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In Act I what do we learn about the political and personal situation in Denmark? Hamlet.

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Introduction

In Act I what do we learn about the political and personal situation in Denmark? To understand a play fully, we must understand the setting and context in which it is set. To understand Hamlet fully, we must analyse its contextual setting through language, events and its characters. The first instance through which we begin our understanding of the social situation in Denmark is through thee first scene of Act I. immediately and economically, using fragments of conversation; he establishes a mood of anxiety and dread. ("...This bodes some strange eruption to our state") The verse does not flow. The Broken rhythms generate an atmosphere of unease, apprehension and confusion. ("...And this I take it/Is the main motive of our preparations/ The source of this our watch, and the chief head/ Of this post-haste and romage in the land." It is the fear, uncertainty, mystery, 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.' ...read more.

Middle

In a short space of time, Marcellus has seen the ghost of the old King in arms and Hamlet, the heir apparent to the Danish throne airing his suicidal tendencies. Horatio his fellow officer of the watch has similar foreboding and morbid thoughts 'This bodes some strange eruption to our state.' Primarily this would appear to be the situation of Denmark as it prepares for war with the Norwegians, but could be a prophecy similar to Marcellus's that this would bode badly for their nation state. We are again given a taster of the political situation in the first scene when the ghost of Old Hamlet appears in military attire. This is a direct link to conflict with Norway. The first scene also holds an invitation to the learned Horatio to explain Denmark's political situation to the audience. We learn how Old Hamlet has slain Old Fortinbras in battle resulting in Fortinbras' land being given to Denmark. Horatio then goes on to liken the situation in Denmark to the 'palmy state of Rome' where Julius Caesar died, and how the 'sheeted dead' did not rest, but walked the streets. There is a general feeling that something disastrous is going to occur. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is a trial of strength between Old Hamlet who belongs to a world of feudal, chivalric values and behaviour very different from the modern world of pragmatic diplomacy represented by Claudius; From this we can interpret that Denmark is going through a transitional convention-defying period. Claudius' breaking fourth commandment compelling men to work on the Sabbath, would convey to a sixteenth century audience that this was a modern pragmatic, Machiavellian King prepared to defy conventional morality. This conclusion is supported by the parallel that The Queen of England at the time was Elizabeth I. Medieval England had never seen such a powerful, intelligent, influential queen; thus defying convention and breaking down old barriers and prerequisites. In scene four we are given more of a social insight into the domestic aspect of Hamlet. In Shakespeare's day women played a small role socially, economically and politically. As a result of this, many works in literature were reflective of this diminutive role of women. Women were not allowed to perform on stage that meant that, in Elizabethan theatres, men dressed up as women and played their parts. So, female parts were kept relatively small when it came to writing plays. This could be why Shakespeare might have under developed the female role in Hamlet. In this scene, Polonius is telling Ophelia that she must avoid Hamlet and reject his affections. ...read more.

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