Hamlet Assignment: Act One
In the beginning of the play, the reader is introduced to the disorder in Denmark, a prevalent motif. The mysterious death of the king spurred the disorder, and the prospect of revenge was magnified by the supposed appearance of the late King Hamlet’s ghost. The ghost’s appearance and subsequent speech intensify the disorder by validating the reader’s suspicion of Claudius as a murderer and an incestuous, adulterous serpent.
Hamlet is torn by this revelation, and responds with justified drama. Thus far Hamlet had a few reasons to hate Claudius; the ghost’s message emboldened everything he had suspected and even added to it. Previously in Act One, Hamlet had criticized Claudius for a few major grievances: for being opportunist upon the death of his father by marrying his newly widowed mother in order to seize the throne instead of Hamlet, for not properly mourning the king by waiting just a month to take his wife, and for acting like an animal by behaving in an incestuous and lustful manner. By playing on many of the same metaphors as Hamlet and bringing forth new claims too, the ghost- whose word the reader takes as truth- bolsters Hamlet’s claims.
In the ghost’s rhetoric, Claudius is an unnatural, murderous “serpent”.(sc. 5 ln. 43) As a “fat weed,” his parasitic nature is apparent and matches Hamlet’s assessment of the situation as an “unweeded garden.” (sc. 5 ln. 39) (sc. 2 ln. 139) Later, the ghost goes on to describe “lewdness” courting “virtue” in Claudius’ despicable new relationship.(sc. 5 ln. 60-1) To Hamlet and the ghost, the new union is an embodiment of evil though it holds an honorable, royal position. The royal bed is now a couch for luxury and incest. (sc 5. ln.89-90) The queen has been corrupted by “wicked wit and gifts” and succumbed by what almost sounds like magic. (sc. 5 ln. 51) This too plays on the motif of unnatural existence in “Hamlet” as exemplified by the ghost.
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