Diction and Imagery in Hamlet

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During the play, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the late king Hamlet appeared to his son, young Hamlet, as a ghost bearing terrible news. The ghost tells Hamlet that he was killed by Claudius, his brother and Hamlet’s uncle. Then when he was out of the way, Claudius seduced the queen. Throughout the passage, Shakespeare uses diction and imagery to help readers understand and connect with the ghost and Hamlet’s feelings of “contempt” towards the new King Claudius and Queen Gertrude.

The passage begins with the ghost. He tells that everyone was told that he was “stung” by a snake and that was the cause of his death yet that this was a lie and he says that “The serpent that did sting they father’s life now wears his crown (lines 9-10).” In this quote, the ghost has told Hamlet that the snake was really his uncle and that the truth was covered up. Shakespeare uses this choice of words to express Claudius’s manner of how he slithered to the king and killed him. This gives an image of a methodical creature that who hung in the shadows in wait of his prey. In lines 31-33, the ghost explains that it was a habit of his to go to the orchard and when he was asleep and unaware of the danger lurking, “Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch’d (line 47).” In one moment, Claudius took everything from him and like that his life on earth was over. The ghost was angry that Claudius had the nerve to violate his trust and what he held most sacred and close to his heart, his life and queen.

Hamlet began realizing that his uncle was just what he had imagined, untrustworthy and evil. In lines 15 -16, the ghost talks of Claudius and how he seduced the queen. He uses words like “witchcraft”, “traitorous”, and “wicked, to describe Claudius. The ghost believes he used these traits to win “the will of my most seeming virtuous queen (Line 18).” The phrase, “seeming virtuous queen”, is used because he feels betrayed by the one he loved the most. He believed that the...
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