In the opening two scenes of the play explore how Shakespeare puts you inside the mind and heart of Hamlet himself.

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Katie Costaras


In the opening two scenes of the play explore how Shakespeare puts you inside the mind and heart of Hamlet himself.

        The opening scenes of a play are always vitally important. They must grasp the attention of the reader, arouse interest and expectation.

        In Hamlet, the play’s beginning is extremely effective, as there is a dramatic purpose to the first and second scene, and this will help us to explore how Shakespeare puts us inside the mind and heart of Hamlet himself.

The first scene is dominated by the appearance and reappearance of a Ghost to night watchmen. We are informed that the Ghost is that of Hamlet’s father, the late King of Denmark. The night watchmen ask Horatio, Hamlet’s friend, to investigate the Ghost’s appearance in the hope that he, as a learned man, will have an explanation for the apparition. Horatio witnesses the presence of the Ghost, and decides to relate the event to Hamlet.

After the first scene, the reader expectantly awaits Horatio’s encounter with Hamlet and events that may unfold in scene two.

        Shakespeare’s effectiveness in enabling the reader to become in harmony with the mind and heart of Hamlet is achieved by the clever use of language. One method of achieving this is by the use of the “aside” and this occurs the first time Hamlet is introduced into the play.

        His aside follows the comment made by Claudius, who says,

‘But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son’.

Hamlet takes offence to these words. He does not see his uncle as a father figure, and despises the fact that Claudius has snatched the title of King from him, and married his mother. Bitterly, Hamlet retorts to this comment by saying aside, ‘ little more than kin, and less than kind’.

This aside allows the audience to delve inside Hamlet’s mind, and find out his true feelings towards Claudius. Hamlet acknowledges that although Claudius is his uncle and stepfather, he has no feelings of kindness, affection, or respect towards him, and views him with contempt.

        This aside is a means for Hamlet to communicate directly with the audience. He turns aside from the action on stage and speaks to the audience. This aside is very short, and although there are other characters in the scene, they are not aware of what the audience is told. These words give the audience more knowledge than characters on stage, and makes us feel like friends and confidantes. This is used to great effect, as it is a puzzling and enigmatic comment. It is possible to interpret what Hamlet said about Claudius as a derogatory comment, or perhaps in another light, as not so insulting, but merely sarcastic.  

        Shakespeare also allows us to see inside Hamlet’s mind and heart, by the conversations he has with his mother and Claudius. Hamlet’s words often convey his feelings towards the other characters in the play.

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        When Hamlet talks to Claudius, whom he immensely dislikes, he often says very short, snappy, sarcastic remarks to display his feelings of resentment towards this character. For example, when Claudius says to Hamlet, ‘How is it that the clouds still hang on you?’, Hamlet retorts with the pun, ‘ Not so, my lord, I am too much I’th’sun’. Shakespeare deliberately makes Hamlet’s language witty, mocking, and weapon-like. The use of the word ‘sun’, having the same sound but different meaning to the word ‘son’, adds greater depth to Hamlet’s characterisation.                     ...

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