A perfect picture: a King and Queen in love, an intelligent son worthy of
becoming King, and a happy Nation, content with their rulers. It seems nothing
could go wrong, until a tragedy occurs within the castle walls. This tragedy is
so extreme that it breaks the whole royal family apart, and causes the young
prince to go “mad.” Or does it? We begin Shakespeares Hamlet after the
tragedy has occurred. King Hamlet was the ruler of Denmark and the father of
As the king was taking a nap in the garden, his brother, Claudius,
poured poison in his ear. After King Hamlet died, Claudius became king. Im
not totally sure why young Hamlet did not become the king, but I think it was
because he was a little too young. This is where Hamlet begins. After his
fathers death, Hamlet dresses in black all the time, and is very depressed.
He is not only upset about his fathers death, but he is also disappointed in
Queen Gertrude goes through almost no mourning period for her
husband, and quickly marries Claudius. While Hamlet mourns, Horatio leads him to
a ghost that keeps appearing outside the castle. This ghost seems to be his
father, and it tells Hamlet that his death had in fact been murder, and that the
new King of Denmark was the murderer. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s
life now wears his crown,” (I.v.38-39).
Astonished by this news, Hamlet swears
vengeance for his fathers death. Hamlet is a very smart person. We learn, at
the beginning of the play, that he is just coming back from a university in
Wittenberg. Throughout the play, all Hamlet wants to do is go back to the
university. His education causes him to have a questioning attitude, which plays
a huge role in the whole play. Since he is a scholar, Hamlet is more likely to
think things through, rather than act immediately.
He contemplates every action,
prepares for the reaction, and also weighs the consequences. When the ghost
presents Hamlet with the information about his fathers death, he quickly
begins to wonder whether he should believe the apparition, or not. When Claudius
sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlets friends, to try and find the
cause for his sons madness, Hamlet quickly turns the table and finds out his”friends” real intentions. Hamlet instructs them to report to Claudius that
he is upset with the whole situation, and that he senses something is foul in
Denmark. Hamlet has the ability to manipulate, and see through people. He uses
this power to “perform” throughout the whole play.
Right after seeing the
ghost, Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus not to let anyone know that he is
pretending to be mentally deranged. “Here as before, never, so help you mercy,
how strange or odd someer I bear myself,…that you, at such times seeing me,
.know aught of me this do swear,” (I.v.169-179). This
brilliant scheme will provide Hamlet with the ability to perform very strange
and unusual acts, and will not be questioned for it. If he randomly starts
accusing people of murder, or if he interrupts a big dinner, or if he says
things that are very inappropriate, nobody will realize what his true intentions
are, because they will think that he is crazy.
Hamlet uses this scheme to pursue
his revenge on Claudius. Revenge causes one to act through anger, rather than
reason. It is based on the principle of, “An eye for an eye.” This is what
Hamlet wants; to avenge his fathers death, by killing Claudius. Hamlet
decides to change a play that will be performed in front of the King and Queen.
He changes it, so it is a reenactment of Claudius killing King Hamlet.
the play is being performed, Hamlet will watch for Claudius reaction to it.
If Claudius starts getting squirmy or uneasy, Hamlet will know for sure that
Claudius did, in fact, kill his father. Hamlet would probably take any little
movement by Claudius as a confession of guilt, because he is so angry about his
fathers death, and wants revenge very badly. This is why he tells Horatio,
“I prithee, when thou sees that act afoot, even with the very comment of thy
soul observe my uncle. If his occulted guilt do not itself unkennel in one
speech, it is a damned ghost that we have seen, and my imaginations are as foul
as Vulcans stithy,” (III.ii.
80-86). This is a great example of Hamlet using