Explanatory notes below for Act 1, Scene 1 From Macbeth.
Intellectual, self-reflective, alienated, and seemingly paralyzed by doubts about both himself and the circumstance in which he is called upon to act as an agent of revenge, Hamlet has come to be considered the quintessential modern hero.
For the subject of his drama, Shakespeare turned to a story already popular in English theaters; at least two earlier productions of the sad tale of the Danish prince had appeared in London playhouses.
Most of these were bloody spectacles in which almost every character dies in the final act. The body-strewn stage in act 5 of Hamlet continues this tradition, as does the central action of the drama: The central dramatic interest in the play is the character of its hero.
The prince feels he must delay his revenge, however, until he is certain Claudius is guilty. Much is made of the mother-son relationship; Hamlet spends considerable time trying to convince his mother that she has made a mistake in marrying Claudius.
Only when she finally comes to accept his view that the new king is somehow guilty does Hamlet decide to act. His decision is precipitated by several other actions as well, most notably the efforts of his supposed friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to have him killed.
Many critics have observed that Hamlet is really too sensitive to effect the revenge that he intends. He is by nature melancholic, possessing a fatalistic disposition that borders on the suicidal.
His most famous soliloquy focuses on the virtue of ending his life. Viewing the world as a place where things are seldom as they seem, he spends a good portion of his time trying to sort appearance from reality.
He invents various devices to help illuminate the truth, such as his elaborate arrangement for a dumb show that will re-create the murder of his father in the presence of Claudius to try to make the king reveal his guilt. Hamlet is not satisfied simply to take vengeance on his uncle clandestinely; he wants Claudius to admit his guilt.
Early in the play, his inactivity can be attributed to his lack of assurance that Claudius is guilty. Were he to kill the new king without justification, he would be seen as no better than a murderer himself, and no good would come of his action. Such casuistry has been reason for several critics to claim that Shakespeare is simply drawing out the drama until the final catastrophe.
By the final act, Hamlet has become totally fatalistic. In the final scene, all of the principals meet their end—and almost all by some mischance of fate. Despite the resounding encomium pronounced over the body of the slain prince, the bleak ending offers little encouragement for an audience who has witnessed this great tragedy.
Surprisingly, however, the ending seems justified, in that order has been restored to the Danish kingdom, although won at a terrible price.
Such is the lesson of most great tragedies, and Hamlet ranks with the very best examples of the genre.Previous post Poem Analysis of "Fra Lippo Lippi" by Robert Browning: The Theme & Meaning of Celibacy Next post Elements of Romanticism in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Act 1, scene 5 Summary: Act 1, scene 5. In the great hall of the Capulets, all is a-bustle. The servants work feverishly to make sure all runs smoothly, and set aside some food to make sure they have some enjoyment of the feast as well.
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Complete summary of George Orwell's eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of Prince Hamlet has been summoned home to Denmark to attend his father's funeral.
One night, a Ghost reveals itself to Hamlet, claiming to be the ghost of Hamlet's father, the former king. The Ghost.