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Discuss the atmosphere created at the beginning of the play. What is its relevance to Hamlet’s state of mind?

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Marianna Kuttothara English A1 HL Mr. Mc. Bain 14/May/02 HAMLET 1. Discuss the atmosphere created at the beginning of the play. What is its relevance to Hamlet's state of mind? At the beginning of the play fear, uncertainty, mystery, gloom, tension and impending doom are key elements which create an overall negative atmosphere. The atmosphere in the first scene of Hamlet is created by both the environment and the characters of the play. It is excruciatingly cold, dark and quiet in Denmark and as a result of such a mysterious and gloomy atmosphere the characters in the first scene of the play react in such a way, that they too are a reflection of such atmosphere. " 'Tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart"1. As readers, we can sense a great deal of tension, misfortune and hesitation among the sentries who guard the castle of Denmark, a country preparing for war. We empathize with Barnardo, Marcellus and Horatio, for it is they who transmit to the readers the general atmosphere. Right from the beginning, when the play opens, Barnardo the guard emits the general atmosphere through his feelings of fear, uncertainty, tension and perhaps impending doom. The first line in the play sums these feelings up, "Who's there?"2. These first line also summarizes the question that Hamlet asks himself throughout the play. For as Hamlet goes mad, he begins loosing his ability to rationalize. He looses trust in almost every character in the play, he also looses his identity and he is often uncertain of what is going on. There are a variety of purposes for the creation of such atmosphere at the beginning of the play. Shakespeare�s aim is not only to foreshadow the state of the Castle of Elsinor by the end of the play. It is also a reflection of Hamlet's state of mind throughout the course of the play, since the castle's imprisonment is similar to Hamlet's obsession and utter confusion. ...read more.


Ophelia assures that it was Hamlet's perfection which made her fall in love with him. He was smart, a good speaker, and good swords fighter, a man of fashion etc. However due to his diametrical change, he is the complete opposite and hence he is no longer as attractive. In a few words, according to Ophelia, Hamlet was perfection personified. The change in Hamlet has been so great and so shocking that we can argue that it is during Ophelia�s realization of such change that she starts being infected by Hamlet's madness. Hamlet's change has been so great that he has traveled from two completely opposites poles. He transformed himself from rational to emotional, from unselfish to selfish, from smart to idiotic, from stable to unstable, from a man who had control over himself to a man who is lost and confused. It is from this great change within Hamlet that we learn that he has been severely affected both emotionally and psychologically by his father's death and by the marriage of his mother to Claudius. 6. Write short character sketches of the following: * Claudius Claudius, king of Denmark is Hamlet's uncle and Gertrude's husband. He is a shrewd man and a smart politician. He is able to discretely tell the people of Denmark to get over the death of their previous King and get on with their lives. "Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death the memory be green...yet so far with wises sorrow think on him together with remembrance of ourselves"11. He has been able to murder his brother, Old Hamlet without suspicion of anyone but Hamlet and as readers we can tell that he is avaricious since through his crude act he is able to marry the queen and obtain the thrown. However, Claudius is smart enough to try and stop Hamlet for morning, "'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet to give these mourning duties to your father...but to persevere in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness, 'tis unmanly grief..."12. ...read more.


As readers we can deduce that Hamlet is a pious believer of God. Therefore, by killing Claudius it, Hamlet would consciously be disobeying God's command. Hamlet wonders if he is worthy of doing such an act. Even in his soliloquy, Hamlet accuses himself of being a coward mad since he cannot get himself to kill his father's murderer. The situation is simple. Hamlet has to revenge his fathers death. However, we see that when Hamlet conscience comes into place the situation is no longer as simple as it seems. The feelings of guilt and duty clash within Hamlet, causing him to delay his actions and to truly go mad. As readers we come to deduce that perhaps Hamlet's feeling of cowardliness come because the real reason why he wants to kill Claudius is because he is jealous that Claudius married his mother, but not because his father was assassinated by Claudius. We also come to question whether Hamlet really wants to kill his Claudius. After the appearance of the ghost we come to think that Hamlet mainly wants to kill Claudius because he feels pressure from his father, rather than because the hate is driving him mad. Perhaps Hamlet can cope living alongside a man he despises without having to kill him, because the guilt would be too much for Hamlet to bare. However we wonder whether Hamlet can keep on living, knowing that he has ignored his father and let the business unfinished. The dilemma between conscience versus duty is what keeps Hamlet delayed for he cannot figure what is the right thing to do. It is his duty as a son, to do as his father wishes, but it is also his duty as a god-fearing man to keep up with God's commandments. 9. What can we deduce about events and characters before the action of the play? Before the action of the play, it is hard to come up with any concrete or reliable piece of evidence which would allow us as readers to come with certain conclusions. ...read more.

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