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Thursday, June 16, 2011

A critic has commented that this is the moment when the “ash grey surface” of Hamlet’s calm “breaks and seethes”. Using this soliloquy as a starting point, examine the ways in which Shakespeare presents Hamlet’s feelings and actions in Act 1, and the pos

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Every thought in Hamlets first soliloquy, is painful. This is the first time we see Hamlet expressing his true melancholy thoughts aloud. He wishes that he could just evaporate into the thin air, and begins by saying, O, that this too too solid flesh would melt / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! (1..1-10). Hamlet wishes that suicide wasn’t a sin, and that God did not have a law against it, “that the Everlasting had not fixed / His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter.” (1..11-1). From this, we can clearly see that Hamlet is deeply depressed, and has thoughts about taking his own life, as he is disgusted with it, and the world appears to him weary, stale, flat, and, unprofitable. (1..1). This image of corruption, and decay contributes to the Hamlet’s pessimistic mood of gloom and evil. It is very clear that Hamlet is grieving over the death of his father. Hamlet’s intensely depressive, almost desperate thoughts and feelings, “O God, God,” (1..1) are common in bereavement. He feels rejected and infuriated that everybody seems to have forgotten about his father, especially his mother, who has since married Claudius. We can see Hamlet’s feelings about the way everybody has apparently forgotten his father.


“’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,


Nor customary suits of solemn black,


Nor windy suspiration of forced breath


Write your A critic has commented that this is the moment when the “ash grey surface” of Hamlet’s calm “breaks and seethes”. Using this soliloquy as a starting point, examine the ways in which Shakespeare presents Hamlet’s feelings and actions in Act 1, and the pos research paper


No, nor the fruitful river in the eye


Nor the dejected haviour of the visage,


Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,


That can denote me truly.


(1..77-8)


In this speech to his mother, he says that one can put on different clothes, but not be able to change one’s inner feelings. Hamlet’s appearance means nothing compared to what he is feeling inside. He suggests that those who did mourn at his father’s funeral were only feigning it, because it was good etiquette to grieve, even if it was only a façade.


“These indeed seem,


For they are the actions that a man might play,


But I have within which passes show �


These the trappings and the suits of woe.”


(1..8-86)


Later on in the soliloquy, Hamlet talks about his mother’s marriage to Claudius, the new King of Denmark. This is an agonizing subject for Hamlet to talk about. Hamlet compares Claudius to his father, referring to the former as “Hyperion”, and the latter, a “satyr.” These early passages show Hamlet’s great love for his father, and the hatred of his uncle. Gertrude married about a month after the death of Old Hamlet, and, whilst she cried “Like Niobe” at her old husband’s funeral, within a month, “she married. Oh most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets.” (1..156-157). Hamlet’s mother’s sex-life clearly disgusts and outrages him, and he even hints that the marriage is incestuous. For Hamlet, his mothers marriage is as disgusting as incest, and he is sure that it is not, nor it cannot come to good. (1..158). However, perhaps because no one else sees it his way, he says I must hold my tongue. (1..15). In Elizabethan Church Law, it was forbidden to marry a brother’s wife, and an Elizabethan audience would have frowned upon this, and sympathised with Hamlet. However, to a modern audience, this doesn’t shock us as much. We can see that Hamlet doesn’t like being referred to as Claudius’s son.


“How is it that the clouds still hang on you?


Not so my lord, I am too much i’th’sun.”


It is unlikely that Claudius likes Hamlet anymore than Hamlet likes him, but he pretends to for Gertrude’s happiness. When Hamlet’s mother intervenes, it is clear that she is on Claudius’s side, as she wants Hamlet to be a friend to Denmark, (Claudius). She wants him to stop walking around as though looking for his noble father in the dust. She tells Hamlet that “all that lives must die, / Passing through nature to eternity” (1..7-7). In this passage, we sympathise with Hamlet, as his mother is patronising towards him, even though he is a fully-grown man. She tries to over-simplify death, as if Hamlet doesn’t know that everyone eventually dies. He is well aware of this, and can accept this up to a point, but he doesnt think that the fact that everyone ultimately dies, should be reason for his mother to rush from his fathers grave to his uncles bed.


Hamlet is amazed, as anyone would be, when he hears about the ghost (Elizabethans did believe in the existence of ghosts, but they didnt expect to see one.) Hamlet excitedly tries to find all the details he possibly can about it, asking exactly how the ghost looked and what it did. After he is sure that he can believe what hes being told, Hamlet declares that he will come to see it this very night, between eleven and twelve, and asks the men not to tell anyone else about what theyve seen. They then leave Hamlet alone


Once Hamlet is by himself, with just his thoughts, for the second time, he has changed mood slightly, from intense sadness, to intrigue. Although he does say “I doubt some foul play, now he doesnt seem depressed, as during his first soliloquy, as the thought of seeing his father, albeit an apparition of him, gives him hope. He feels as though he will be able to find the truth about how his father died.


When Hamlet sees his father’s apparition for the first time, he is not afraid of following it. If he dies, so be it. We have already seen him talk about suicide, and that he wished God did not have a law against it. Even though the others try and hold him back, and stop him from following the ghost, he is intent in trying to talk to it, and find out what it has to say.


“Why, what should be the fear?


I do not set my life at a pins fee;


And for my soul, what can it do to that,


Being a thing immortal as itself?


It waves me forth again Ill follow it.”


(1.4.64-6)


Hamlet is richly described throughout Act One. He is the character we most warm to, and feel sorry for. Shakespeare captures his melancholy nature very well, and this has great effect, even on a modern audience. We clearly see Shakespeare’s analysis of the impact of bereavement, which even in modern-day terms, is easy to relate to. Hamlet’s thoughts, feelings, and whole way of being are those of a bereaved son. This is not only apparent in his soliloquy, but also in his conversations with others.





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