Hamlet

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Chloe Jeffery – 2090 words
To What Extent is Act One an Effective Opening to Hamlet?

The play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare is set in the late sixteenth century. Most scenes take place in the grounds of the Danish castle at Elsinore. The story begins almost immediately with a brief yet abrupt five scene act entailing the state of affairs within the Court of Denmark. Each scene contributes to the overall exposition significantly and Act One effectively captures the interest of the audience, introduces the key characters, establishes the conflicts and creates and maintains the dominant atmosphere of the play. Act One Scene One instantly sets the atmosphere and mood for the rest of the play. The atmosphere is one of dark battlements, and nervous sentries, which catches the audience’s attention right away .The play starts off with a question “Who’s there?” This immediately creates a mysterious, uneasy atmosphere which the audience can clearly pick up and is able to establish a clear understanding of events to come. This scene effectively sets a strong mood for the events to come, gives important background information, and introduces the main characters. The first Act proves to be a vital element to understanding the play. One important task it serves is to determine the mood of the play. From the beginning of the scene, the reader is aware of the atmosphere of mistrust and uncertainty lingering in the air. When the audience are first introduced to the main characters outside the castle, they are suspiciously asking each other to identify themselves. Everyone seems to be on edge from the start, as if anticipating something. Another factor that reveals a mood of suspicion and caution is how the night is dark, the air is chilling, and the characters speak of "the bitter cold," This evokes a mood of apprehension and mystery. At one point, Francisco ends his watch thankfully because, "he is sick at heart,” which gives a sense of relief. Shortly after the atmosphere is created, the reader is introduced to the idea of a ghost, which sets a mood of dread and a disturbing atmosphere. The men speak of the ghost with great fear, and are very apprehensive to witness it again. This establishes the situation with Fortinbras and the appearances of the mysterious Ghost as points of interest and future conflict. It contributes the mood and setting to the dominant atmosphere of tragedy within the play. .  This provides one of the high points of the scene, along with this; Shakespeare presents the audience with information, regarding the military preparations in Denmark.  All of this provides for a dark, mysterious atmosphere, where the audience wants to know more. 

Shakespeare continues to establish the atmosphere in Scene Three. In this scene, an atmosphere of a different kind is created. This scene is a family scene, in which brotherly, and fatherly advice creates an ambience quite different from that of the appearance of the ghost and the problems of Hamlet and his relatives. This creates an atmosphere of love, and betrayal, whereby Ophelia is forced to obey her father Polonius, and is told to be careful with Hamlet, as he is a prince, and will not look to marry just anyone, such as herself. Shakespeare continues to develop atmosphere throughout the act. It is clear that there is conflict between the royal family. As Claudius took over the throne after King Hamlet died and married his wife, Hamlet has not learnt to accept this. Both Claudius and Gertrude have not got any sympathy for Hamlet’s grief towards his father’s death. “Good Hamlet, cast thy knighted colour off,” This quotation shows that Gertrude wants Hamlet to accept the situation and to come out of his gloom. As an audience this could be perceived as selfish and unloving which causes a dramatic affect on the family as a whole. Shortly after Hamlet leaves to follow the ghost, Marcellus and Horatio both feel that Hamlet should not be left alone with the ghost. They...
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