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Hamlet, prince of Denmark

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CORE Work 2*: Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

*in-depth work (for oral examination)

Introduction

  • Hamlet: Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
  • Revenge Tragedy
  • But when the play opens, Hamlet is already in a state of mourning
  • Eponymous: Hamlet + Hamlet (character)
  • The revenge is layered in the play

  • Renaissance Beliefs
  • Reason led to virtue
  • Order led to reason
  • Love was an ideal; lust was a rejection of God given reason
  • Belief in ghosts

  • The Nature of Evil
  • Inherited defect, which does not involve human responsibility; the individual is the victim of fate
  • Complexions based on the four humours
  • Impulse
  • Setting
  • Hierarchy of creation
  • Man’s ability to reason made him closer to angels, or symbols of “pure virtue”
  • Reason had to overcome passion, grief and “bestiality” for man as a rejection of reason.
  • Mankind remains tainted from original sin
  • Divine Right of Kings
  • The King is God’s minister on Earth
  • Context
  • Written in 1599
  • Problems at that time
  • Plague
  • Elizabeth’s successor
  • Irish rebellion; threat of the Spanish Armada
  • Death of his only son, Hamlet
  • Five-act structure
  • Dilemma
  • Soliloquy
  • Themes
  • Hamlet’s foils: Laertes, Fortinbras
  • Appearance v. Reality
  • Sanity v. Insanity
  • Decay v. Corruption
  • Revenge
  • “antic disposition”
  • King Fortinbras was killed by King Hamlet
  • Prince Hamlet (a man of contemplation)
  • Prince Fortinbras (a man of action)
  • Cain & Abel
  1. Act 1 Scene 1 (Opening Scene)
  • “Who’s there”: infused with fear and anxiety / identity
  • Opening -> tension, foreshadowing
  • Time: midnight
  • Unusual appearance of people that are not guards
  • Horatio is expected
  • Frightening mood
  • “I am sick at heart”
  • Reference to the motif of illness
  • Problematic situation
  • Social malaise
  • The heart = the core of the being; the feelings, the spirit of a person
  • This malaise is widespread
  • Ordinary account/exchange between two soldiers
  • Preoccupation with a desire for peace and quiet
  • Foreshadowing
  • Honesty v. Corruption
  • He defines Francesco’s characterization as honest
  • Emphasis on honesty
  • Therefore, who is dishonest?
  • The anonymity of something that is clearly bothersome
  • Eerie, unsettling atmosphere -> MOOD
  • The play opens with soldiers (-> military, conflict)
  • The play ends with Fortinbras
  • Mortality
  • Scholarly (Horatio and Hamlet)
  • The Ghost is seen, is witnessed
  • The audience sees these 3 characters witness the Ghost
  • There is no doubt of the Ghost’s apparition
  • The Ghost is the catalyst of this revenge-tragedy
  • Through Horatio, the soldiers can validate what they have witnessed
  • Horatio’s functions are manifold
  • Political conflict + strife
  • Identity
  • The Ghost returns
  • Ominous foreshadowing
  • “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”
  • Dishonesty, corruption
  • Death persuasive in Denmark
  • Why is Denmark preparing for war?
  • Synecdoche: “Fortinbras of Norway”
  • Heraldry -> code of chivalry
  • Norway will seek to reclaim the land
  • Desire to reclaim what once belonged to Norway
  • LKH = legitimate ruler
  • “hot and full” = Fortinbras
  • Rhythm
  • F is gathering fighters in exchange for food
  • “landless resolutes”: not legitimate
  • The theme of the past enters
  • Summary of A1S1’s function:
  • informative, expository, introductory purpose
  • Historical elements
  • Plot device: the Ghost triggers the revenge-tragedy
  • “A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye”: the mind is disturbed and cannot think clearly
  • References Julius Caesar (omens, supernatural used to foreshadow his assassination used in this play)
  • He frames the Ghost’s presence in Denmark
  • Semantic field of Roman references
  • high, palmy, mightiest
  • Unnatural events before Caesar’s death
  • Compares Ghost’s presence with the events that took place before JC’s assassination
  • parallel, juxtaposition
  • “stars”, “fire”, “sun”, “eclipse”, “Neptune’s empire”, “dews of blood” => natural phenomena
  • Trains of fire -> cf. meteor scene in the Scarlet Letter
  • Chaos, catastrophe
  • The Ghost cannot portend anything positive
  • Horatio foreshadows
  • The natural world informs (warns) the human world of danger
  • Second entry of the Ghost:
  • “It spreads his arms”
  • “The cock crows” -> sound effect (indication of time: day)
  • Warning for the G who has to depart
  • The god of day = Apollo
  • L166 -> A4S1L29
  • Personification
  • Russet -> scarlet
  • dawn, breaking of day
  • The unknown
  • The opening mood of the play
  • TONE.
  • “This bodes an eruption to our state”
  • “I am sick at heart” (disease, illness)
  • “bitter cold”
  1. Act 1 Scene 2
  • Flourish: “Trumpet Call”
  • The entrance of order, state
  • King as symbol of harmony in the state
  • Claudius seeks to establish legitimacy
  • Claudius is the LKH’s brother (Cain & Abel)
  • Family connection
  • Mourning period
  • Wisest sorrow => justified sorrow
  • Claudius’ speech
  • Oxymorons
  • Opposites aligned
  • C speaks in opposites
  • conflict, artifice, ambiguity, duplicity, lacks clarity
  • “eye”
  • Perplexity, confusion
  • Gertrude is a widow
  • The scales are balanced
  • “taken to wife”
  • Semantic field of happiness / of grief and mourning
  • C quickly addresses and dismisses
  • Private -> public (affairs of state)
  • Dramatic irony: C admits to the disruption of the state -> Fortinbras’ supposition was correct
  • Regicide = the murder of a King
  • Hypocrisy in addressing the court on this topic
  • Rhetorical techniques that Claudius uses to move on from topic to topic
  • C=a man in action; makes decisions v. H=a man in reflection
  • Hamlet v. Laertes v. Fortinbras: How are these 3 young men linked? What motivates them?
  • levies=money
  • He defines the limits of their power
  • Public -> private
  • The patriarch, the avuncular
  • P=advisor, counsellor, Lord Chamberlain
  • Synecdoche
  • P is very powerful, very close to the King
  • “son” = Hamlet
  • The most important for lat
  • First time H speaks in the play
  • H makes it clear that he is not C’s son
  • pun, double entendre
  • Foreshadows the action of the play
  • sun/son (dramatic irony as the sun=King and although C has usurped the throne, Hamlet is the rightful king, and therefore the sun / Hamlet does not approve of C calling him as his own SON)
  • Clouds v. Sun
  • Sense of loyalty/faithfulness?
  • The strong inclination to believe that there was an affair between Gertrude and Claudius before
  • Contemptuous tone
  • Ge is insensitive
  • Imagery of sight: “eye”
  • Public setting
  • Juxtaposed to the closet scene (A3S4)
  • “seems” x4 -> APPEARANCE
  • Ironic comment of C’s speech (only appearances)
  • Theme <-> Setting
  • Appearance v. Reality
  • Exterior v. Interior
  • Public v. Private (-> secrets)
  • Common v. Particular
  • Seeming indifferent at the loss of her first husband
  • Parent-child conundrum/conflict
  • Appearance in clothing (cloak)
  • Anaphora of negation
  • H refuses to be told how long to mourn
  • Antic disposition
  • H sees the appearance embodied by Ge and C
  • Message directed to C
  • Undermines H
  • Every aspect of Hamlet’s character is questioned and challenged by C
  • C brings Hamlet and himself together
  • Gertrude is manipulative
  • 1st Soliloquy: “O that this too too solid flesh would melt”
  • sullied/soiled
  • Sin, corruption, lust, incest, suicide
  • “O” => tone of lamentation, desperation
  • CONFLICT WITHIN HAMLET
  • He wants to commit suicide, but cannot
  • Garden seeks to control nature
  • “unweeded” -> corruption and sin (=> RC)
  • Rank and gross: lascivious, incestuous relationship
  • He compares the LKH to Hyperion
  • Death -> source of life
  • Elizabethan Chain of Being
  • Satyr (man-goat) = sexual lust (≠nobility of love)
  • Hamlet’s revulsion, loathing, disgust for C and Ge
  • grief, anguish, pain, suffering
  • Time references: “heaven and earth” -> “within a month”
  • Enter Ho+M+B
  • There is going to be a recounting of the encounter with the G
  • Hamlet questions his identity
  • The profound effect of the LKH’s death
  • Ho is measured and not provocative
  • Once the existence is announced to Hamlet, the play may begin […]
  • Ghost: plot mechanism
  • Hamlet’s soul will be damned if he engages with a dishonest Ghost
  • This information spurs him to action (he is impatient)
  1. Act 1 Scene 3
  • A private room = a change of setting
  • New characters to whom we are introduced
  • Exposition of plot
  • Ophelia listens, is obedient and submissive (-> but can also be critical)
  • Blossoming relationship between H and O
  • Reciprocal
  • Direct
  • Deflect her father’s prying into her private life
  • Naïve
  • defends, reassuring
  • Sibling exchange
  • Focalisation of H through L: Hamlet thought the eyes of Laertes
  • Superficial interest/whim
  • “violet” -> A4S5
  • Health of the body; nature
  • Body as a motif of the play to represent the malaise/illness that is Denmark
  • Body-politic
  • The body, the mind, the soul must mature together
  • Body -> love
  • There is impediment, no deceit
  • Midline stops emphasize what is about to come next
  • Laertes’ speech foreshadows ironically H+O’s scene
  • “honour” = virginity/chastity
  • Danger in accepting and returning Hamlet’s love
  • Misdirection
  • the danger does not lie in Hamlet but in Ge and C
  • Polonius -> Laertes Rhetoric use of parallel structure
  • Clothing as an indication of station, class, rank
  • Moving, poignant
  • Patriarchal attitude
  • “w” -> C’s evil characteristics
  • Gertrude: false appearance: “seeming virtuous”
  • Through the G, the audience wonders if this relationship (between Ge and C) existed prior to the death of LKH as Hamlet=in media res -> ambiguity
  • Filial devotion to her father
  • Sibling difference: obedience is not expected of Laertes v. Ophelia automatically shows obedience
  • The marriage => corruption
  • Ge is corrupt
  • Ge v. HP: focalisation, characterization
  • Ge v. O: corrupt v. pure, virginal
  • Appearance of legitimacy
  1. Act 1 Scene 4
  • Setting shifts: gun platform
  • Counterbalances the setting of the first scene: Continuation thereof
  • The corruption extends to the entire court
  • Setting in parallel
  • The allégeance of Horatio, Marcellus to Hamlet
  • Semantic field of nature
  • Evolution is what H says
  • Exterior perception the nature of men
  • Nature (fate) v. Nurture
  • Baked manners
  • The habit that comes from the vicious mole of nature takes over the plosive manners
  • It affects the individual’s manners
  • Hamlet is trying to understand Claudius
  • Strength in Hamlet’s will
  • To give absolution of sins
  • Last sins
  • In abundance, profuse
  • The marriage => corruption
  1. Act 1 Scene 5
  • “revenge”
  • Snake motif
  • 2nd soliloquy: “O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?”
  • Knowledge
  • Writing
  • Burden
  • “I have sworn’t” -> promise
  • “villain”
  • Absolution before death
  • Summary of Act 1
  • Expository function
  • Introduction of the characters
  • Setting
  • Exterior v. Interior
  • The state of Denmark itself
  • The appearance of the Ghost and Hamlet => revenge-tragedy
  • tension, fear, conflict, mood
  • Curiosity is piqued (theatrical interest)
  • G is essential to the exposition of plot
  • Dramatic irony:
  • The audience and the characters are partied to information simultaneously  
  • Horatio
  • Claudius’ speech
  • Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship:
  • Interaction between the main plot (Hamlet’s family, Hamlet’s revenge) and the subplot (P+L+O+Rey)
  • Theme
  • Foreshadowing
  • Motifs: the body, the body-politic; sickness, illness, mortality
  • Change and evolution in Hamlet (->Tone)
  • Symbols: the snake, bestial imagery, the Ghost, imagery of corruption, decay, death
  • Sound effects: the canons, the Ghost, trumpets, cock
  • Evocation of myths (biblical and classical)
  • Reason v. Action / Reason v. Corruption
  • Juxtaposition
  • Foil characters
  • Antagonists v. Protagonists
  • Political health of nation
  • The individual that reflects the state as a whole
  • Appearance v. Reality
  • melancholy, mourning, suffering (-> Knowledge)
  • Antic disposition = major product of Act 1 that leads us to Act 2 and to the further development of the plot
  • The past v. The present
  • Movement in setting
  1. Act 2 Scene 1
  • Passage of time
  • New setting
  • The idea of movement is implicit (within the play; +within Hamlet who has evolved)
  • Polonius: manipulative, interfering, provocative
  • Reynaldo=instrument in P’s hands
  • Creating climate of suspicion around Laertes
  • Laertes’ discourse
  • He sets up traps for Laertes: Reynaldo has to tempt Laertes
  • No dialogue, no speech
  • Hamlet is mute
  • O’s obedience: she gives an account of this meeting
  • Madness stems from Ophelia’s rejection
  • Only Ge, C, P: intimate trio
  • Gathering of intelligence
  • Receiving reports from various sources
  • Claudius is very calculated, careful and aware
  • Fortinbras has taken advantage of his uncle’s situation and has exploited it
  • order, obedience and respect maintained in Norway
  • Fortinbras is contained
  • A potential war is averted
  • invasion, war awaits Poland
  • External v. Internal threat
  • Documents in the play:
  • Contract from Norway
  • Letter from Hamlet
  • Hamlet writes in his notebook
  • Ophelia through being mentioned in this metaphor of decay has been soiled
  • Polonius is the reason Hamlet is unable to see Ophelia
  • Polonius is the fool/the one who is trying to find ou the truth
  • Power relations
  • Prose exchange -> Hamlet has the power
  • Polonius thinks aloud in the “aside”
  • P believes the antic disposition
  • R & G enter
  • Antic disposition (->Prose)
  • He plays with identity
  • AD enables to shift from one identity to the other
  • Hamlet is also an interrogation
  • No shortage of H’s ability to manipulate language
  • Different POV
  • The audience watches
  • R & G are: outsiders, mediators -> in danger
  • Stooges
  • Revelation: where is the truth hid?
  • Hamlet and Claudius will not reveal
  • Hamlet speaks in metaphors
  • IS HAMLET MAD?
  • Exchange between Rosencrantz + Guildenstern + Hamlet (given for commentary purposes):
  • Hamlet is the prisoner
  • Claudius, and the court by extension => jailor
  • P in collusion with Claudius
  • P: misguidance of loyalty and faithfulness
  • His ability to think freely is not restrained
  • By introducing “ambition” he tries to get to the cause of Hamlet’s “madness”
  • Ambition -> Claudius is driven by his ambition
  • It is a man’s mind that creates the situation of prison/confinement or freedom
  • mind=independent instrument
  • The mind of Man is the source of freedom, countless inspiration and creation
  • But also source of pain, suffering
  • Ambition at the source of dreaming
  • Allusion to the scheming mind
  • Subtext -> a discussion of Claudius
  • Ambition is not necessarily concrete, substantial
  • A dream itself is unsubstantial , fleeting, not reality, intangible transitory
  • The dialogue works on two levels:
  • R & G
  • Hamlet
  1. Act 2 Scene 2
  • Aristotle: quintessence of dust
  • Celestial elements were made of quintessence (≠terrestrial - Fire, Water, Air, Earth)
  • As Prince, Hamlet = the body-politic, but also the individual
  • Our desire to learn is infinite, like our universe
  • Man is peerless
  • Literal/metaphorical meanings
  • Hamlet’s intentions
  • Recipients of the monologue (R&G + audience) -> dramatic irony as audience is partied to Hamlet’s intentions while R&G are not
  • Different interpretations are possible from both R&G and the audience’s perspectives
  • “stuff”: R’s response to Hamlet’s rhetorical genius
  • =bewilderment on R’s part
  • Hamlet’s characterization
  • Hamlet might be deranged (according to R&G)
  • Man’s relationship to the universe
  • Foreshadows the play to come
  • Enactment of a dramatic scene before H, R, G, and P
  •    [a]
  • Players’ passage
  • Framework (or the main plot of the play, and indirectly the subplot)
  • Pyrrhus (no pity, bloodthirsty)
  • Hecuba is struck with grief at the loss of her husband as well as Troy
  • Hecuba <-> Gertrude
  • Implication: Did Ge witness Claudius’ killing of the LKH?
  • Reflection of what H is thinking
  • H will emphasize Hecuba’s reaction to the death of Priam
  • REVENGE-CYCLE: cycle of revenge constantly in motion
  • Both families decimated
  • Ultimately an outsider, it is Fortinbras who claims the throne in the end
  • Hecuba:
  • icon, symbol of tragic loss
  • Hamlet wishes that Gertrude could have embodied Hecuba
  • Priam was a great king (=>LKH)
  • Reminder: a play is not being enacted, the player only describes the murder of Priam
  • The players are a device (Shakespeare)
  • H uses the players for the fruition of his own plotting and scheming
  • 3rd soliloquy: “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!”
  • Juxtaposition (=> inner conflict):
  • “rogue”: not part of society; free, lost vagabond -> He has lost his rights of succession, he feels out of place, he doesn’t belong (-> “aunt-mother”); he places himself on the outskirts; antic disposition
  • “peasant slave”: ≠Prince -> at the bottom of the Elizabethan Chain of Being /hierarchy; references feudalism; “slave” -> lack of freedom; cf. bondservant (The Scarlet Letter)
  • Hamlet schemes: scheming is a behaviour that is outside of society’s norms        -> rogue
  • Dilemma
  • His displacement within Denmark
  • Technique: hyperbole, characterization
  • Link to the bondservant: member of Governor Bellingham’s household + mansion / member of the Danish royal family + Elsinore castle; through servitude, the bondservant has to pay off what he owes -> the theocracy still embodies many of the rules and regulations of the Old World (-> HYPOCRISY -> AD)
  • To the audience, it appears to be true, even though its is all conceit, fiction
  • Conceit: we watch Hamlet (who is played himself by an actor) comment on acting
  • We, ourselves, as the audience, are carried away by Hamlet’s speech
  • Conceit = play on the play  (simultaneous)
  • “I”: he doesn’t only speak to others, but also to himself
  • Conceit of Hecuba, of Hamlet, of Pyrrhus
  • Unlike Pyrrhus, Hamlet does not act
  • He is dreamy, sleepy -> He has not only not acted physically, he hasn’t even acted mentally (planned the murder of C)
  • In mind and body, H is passive
  • Claudius deprives LKH of his life, but also of his role as King
  • He reproaches himself for not having made Claudius’ life miserable, not made him suffer
  • Burden that Hamlet bears
  • Hamlet does not mention even once Claudius’ name but the audience assumes and knows directly that it is Claudius that Hamlet is speaking about
  • In committing the sin of murder, it is also a sin against God, against Nature (the taking of a life)
  • Hamlet suffers from this burden
  • isolate, separated, alone
  • Irony: as it is through an illusory world that he will be able to find out the reality           (->appearance v. reality)
  1. Act 2 Scene 2
  • R&G reporting to C (spies reporting to the spymaster)
  • R&G don’t tell Claudius that Hamlet found out their purpose in Denmark
  • The head of state, the King announces openly that he is going to spy on Hamlet (the Prince)
  • Culture of spying and corruption is revealed
  • At the highest level of the state
  • C:
  • Devious behaviour
  • Is “crafty”
  • C & H both know how to eliminate doubt and uncertainty
  • Hamlet: hurt by the Ophelia’s withdrawal of affection?
  • Ge allies herself with Claudius, she does not object his spying: “I shall obey you.”
  • cf. A1S3 (Ophelia + Polonius)
  • 2 female characters are both obedient
  • Ge does not realize the gravitas of the situation
  • Motif -> the Black Man -> evil-doings/evil-workings
  • Claudius’ 1st aside foreshadows A3S3L35
  • Placing a mask over the original features
  • Ophelia is given instructions to which she has to comply (+no sign of revolt, of objection)

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