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HAMLET: ESSAY ON ACT ONE
Act one of HAMLET is an excellent introductory act. Shakespeare
establishes atmosphere, by introducing the major characters, the role of the
supernatural, the revenge plot, the love plot, and the contrast of the Fortinbras plot,
as well as Hamletís fiegned madness. Through his unique writing style,
Shakespeare sets us up for the rest of the story, and captures the readerís attention,
making him want read more.
Shakespeare establishes the atmosphere of the play, in scene I. The
scene takes place in Elsinore, on a platform before the castle. The atmosphere is
one of dark battlements, and nervous sentries, which catches the audiences attention
right away. As the bell tolls twelve on a frosty night, a silent ghost of the late King
Hamlet apperars twice. This provides one of the high points of the scene, along
with this, Shakespeare presents the reader with information, regarding the military
preparations in Denmark. All of this provides for a dark, mysterious atmosphere,
where the reader is wanting to know more. Shakesperare continues to establish
atmosphere in scene III. In this scene, atmosphere of a diferent kind is created.
This scene is a family scene, in which brotherly, and fatherly advice creates an
atmosphere quite different from that of the appearance of the ghost and the
problems of Hamlet and his relatives. This creates an atmosphere of love, and
betrayall, whereby Ophelia is forced to obey her father Polonious, and is told to be
careful with Hamlet, as he is a prince, and will not look to marry just anyone, such
as herself. Shakespeare continues to develop atmosphere throughout the act, and
uses the atmosphere to introduce some of the characters in the play.
Shakespeare introduces some of the major characters in the play, and
leaves lasting impressions of each on the reader. Bernardo, and Francisco are
introduced in the first scene, as officers watching their posts, but it is Horetio that
leaves the greatest impression, as he is described as a well educated scholar, and
seems to have great importance to the development of the play.
In scene II, Claudious, the present King of Denmark is introduced. He is the
uncle of Hamlet, and just so happens to be masrried to Hamletís mother, creating a
definate first impression. Hamlet is aslo introduced, and the impression perceived
is one of a troubled individual, who is grieving his fatherís death, and is angry at his
mother for marrying his uncle Claudious. Ophelia, Hamletís girlfriend, and the
daughter of Polonious is introduced in scene III. She is described as a rather
affectionate, but rather docile individual. All throughout act one, Hamletís dead
fatherís ghost keeps appearing, but does not speak until scene five, where it tells
Hamlet to avenge his death, and to kill his uncle Claudious. This describes
Claudiousís character, of a cold blooded murderer, and leaves a vivid picture of
what the ghost of King Hamlet, looks like, as a supernatural being. This ploy for
Hamlet to avenge his fatherís wrongful death, leads into the idea of a revenge plot.
Shakespeare develops several plots in act one of Hamlet. The main three are:
revenge, love, and contrast. The revenge plot is set up by Shakespeare in scene V.
In this scene, Hamlet is made aware for the first time, that his Uncle Claudious is
the murderer of his father, the late King of Denmark. Hamlet swears to avenge his
fatherís death. He then learns that his mother is married to his uncle, and his
disalusionment becomes even greater. Hamlet desides to confuse his enemy, and
seeks revenge for his late father, thus creating the plot of revenge. The love plot is
introduced through Ophelia, and her feelings for Hamlet. In scene III, Laertes
patronizes Ophelia, warning her to stay away from Hamlet. These warnings against
Hamlet, acquaint the reader with the romantic plot, or love plot. The other aspect of
the love plot, is the relationship of Hamlets mother Gertrude, with his uncle
Claudious. This incestful arrangement creates not only a plot of deceit, but one of
unlawful love and romance, thus contributing to the love plot. The third plot that
Shakespeare introduces in act one, is the contrast of the Fortinbras plot. This is
established on the international scene, with the dispatch of the ambassadors to
Norway, Fortinbras being the prince of Norway. All three plots, revenge, love and
contrast contribute to the depiction of Hamletís feigned madness
Hamletís plan to Feign madness creates suspense for the reader. In
scene V, Hamlet finds out that his uncle Claudious is responsible for the murder of
his father. His fatherís
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Characters in Hamlet, Prince Hamlet, Hamlet, Ophelia, Fortinbras, Ghost, Gertrude, Laertes, William Shakespeare, Critical approaches to Hamlet, King Claudius
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