The Effectiveness Of The Opening To Hamlet
Essay, Research Paper
Hamlet is launched extremely well because there is no long drawn out introduction to the plot. The story begins almost immediately with a brief yet concise 5-scene Act entailing the state of affairs within the Court of Denmark. Each scene contributes to the overall exposition significantly and Act 1 effectively captures the interest of the audience, introduces the key characters, establishes the conflicts and creates and maintains the dominant atmosphere of the play.
In Act 1 ? Scene 1, the audience is instantly shocked into interest by the exchange of short, sharp speeches between the very nervous sentries of the castle. What follows is the audience?s discovery of the frequenting appearance of a Ghost and the sentries? plans to have Horatio, a scholar, attempt to communicate with it. The setting for this scene is atop a castle, resting upon cliffs high above the ocean. It is midnight, creating a more sinister atmosphere, apt for following story and the medieval time period to which it is set. When the ghost finally appears to Horatio and the others, the audience discovers through their inferences that the ghost has a strong likeness to the late King Hamlet of Denmark. The conversation that follows gives the audience a brief understanding of the current situation in Denmark, involving the details of preparations for war and revelations of conflict with Fortinbras of Norway.
Scene 1 therefore serves as part of a good exposition in that it: Captures the interest of the audience with the short stabs of nervous speech between the sentries, It introduces the characters of the Ghost, the sentries (Marcellus, Barnardo, Francesco) and Horatio, It establishes the situation with Fortinbras and the appearances of the mysterious Ghost as points of interest and future conflict, And it contributes through mood and setting to the dominant atmosphere of tragedy within the play.
Scene 2 jumps to within the castle, where the court mourning for King Hamlet has seemingly just finished and the newly appointed King Claudius is apparently making his first address to his nobility. During this gallant speech, the audience becomes informed that Claudius has married Hamlet?s mother, Gertrude, rather hastily after King Hamlet?s death ? attention is then drawn to Hamlet, still in deep mourning for his father.
He drifts into a soliloquy where he contemplates the act of suicide rather than go on under these ?difficult? conditions. After Horatio, backed by 2 others, describe the ghost they have seen to him, Hamlet drifts into another soliloquy where he this time he briefly voices that since his father?s spirit has come in armour ? there has been some foul play.
Scene 2 therefore serves as part of a good exposition in that it: Captures the interest of the audience with new characters throwing light on the situation in Denmark as well as on Hamlet himself – making the audience yearn for more information about what is going on, especially at the close of the scene where Hamlet comes to the conclusion that there is something suspicious about, It introduces new and important characters such as Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes and Hamlet and provides a brief look at their outer personalities, It provides more insight into the conflict hints at the underlying conflict between Hamlet and the newly married couple as well as the conflict within Hamlet himself, And it contributes to the dominant tragic atmosphere mainly due to Hamlet?s soliloquies which provide insights into the workings of his mind and hint at his imminent, tragic demise.
Scene 3 brings the audience into the midst of a seemingly ?typical? family of the Court of Denmark, being Polonius? family. This scene introduces Ophelia and brings notice of the love affair between her and Hamlet to the audience. It also shows the running of this family environment, where Polonius and Laertes give constant, stern ?advice? to Ophelia who remains ever so obedient. The setting provides much needed relief and contrast to the mystery and extreme seriousness of the first 2 scenes.
Scene 3 can be said to serve as part of a good exposition in that it: Captures the attention of the audience with their realisation that Polonius and Laertes are not who they appear to be to the court ? in fact they both are vain, domineering and arrogant men which raises the question of who in the play is really being ??true to thyself?, It introduces the character of Ophelia who is a sweet and innocent young girl of interest to Hamlet, It surfaces the conflict between Ophelia and Polonius/Laertes as well as their negative underlying sentiments of Hamlet, And it contributes to the dominant tragic atmosphere with the revelations that Hamlet?s ?friend? Laertes as well as his supposed love interest Ophelia aren?t entirely true to him leading to questioning of who is loyal to Hamlet? and what is going to happen to him?
Scene 4 takes the audience back to the setting of scene 1, where this time Horatio and Marcellus wait with Hamlet for the appearance of the ghost. When it appears, Hamlet is startled at first, but soon composes himself and follows the ghost to learn of what it knows and hear what it has to say. Marcellus gives the famous remark ?Something is rotten in the state of Denmark? to virtually close the scene.
This scene, although rather brief, serves well as part of a good exposition in terms of captivating the audience within the story. The main purpose of the scene is to create the necessary suspense leading up to the ghost?s astonishing message. The tragic atmosphere is built-up with the underlying impression of gloom and doom about, due to the presence of the ghost and its mysterious message. There are no characters to introduce in the scene, nor new lines of conflict to mention. This leaves the scene?s aims to merely be to capture the audience?s attention and to contribute to the dominant tragic atmosphere of the play, both of which are successfully achieved in the scene.
Scene 5 is the key scene of the plot. You would deduce that all of Hamlets subsequent actions in the rest of the play stem from this scene. The ghost signifies sufficiently to Hamlet that it is his father. It then clearly announces the guilt of Claudius in his death and in marrying his wife ? Claudius having murdering his own brother thus obtaining the crown and Gertrude. The ghost describes how the murder was performed and implies a plan for revenge to Hamlet involving the feigning of insanity.
This scene serves as part of a good exposition in that it deeply captures the attention of the audience with the stunning revelations of Claudius? deceit and betrayal of his own blood. The conformation that the ghost is Hamlet?s father is what first grabs the audience?s attention. The expos? that follows ensures their captivation within the plot. The scene establishes the impending conflict that will occur between Hamlet and Claudius later on in the play, due to the light that the ghost has just thrown upon Claudius? integrity. The scene contributes to the dominant tragic atmosphere in that there is the realisation that seeing as Hamlet is now on a quest for revenge, there is only one way in which it can end ? death, which is tragic in itself, but made out to be more so in the play.
Act 1 effectively captures the interest of the audience, introduces the key characters, establishes the conflicts and creates and maintains the dominant atmosphere of the play. Each of the 5 scenes contribute significantly to the overall exposition which launches the play extremely well.