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"Something have you heard of Hamlet's transformation" It is not only Hamlet who is 'transformed' - the concepts of transformation and decay are at the centre of the play both for Shakespeare's audience and for modern theatregoers - Discuss.

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Introduction

"Something have you heard of Hamlet's transformation" It is not only Hamlet who is 'transformed': the concepts of transformation and decay are at the centre of the play both for Shakespeare's audience and for modern theatregoers. Discuss. The opening scene of Hamlet is one filled with nervousness and emotional tension. Shakespeare shows this through the language of his characters. Barnardo's first line of "Who's there" followed by Francisco's reply of "Nay, answer me." reveals to the audience the agitation of the sentinels. This unstable atmosphere continues throughout the scene and the audience find out that there is a threat from Fortinbras to attack Denmark and the old king has died. Certainty dissolves into rumour showing there is also dislocation in Denmark's society "At least the whisper goes so" as the people are uncertain about what is going to happen. The play speaks of a "strange eruption" to the state and so it could be argued that Denmark has gone through a 'transformation' of political power and the state itself has changed. This is because Marcellus speaks of the 'old' Denmark and how "hallow'd and so gracious is that time" when the nights were "wholesome". The 'new' Denmark, on the other hand, is a place where the dead are restless and the future of the country is uncertain. ...read more.

Middle

Some among Hamlet's first audience would recognise this marriage as a parallel to English history. Claudius kills a king and assumes his throne. Henry VII killed King Richard III at Bosworth and founded a Tudor dynasty on a flawed pedigree. Claudius marries Gertrude his late brother's wife as Henry VIII married his brother's widow, Katharine of Aragon. Shakespeare's audience knew how England had suffered because of the immoral involvement between the royals, such as incest and murder, so they could predict that Denmark will suffer because of its king as England did. By relating his play to parts of recent history, Shakespeare relies on his audience to supply the details of what is to come. Although audiences of today have not experienced such a controversy among the royal family as in the 1600s, they would still understand how immoral the marriage between Claudius and Gertrude is and would recognise how it brings instability in the royal household and consequently the state. Although, some of those in a modern audience would see it as an affair too close too home which is likely to cause emotional distress for Hamlet rather than as incestuous. Modern audiences would also understand how the state depends on the control and stability of the royal family. If there is decay and dislocation in the royal family, the state will suffer. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shakespeare emphasises his disgust with disease imageries referring to prostitutes especially when confronted with Gertrude or Ophelia: "...you jig, you amble..." In the 'closet scene', while Hamlet speaks to his mother, his language 'transforms' once again. The words used are similar to that which a preacher uses "...for love of grace...Confess yourself to heaven...repent...virtue..." However, the greatest 'transformation' affecting Hamlet, happens when Hamlet has just returned from England. The encounter with Fortinbras' army encourages Hamlet to reflect on the nature of honour and resolves him to have bloody and impulsive thoughts: "O, from this time forth My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth." (iv.iv.65-4) Hamlet announces: "This is I, Hamlet the Dane" (v.i.251-2) And in doing so, he demonstrates that he finally understands who he is and what responsibilities he must uphold. Transformation occurs not only through Denmark but also through the characters. The closing action of the play is the removal of the bodies from "the field" and this could be seen as the finally 'transformation'. The bodies from the Denmark in which there was corruption and dislocation are removed in order to make way for a new Denmark, a Denmark for the living. Whether this final action determines a positive outcome for the state is for the audience to decide, however, the atmosphere at the end of the play contains some element of hope rather than complete despair as in the opening scene. The theme of 'transformation' therefore introduces and concludes Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. Adora Mba 17.01.2003 1 ...read more.

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