Advanced English Notes-Hamlet

Topics: Hamlet, Elizabethan era, Tom Stoppard Pages: 11 (3183 words) Published: May 13, 2012
Hamlet and RAGAD
Summary Notes


Themes- fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a text.

Motifs- Recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform a responder of the texts major themes.

Symbols- Objects, character, figures or colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Caesura- Expectant atmospherical pause.

Dichotomy- The division into two different views.

Values- Qualities or characteristics which underpin the behaviour and attitudes of a society.

Humanism- Intellectual movement in which man is regarded as the centre of the universe with no dependence on a divine being. Incorporates a sense of individualism, and ultimately, the dispense of God.

The Renaissance- Time of cultural upheaval in the 15th century that sparked a renewed interest in the arts.

Traditional, established religion on the other hand gives it’s followers a ready-made value system and direction in life.

The distinctive atmosphere of HAMLET is due to recurring imagery of sickness, disease and corruption that in turn reflects the state of Denmark. E.g. “the very air stinks.”

Shakespeare’s world was caught between the two conflicting philosophies of established religion dominated by the Church and the ‘new age’ humanist viewpoint that wished to explore man and his place in the world. Shakespeare created HAMLET as a product of his time- a philosophical examination of the issues that preoccupied his context.

Values in HAMLET are those present in Shakespeare’s Elizabethan context: A chivalric code, knowledge and education, belief in the Great Chain of Being and religious values of the dominant religion (Christianity) such as divine right of king, sanctity of life, humility, truth, compassion, sexual purity, etc etc. Basically anything that was deemed to be “God-pleasing”.

These values are presented in HAMLET through the use of dramatic techniques (eg soliloquy, irony), dramatic conventions such as those of Seneca, Aristotelian tragedy, revenge tragedy, plot, characterization, themes, language, etc.

Melancholia- Mood of non-specific depression characterized by low levels of enthusiasm; Hamlet is known as the “melancholy man”, his meditations and obsessive nature towards death, etc.

Hamlet’s questioning of life and death might also be deemed irreligious in the sense that traditional religion already claims to have the answers. Hamlet held many ideals that suggested he was a humanist.

Hamlet’s first soliloquy’s (“O that this too too solid flesh would melt”) prime function is to reveal is melancholia and the reasons for his despair. He explains that everything in his world is futile or contemptible, in an outpour of disgust, anger, sorrow and grief. Use of contrast and juxtaposition is significant.

Action vs. procrastination (the role of rationality in Hamlet’s life)- “He is the prince of philosophical speculators; His ruling passion is to think, not to act..”

Dialectic- Debate/ discussion which seeks to resolve conflict between two opposing theories.

Stichomythia- Characters speaking in alternate lines.

Revenge- Hamlet must avenge his father’s death to not only return the Great Chain of Being to proper order but also to express his filial obligation. His paralysis might be perceives to be a strength rather than a flaw since it designed to explore his innermost soul – “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all”.

The minor characters of Ros and Guil in HAMLET play a role defined by others- e.g. their friendship with Hamlet. They have interchangeable personalities.

Claudius must be punished for disturbing the Great Chain of Being- “Where the offence is, let the great axe fall”. He is prepared to sacrifice Gertrude at play’s end to protect himself and thus fails he final test of character. At the play’s end Gertrude calls to her son rather than to her...
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