How Does Act One of Hamlet Shape Your Understanding of the Main Concerns of the Play?

Topics: Monarchy, Mandate of Heaven, Sovereignty Pages: 2 (715 words) Published: June 20, 2013
In the interactions of characters, Shakespeare’s Hamlet examines fundamental characteristics of society which can result in moral ambiguity for both the characters and the audience. In a time of transition between the traditional church led tenets and the emerging Renaissance humanist views, the title character is related to other characters to explore the notions of corruption, loyalty and love. Contrastingly, it is also in the rejection of others and isolation of Hamlet that questions as the nature of life is unravelled. Indeed, whilst the world of Hamlet may appear unfamiliar to a 21st century audience it is the examination of such intrinsic qualities of humans that remains pertinent.

Corruption is established as a main thematic concern of Hamlet from the opening and continues throughout the play. On a political level, corruption is explored through the dissolute nature of the Danish court. This reflects the contextual concerns of Shakespeare’s world with the belief in the Divine Right of Kings. This idea believes that a monarch is subject not to earthly authority but derives his right to rule directly from the will of God. Thus, in having a king that has not been given the right from God, but rather took it and is corrupt there would be a corrupt country- as Denmark is established to be from Act One.  Through the imagery of nature in a degenerated state such as an “unweeded garden” the idea of corruption in the kingdom is established. Such imagery continues throughout the play and Denmark becomes synonymous with a state of decay. The Jacobean thoughts suggest that the nation reflects a ‘diseased body’ because a state has the wrong king and thus the natural order is unbalanced. Further, moral corruptION is set up in Act One through the character of Claudius and establishes the theme for the later exploration for the moral corruptness of Hamlet. That is, in Act One, the catalyst for Hamlet to become morally corrupt occurs. Moral corruption is most obviously...
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