Hamlet commentary

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Hamlet commentary

  1. 1. RaeAnne SmithSL English Y2Fitzgerald: Period 810 October 2011 Vengeance of the Ghost "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Mahatma Gandhi illustrates one of themost apparent themes in Shakespeares Hamlet, revenge, through this quote. In act 1, scene 5,Hamlet is confronted by what appears to be the ghost of his dead father. The ghost, appearingangry, explains to Hamlet his death − that he was murdered by his brother Claudius who is alsoHamlets uncle, and the current king of Denmark −and that Hamlet must avenge him. In talkingto Hamlet, the ghost uses strong negative diction and vivid imagery as well as allusions toexpress his anger and persuade Hamlet to avenge his death. Although Hamlet is skeptical, hebecomes infuriated and promises the ghost that he will get revenge for what Claudius has done tohis father. Through allusions to the Bible and biblical stories, strong diction and vivid tactile andvisual imagery in act 1, scene 5, Shakespeare illustrates the central theme of revenge in Hamlet. The ghost alludes to the Bible several times in this scene, which helps to illustrate hisupset and vengeful tone. The ghost tells Hamlet of his murder saying that he was merely"sleeping in [his] orchard" when "A serpent stung [him]" (1.5. 35-36). In this allusion to theBible, the "orchard" represents the Garden of Eden, which symbolizes peace and harmony, whilethe "serpent" represents the snake that deceived Eve, which led to their being exiled from theGarden of Eden and the first sin. The serpent symbolizes deception and betrayal, whichrepresents Claudius, for betrays and murders his own brother. The ghost continues to explain thehorror of his "foul and unnatural murder" that he encountered while he was sleeping. The ghostwas "by a brothers hand/ Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatchd" (1.5. 74-76). The ghostagain alludes to the Bible, specifically the story of Cain and Abel. The story in the Bible is of kin
  2. 2. slain, which, according to the Bible, the most severe of all the sins that can be committed.Shakespeares allusion to this story emphasizes the resentment of the ghost and the extent of theseverity of the murder that Claudius committed. Through the allusions to both the Bible storiesof Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, Shakespeare portrays the anger the ghost feels and thevengeful attitude he possesses. The ghosts fury is also expressed through negative diction, which pushes Hamlet moretowards avenging his fathers death. While the ghost describes the horrible crime that Claudiuscommitted in murdering him, he also expresses resentment towards the queen and his wife,Gertrude. He uses words such as "incestuous," "beast," "shameful,” and "traitorous" to describeGertrude (1.5. 42, 43, 45). All of these words have very negative connotations, illustrating theghosts resentment towards Gertrude for marrying Claudius. He describes Gertrude as"incestuous" because although they are not related by blood, Claudius is the ghosts brother,making Gertrude and Claudius siblings in-law. By accusing the queen of incest, the ghost revealsfeelings of disgust which then creates similar feelings in Hamlet towards his mother. The ghostalso refers to Gertrude as a "beast." By doing so, he is not only demoting her to that of an animalbut further adds to the insult by specifying the animal as a beast because it has a negativeconnotation. To describe his murder, the ghost uses the words "foul," "unnatural" and "strange"(1.5. 25, 28). As the ghost describes the awfulness of the murder he suffered, negativity is placedon Claudius as he was the one who committed the murder. The ghost employs these highlynegative words to describe his death further illustrating his anger and motive to desire revenge.His anger creates empathy in Hamlet as well, which aids the ghost in convincing Hamlet toavenge him. The diction of the passage helps to develop the tone, which illustrates the ghoststhirst for revenge.
  3. 3. Finally, the visual and tactile imagery in this passage helps to convey the ghosts desirefor revenge. The ghosts first words to Hamlet are him telling Hamlet that he must soon leave tothe "sulphrous and tormenting flames" (1.5. 2). The word "sulprous" is used to describe the heatof the "flames” that the ghost is describing. The ghost then tells Hamlet that the crimes that hehas committed must be "burnt and purgd away" (1.5.13). Those words also help to illustrate theintense heat of the flames, which suggests that the ghost is in either hell or purgatory, givingmore reason for the ghost to desire revenge. This could also suggest that the ghost is a demonbecause a good spirit would g to Heaven rather than hell or purgatory. If he is a demon, then heis disguising himself as Hamlets father and persuading Hamlet to commit sin which willcondemn him to hell. The ghost then describes "this eternal blazon" and "flesh and blood"(1.5.21-22). The visual imagery of the eternal fire, flesh and blood illustrates the terrible situationthat the ghost is in, by creating a gruesome image of hell. This again suggests that the ghost is ademon as he is describing hell. The visual and tactile imagery described by the ghost suggeststhat the ghost is only appearing to be Hamlets deceased father when he is really a servant of hell.This would mean that the ghost is trying to create anger in Hamlet to convince him to avenge thedeath of his father, preventing him from going to heaven when he dies. If the ghost is trulyHamlets father, his genuine feelings of anger are used to create empathy within Hamlet so thathe makes the decision to avenge him. The ghost effectively employs visual and tactile imagery ofhell and purgatory to create sympathy within Hamlet and sway Hamlets decision towardsagreeing to avenge his death. Shakespeare depicts the anger and vengeance that the ghost feels after his murder throughhis use of allusion, diction and imagery. This passage illustrates one of the most central themesto the play which is revenge. The passage sets the play into motion by creating the desire for
  4. 4. revenge in Hamlet, and his revenge then fuels the remainder of the Although Hamlet is unsure ofwhether the ghost is truly his father or a demon, this is not of great importance to him andHamlet goes through with killing Claudius. Although Hamlet is able to get his revenge andsucceeds in killing Claudius, he also kills Polonius and paves the way for his own downfall.

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