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How does Shakespeare create and maintain our interest in Act One of Hamlet?

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How does Shakespeare create and maintain our interest in Act 1 of Hamlet? Before we can think about the ways in which Shakespeare's writing creates and maintains the reader's interest, one of the immediate things we notice about the first act is how the content differs from what was 'the normal'. Hamlet is a 'royal tragedy', during the time in which the play was written this was a popular genre and plays in this genre always began with a bustling court scene. Shakespeare has grabbed the audience's attention immediately by starting the play with the 'changing of the guard' and saving the court scene until Scene II. So as we can see before we even consider the language used by Shakespeare, the content of the first scene is the first grabbing point for the audience. Act one of Hamlet is a fantastic introductory act because he captures the audience's attention in several ways. He does this by introducing major characters, the role of the supernatural, the revenge plot, the love plot, the contrast of Fortinbras' plot and lastly Hamlet's alleged madness. ...read more.


Shakespeare continues to develop the atmosphere throughout the act, and uses the atmosphere to introduce some of the main characters in the play. Shakespeare introduces some of the major characters in the play, and leaves lasting impressions of each with the reader. Bernardo and Francisco are introduced in the first scene, as officers watching their posts, 'Enter Francisco, a sentinel, who stands on guard. Enter Barnardo, to relieve him'. However, it is Horatio that leaves the greatest impression with the reader as he is described as a well educated scholar. In Scene II Claudius, the present King of Denmark is introduced, 'Flourish of Trumpets. Enter Claudius, King of Denmark, Gertrude the Queen, Prince Hamlet.' He is Hamlet's Uncle and married to his Mother, therefore creating a definite first impression. Throughout Act 1, Hamlet's dead father's ghost keeps appearing, but does not speak until Scene V, where it tells Hamlet to avenge his death, and to kill his Uncle Claudius, 'Haste, haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge'. ...read more.


Hamlet's last words in Scene V illustrate his despair, 'O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!' but he is determined to avenge his father's death. This creates suspense for the reader, as it leaves them wanting to know what will happen to Claudius and how Hamlet will deal with the situation presented. Shakespeare uses the suspense throughout the Act as a tool to keep the reader interested in what is to come, and he does this very effectively. In Act One, Shakespeare combines atmosphere, development of character, plot structure and madness, in order to set the stage for the rest of the play to come. Act One is an excellent introductory act, in that it provides enough information to enable the audience to understand the situation and to keep them interested, and wanting to read more. In five short scenes, Shakespeare writes act one of Hamlet in such a way, that it captures the reader's attention, and using the tools of foreshadowing, he makes his audience urge to know and read more. ?? ?? ?? ?? Michela Bailey ...read more.

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