during which this play was being performed. Shakespeare uses this to create a fear of the unknown and effectively establishes disorder.
A sense of disorder is created right from the start to keep the audience in anticipation of an imminent discovery, as Shakespeare sets the scene as a chilly, misty night outside Elsinore castle.
“Bernardo: Who’s there?
Francisco: Nay answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.”
The audience is made aware that both guards are unable to see each other creating a sense of disorder and uncertainty as an attack could be imminent, but they wouldn’t be prepared due to the lack of light on the set. Shakespeare foreshadows signs of chaotic events to create anticipation and build an atmosphere of uncertainty and disorder until finally a climax of tragedy and disaster is reached.
Shakespeare using foreshadowing early in his writing to create a sense of disorder is apparent in Romeo and Juliet, as from the beginning the audience acknowledges signs of the character’s fate ending in tragedy. The two main characters are described as “star crossed lovers” indicating that bad luck is already present, which is effective in creating a sense of disorder as the context of both plays follow a persistent theme of superstition among the Elizabethan audience.
The two guards; Bernardo and Marcellus discuss the paranormal activity they have seen for the past two nights, to which they now hope to show Horatio; the ghost of the recently deceased King Hamlet, which they claim has appeared before them near the castle grounds in the late hours of the night.
“As I do live, my honor’d lord, ’tis true.”
Horatio is shown to be skeptical about Bernardo and Francisco’s sighting, and is convinced only by the actual sight of the ghost. Hamlet seems reluctant to believe that Horatio and the others have seen it and so to convince him, Horatio assures him with an oath of truth that his encounter with the ghost is genuine. By using Horatio to acknowledge that ghosts may exist, Shakespeare creates disorder.
In act one scene two the king makes a speech about how the nation shall mourn the death of the previous king. Shakespeare however uses this speech to create further disorder as he rushes to announce the engagement to Hamlet’s mother which angers Hamlet to such an extent that he audience would be lead to assume that revenge is to be carried out.
“With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage.”
Claudius presents himself in the speech to be arrogant, insensitive and compassionate as he talks of how he plans to marry Hamlet’s mother so quickly after the death of the previous king. The fact that the insensitive act of marrying Hamlet’s mother, straight after his father’s death foreshadows vengeance on Hamlets part and ultimately creating a sense of tragedy, means that an already overwhelming sense of disorder has been established before the Elizabethan audience has been introduced to his character which is characterized as a somewhat arrogant and moronic. Shakespeare uses the oxy morons to make the audience certain that the new king is bound to lead Denmark into a series of tragic events.
Hamlet’s first soliloquy speaks of wishing to die to end his pain and grief.
“Oh, that this is too solid flesh, would melt, thaw, and resolve into a dew…”
Suicide seems like a desirable alternative to life in his soliloquy but Hamlet feels that the option of suicide isn’t for him to commit as it is forbidden by his religion. This causes further more disorder and ultimately adds to the foreshadowing of tragic events that are to follow, as the Elizabethan audience is provoked into thinking of ways that Hamlet could relieve and perhaps quench his revenge and rid himself of this mournful depressive state. Also this soliloquay creates a sense disorder by showing the audience Hamlet’s unstable emotional state.
Hamlet then goes on to describe the causes of his pain, specifically his increasing disgust at his mother’s marriage to Claudius.
In act one scene Five Hamlet becomes terrified of the site of the ghost and the implications it brings to his already depressed and unstable state of mind causing disorder, tension and foreshadowing a grim fait.
“Ghost: So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.”
The ghost’s encouragement for revenge is very effective in creating a sense of disorder as it means that others will ultimately suffer for Hamlet’s quest to fulfill his father’s commands means that tragedy is imminent.
After that scene, terrified Hamlet is left with the idea that perhaps his father’s spirit is unholy, or an evil spirit damned and also whether the intentions of the spirit are “wicked or charitable”. Leaving Hamlet to decide whether to act on his father’s ghost’s wishes or not, creating disorder and uncertainty.
The audience so far is lead to assume that Hamlet will act out his duty, which is to fulfill his father’s wishes in reaching revenge that will restore justice and eradicate his father in law which Hamlet decides will prove successful in ridding himself of this overwhelming woe that he has been shown to be carrying, which is very well portrayed in his soliloquys.
After hearing the ghosts words, Hamlet begins to plan his next steps, warning of how he will put on an “antic disposition,” to feign his madness.
“As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on”
Shakespeare uses Hamlet’s “madness” to create uncertainty and disorder as Hamlet’s “antic disposition” is so convincing that the audience is provoked to question whether he is truly mad.
In Act three, scene 1 has another soliloquy and contemplates suicide as escapism of his mournful, depressed and unstable emotions. Shakespeare uses Hamlet’s speech to create confusion and disorder among the audience as to how he is going to cope with his grief.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?—To die,—to sleep,—
No more; and by a sleep to say we end”
Hamlet speaks of how it would be logical to bring an end to the unbearably painful world that he now faces, this soliloquy creates a huge amount of disorder as the audience is left puzzled, as they contemplate how the protagonist is going to overcome his woe. It is acknowledged by the audience that killing himself isn’t an option. This means the Elizabethan audience is left to assume that another outlet of extreme emotion is needed to relive Hamlet of his current depressive state thus creating a sense of impending tragedy and chaos, as they are constantly awaiting the inevitable climax that is Hamlet’s fate, which is foreshadowed as one that may cost the lives around him.
In parts of his soliloquy, accepting his parent’s relationship brings deep feelings of disgust and anger. Shakespeare’s choice of language used is pessimistic and the structure to which his speech is said reinforces the impression that he is experiencing a very overwhelming amount of grief.
Hamlet poses the problem of whether to commit suicide and asks himself the question, “To be, or not to be,” that is, to live or not to live. He then weighs the moral side of living and dying. Is it nobler to suffer life, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” passively or to actively seek to end one’s suffering? He compares death to sleep and thinks of his death and the pain and uncertainty it might bring to others around him.
Shakespeare creates disorder very effectively through various scenes in the play creating tension and a sense of disorder. The tragic events created throughout and the unexpected outcomes make the plot entertaining.
Shakespeare’s methods of creating a sense of tragedy are consistent and successful in creating disorder, which is very entertaining for an audience to witness.