To analyze the play Hamlet written by Shakespeare according to Elizabethan conventions, the paper addresses the important particularities of the scene. The part chosen for the analysis is 1.2.87-117 where King Claudius criticizes Hamlet for his continued mourning over King Hamlet. The use of honorifics, stichomythia, and imagery is discussed, as well as the aside, the motif of spying, and the overall mood of the scene will be discussed and evaluated.
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In the scene, King Claudius speaks to Hamlet explaining his disapproval of the Prince’s mourning over his father’s death. The King says, “’Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,/To give these mourning duties to your father[…]” (1.2.90-91). When addressing his words to Hamlet, Claudius does not use the honorific form “thou” but says “you” instead. In such a way, it is demonstrated that the conversation is formal and the two participants of communication keep distance.
The overall mood of the scene is marked with the King’s failure to understand the depths of Hamlet’s sorrow. The feelings of sadness and impossibility to change the rules of life lead the monologue of Claudius. He states, “’Tis unmanly grief./It shows a will most incorrect to heaven” emphasizing the inappropriate exaggeration of mourning Hamlet experiences (1.2.98-99). The second part of the king’s speech is more expressive and personal.
Here, Claudius refers to the need of those who are alive to have a new ruling person “You are the most immediate to our throne” (1.2.113). Thus, the mood of the scene is sad, marked with the necessity to face the truth of death as a part of human destiny. It is also a manifestation of the collision of two worlds: Claudius’ reality and Hamlet’s perception of the tragic events.
There is no example of stichomythia in the passage due to a broad monologue of Claudius. Also, Shakespeare does not include any eavesdropping in the scene. The imagery of the episode is reflected in the notion of death articulated by Claudius as a “common theme” (1.2.107). He refers to heaven and nature as the ruling powers of the world, which are impossible to be fought against by a human. To validate his opinion, Claudius says that “your father lost a father,/That father lost, lost his[…]” (1.2.93-94). Such words create a full description of how death is an inevitable part of human nature.
The passage contains a long monologue of King Claudius addressed to Hamlet. It is not an example of soliloquy; however, it has some characteristics of an insightful observation of the speaker’s personal experience. The author uses aside in the middle of the king’s speech to broaden the narration. References to natural laws and the inevitability of death are presented in the form of asides contributing to the overall message. Several footnotes added to the text help a reader to understand separate words according to their historical usage. They provide contextualization of the original text, simplifying complex concepts.
Concluding the discussion, in the chosen passage from the second scene of the first act of Hamlet by Shakespeare, the author uses specific elements to create a formal, sad and criticizing mood of the scene emphasizing the collision of the two opposing worlds: Claudius’ and Hamlet’s. The imagery of the scene is marked with death and its impact on the lives of people. The difference in the perception of death is included in the king’s speech. Therefore, the passage is a poetic piece remarkably delivering the message important for the whole play.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon and Schuster, 2014.