Sunday, September 15, 2019

Hamlet Scene 1 Act 1 Essay

Thomas Kyd is the author of the 16th Century play A Spanish Tragedy which was highly influential and introduced a new variant of tragedy that includes a ghost and a mad hero. Many subsequent works followed that developed Kyd’s original idea into the sub-genre known as revenge tragedy. A piece of literature that falls under this genre is Shakespeare’s Hamlet and in order to meet the specification to become an effective tragedy it is heavily based upon Aristotle’s criteria used to measure tragedies and Ancient works of literature such as Virgil’s Aenied. In Hamlet dialogue accomplishes a variety of things. It develops relationships but most importantly displays the hostility of the characters towards the â€Å"strange† and â€Å"gross† ghost. Shakespeare uses dialogue to describe the setting including the â€Å"cold† weather and the time so that a contemporary audience in an Elizabethan theatre would be able to imagine the scene. The description is able to evoke a mood and create and sinister atmosphere. The language used in Hamlet is dramatically intense and unfamiliar due to the use of heavily-charged words such as â€Å"harbingers† which are uncommon in both contemporary and modern vocabularies. The diction and syntax of these words are not problematic during a performance of Hamlet but can cause difficulties when studying the written script. Therefore they are used as a reflection of the inner turmoil of the characters within the play. Dialogue also contributes to the themes of the play, especially the tragic factors. The edginess of the opening dialogue immediately alarms the audience by foreboding horror therefore establishing an effective tragedy. Act I scene i is set at midnight when â€Å"’tis now struck twelve†, the traditional time for sightings of the supernatural. It is perceived that midnight has associations with chaos, death, mystery and the underworld. This increases the tragic intensity of the play by foreboding the death and chaos that is to follow as well as it evokes fear both in the characters and in the audience. The weather in act I scene i plays a major role as the â€Å"bitter cold† of winter creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and exaggerates the unnerving setting as it is both dark and freezing. The word bitter has various associations with grief and pain. This forces the audience to sympathise and pity the characters due to Shakespeare’s use of violent imagery. Winter is used to symbolise both death and loss of hope and is therefore a reflection upon the plot of the play. Throughout the scene the ghost does not engage in any conversation but instead â€Å"stalks† across the stage ignoring the other characters who demand it to â€Å"speak, speak! I charge thee speak! † Despite all best efforts made by Horatio the ghost seems unable to communicate. This adds to the sense of terror as the ghost doesn’t act human and pays no attention to any human interaction. The ghost’s presence enforces a sombre atmosphere, allowing the seriousness of the play to develop. In the 1964 Russian film versioni of Hamlet, the ghost conjures both fear of the ghost and pity towards the other characters in the audience as the ghost is dressed in a full armour suit, has shadows concealing its face and identity which is disturbing to see and the scene is directed so that the ghost appears much larger than the other characters. The intensity of the scene is exaggerated by the dramatic music used to influence the atmosphere and the large and threatening appearance of castle in the background. Similarly the Westminster School productionii of Hamlet presents the ghost as being twice the size of other characters with its face glowing an unnatural green colour. The ghost was uplifted by the other characters who echoed the ghost’s booming words. Fear is created due to the ghost’s supernatural and eerie appearance and pity is created as the other character’s acted possessed by the ghost which will ultimately add to the catharsis at the end of the play. The ghost is also thought to be ambiguous when it is firstly described as â€Å"majestical† by Marcellus and then later the ghost is thought to be â€Å"like a guilty thing†. This leaves the audience confused about the ghosts intentions as it appears ambivalent throughout this scene. Shakespeare helps develop the tragedy by creating a political background to the play. Throughout Hamlet there is a fear that Prince Fortinbras of Norway will invade Denmark which inevitably causes a tense and foreboding atmosphere. The political unrest is increased as Denmark is presented as a troubled kingdom through use of Horatio’s understanding that the ghost’s appearance â€Å"bodes some strange eruption to [the] state. † Horatio establishes a link between the ghost and the â€Å"sheeted dead† that â€Å"did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets† referring to the downfall of Julius Caesar who was killed by those he trusted similar to King Hamlet who was killed by his brother. This suggests that the ghost is an â€Å"omen† foretelling the ominous fall of Denmark which is one of the main elements of tragedy. This fulfils Aristotle’s criteria of the play revolving around an issue of great magnitude. Horatio exclaims that the sight of the ghost â€Å"harrows [him] with fear and wonder† which expresses the horror of what he has witnessed. In the Elizabethan era the word â€Å"harrow† referred to the sharp teeth of agricultural tools that would rip into the earth. Shakespeare uses this word to visualize how the ghost lacerates or distresses the feelings of those witnessing his appearance. Marcellus questions whether he should â€Å"strike [the ghost] with [his] partisan† illustrating the premonitions of the ghost as being evil. Shakespeare uses violent imagery to convey a sense of terror in order to establish the opening scene of Hamlet as a tragedy. Francisco admits to being â€Å"sick at heart† which emphasizes the mood of the play and suggests the impact the ghost has had upon the characters. The characters describe the ghost as a â€Å"thing† and refer to the â€Å"illusion† in the singular neuter pronoun, â€Å"it†, which is dehumanising and objectifying. This provides the ghost with a sense of mystery, but more importantly it reinforces the differences between the earthly matters and the supernatural element of the play. Shakespeare uses the main characters name as the title of the play to focus the audience’s attention on the tragic hero. This is similar to Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aenied both of which are ancient epic poems feature aspects of tragedy such as death, tragic flaws and the supernatural divinities. Both poems are named after the hero therefore this intertextual reference places gravitas upon Hamlet i Directed by Grigori Kozintsev ii Directed by Chris Barton. BIBLIOGRAPHY PRIMARY SOURCES Shakespeare, William, Hamlet, Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, 2008 SECONDARY SOURCES Hamlet, directed by Grigori Kozintsev, 1964 Hamlet, directed by Chris Barton, 2009 Kyd, Thomas, A Spanish Tragedy, Revels Student Editions, Manchester University Press, 1996.

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