The first three scenes of Hamlet, gives you an extremely dramatic and interesting insight into most of the themes continued throughout the play.
Shakespeare manages to create the suspense and drama necessary to keep the audience enthralled and expectant. He does this through the use of imagery, mystery and language, some unusual, unifying themes, and memorable relationships.The relationship between Hamlet and Horatio is particularly provocative, and is often overlooked by those studying Hamlet in depth. Shakespeare cleverly devised the character of Horatio to portray the true character of Hamlet. Horatio acts as an antithesis to Hamlet, enhancing his distinctive characteristics.
As a fellow student of Wittenberg University, he is Hamlet’s intellectual, and to a certain extent social equal.Hamlet therefore, values the loyal friendship they share, and confides in Horatio, thus revealing glimpses of the former prince. Hamlet also regards Horatio’s moral integrity and fortitude with great admiration. Horatio, being understanding and sympathetic to Hamlet’s situation, does therefore not perceive Hamlet’s melancholy behaviour as being intolerable or, “unmanly” and, “unschooled”. This emphasises the mutual friendship they entrust to each other.Through the rational conversations held between the two friends, the audience is able to identify the melancholy Hamlet is suffering is genuine rather than a state of madness.
Through Horatio many truths are revealed about the young prince and what is to come in later in the play. The same rational line of thinking is also evident in the character of Horatio. He is perceptive enough to realise the Ghost’s appearance spells disast...
er for Denmark,”A mote it is trouble the mind’s eye.”Almost immediately after the visitation from the Ghost, Horatio decides it would be in everyone’s interest to, “.
..impart what (they) have seen tonightUnto young Hamlet;” thus confirming the friendship even further.Horatio shows Hamlet a respect and compassion no other character yields to. Hamlet is blatantly in the minority by mourning for his father.
Other courtiers have swiftly moved on from their ‘grief’ stricken period, and engaged in the celebrations of the incestuous marriage of Claudius and Gertrude. This enrages and furies the young prince who is still in a deep state of mourning. The asinine courtiers, desperate to please their new king, Claudius, readily allow their mournful state to be taken over by that of celebration and ‘joy’. Horatio and Hamlet share the belief that the wedding followed too soon on from the funeral,”Indeed my Lord it followed hard upon”This binds their relationship further, due to the fact they hold something in common against the rest of the land.
The fact Horatio refers to Hamlet as,”My dear Lord” suggests a deep respect for the prince who has endured so much over the past few months. In turn Hamlet is genuinely pleased to see an old friend and ally, “Sir, my good friend, I’ll change that name with you…
I am very glad to see you”In fact when his close friends surround Hamlet, his mood positively changes to that of an excited and relieved man, “For God’s love let me hear.” This ardent comment expresses his excitement at the fact Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo saw the Ghost of his deceased father. It i
through Horatio that the audience is able to see the characteristics of the former prince. Shakespeare cunningly used the character of Horatio to emphasise the dramatic mood swings experienced by Hamlet. He sways from the mourning, tragic prince to an animated and flurried young man.
All this is highlighted through Horatio; Hamlet’s friend, fellow student and mentor.Another interesting aspect to Hamlet is the type of language Shakespeare uses to convey certain emotions and moods. There is the fairly unusual opening scene, which conveys a fraught and tense mood. This is portrayed through a rich tapestry of words, similes and metaphors. However, it is the use of cliches that really develops another dimension to the play.
Their contradictory meanings all help convey the sense of confusion and mystery the audience is exposed to, and what Hamlet is all about.Shakespeare carefully manipulates his language to not only create mood and atmosphere, but to also reflect certain social aspects of seventeenth century England. This is evident in most of the male speeches, especially when directed at women. The character of Polonius has been carefully devised to reinforce the hierarchical authority familiar with fathers during the greater part of History.
This can be clearly seen in his conversations with his son, Laertes and his daughter, Ophelia.These speeches are often riddled with cliches, making them sound more insincere than honest, and sometimes even ending in a contradiction, as in Polonius’ lecture to Laertes, “Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar….Neither a borrower or a lender be.
..This above all, to thine own self be true..
.”The advice parted by Polonius, appears to be sound philosophy on how one ought to live, but looking deeper, and beyond the initial meaning, you see that there is little depth and sincerity in his words, resulting in a string of cliches. Polonius tells Laertes what he should be doing, “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement.” Yet ends in the contradictory line “…
to thine own self be true.” This speech asserts parental power, and subtle manipulation from father to son, reflecting the stereotypical relationship between parent and child.Polonius’ advice seems to be rather simplistic and flat, and it would be hard to apply it practically to every day life. He simplifies life itself, not taking into consideration affecting circumstances.
These words from Polonius to Ophelia obviously have the desired effect, seeing as Ophelia pacifies herself to an even greater extent,”I do not know my Lord what I should think.” And refers to her father as,”…
my Lord…”Polonius is not the only character in the first three scenes who articulates in cliches.
Polonius’ son, Laertes, similarly lectures Ophelia on love and life, asserting male dominance and authority. There is a strong sense portrayed by Shakespeare’s use of language, that Laertes has difficulties expressing himself, due to the fact he is so wrapped up in a male dominated society thus leading to the excessive use of cliches and platitudes. Ophelia promises, “…as a watchman to (her) heart.
the effect of this good lesson keep…” even though Laertes words’ discourage her from her relationship with Hamlet,
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