Moral And Psychological Atmosphere Essay, Research Paper
From its opening, the tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, plunges us into a world of mystery, intrigue and plotting. It is dark, enigmatic and yet resplendent court of Elsinor that we saunter into, a court dominated at different times by two characters. With Hamlet trying to prove Claudius’s guilt, and Claudius trying to pierce the secret of Hamlet’s madness, and using Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Ophelia, and finally Gertrude as his pawns. This makes the atmosphere more and more gloomy and tense
The play begins with the Changing of the guards on a cold winter’s night at the castle of Elsinor. The men talk about ghost that they have seen, which is the dead king of Denmark. The scene is set on a dark cold night, causing the atmosphere to be gloomy, with tension that can be felt distinctively, foreshadowing of what is to come. This is the skill with which Shakespeare evokes a mood appropriate to this tragedy.
The prince Hamlet’s first moral struggle is seen in the soliloquy. He wishes to end his life for this world has become ” weary, stale, flat and unprofitable”. It is not just the death of his beloved father and king which has reduced him to this state of despair but also the fact that his mother’s hasty marriage to his uncle Claudius. He perceives this marriage as unrighteous and is religiously wrong. This accounts for his wish to commit suicide. However according to the bible it morally incorrect, it is forbidden by the sixth of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. The question to live or to end his life is seen in another scene. “To be or not to be” This suggests that Hamlet is always in the tussle of morality.
The atmosphere of the play is steeped in the odour of corruption as well as decay. These visible elements of corruption are reinforced by numerous words and images throughout the play. One of these is ” something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” This is said by Marcellus when he saw the ghost and aware of the cause of Old hamlet’s death. This highlighted the theme of decay. Another example is when the Ghost compares Gertrude’s sin to preying on garbage. In addition Hamlet warns Polonius of the way the sun breeds maggots in a dead dog.
” For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog,
being a good kissing carrion”
It means that even the purity of the sun can causes corruption when it shines down on the carcass of a dead dog. This reinforces the idea of corruption, obsess with decay. That has tainted the atmosphere Further more hamlet compares Gertrude’s second marriage-bed to a “nasty sty”, and urge her not to “spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker”, and speaks of ” rank corruption”. Characters in the court of Denmark are polluted with corruption and the foul of decay that contribute to the atmosphere.
The nature of the relationship in the court of Denmark is such that it often contains the theme of spying, suspicions, intrigue as well as plotting. It can be explained here as Claudius and Polonius plot an attempt to trap Hamlet despite the fact that they are actually close relative. The theme of spying and plotting is even reinforced by our knowledge that even while Polonius and Claudius are plotting to test hamlet, they themselves or rather Claudius is falling into Hamlet’s trap by directly accepting Hamlet’s invitations to attend the play without a moment of hesitation or suspicious. This suggests that plotting is a means of survival skills in order to stay alive in the court of Denmark. It is also an irony that Hamlet is able to see through Claudius??s pathetic plot the moment he sees Ophelia with a book, which is given by Claudius as a means of deceiving Hamlet. It also suggests Claudius’s cleverness in plotting. Here Claudius unwittingly walked into hamlet’s “mouse trap” and got snared. It is thus this double plotting and the mighty opposites that increase the tension in the play, increased our anticipation of what is to come. The intensification of intrigue in the play is leading the audience to realize the political games that are being played by both sides as each attempted to catch the other out. They also brought us to another dramatic concern, which is to bring us to the knowledge of the court of Denmark. Because of the spying, plotting, we are being made to realized or reminded that the court despite being royalty and grandeur is actually closer to the baser nature of human being. It is thus reminds that royalty and status does not bring with it moral. Instead, the danger at the court, made one almost constantly struggling with one’s moral values and the need to continued existence. The spying and intrigue in the scene also enable us to contrast the present Elsinor with Claudius as king and Elsinor of the past when old Hamlet as the king. It seems that the context of the court has change with the change of the king. Now it is spying and plotting in order to catch the enemy out. Something indeed is lacked between relationship and in the court of Denmark, as the king’s morality gets diseased.
However a genuine spark of maternity is seen a relationship in the court of Denmark; which is the queen’s concern for her son Hamlet. Firstly, she directly expressed concern for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as with regard to Hamlet. This can also be viewed as an indirect question about Hamlet’s well being, since any “abnormal” behaviors are forwarded his two most- trusted friends who will hint at some kind of trouble. The queen’s concern for Hamlet is confirmed in her second question, which is directly in the subject of Hamlet’s well being. It is thus the queen mother’s maternity is most self-expresses here through her anxiety about Hamlet. Even thought hamlet is not present in this particular scene but Shakespeare manages to let Gertrude exert her maternal instincts here with respect to, of course Ophelia (who conveniently has no mother thus allowing Shakespeare to conveniently hand the motherly role to Gertrude). Here the Queen expresses most directly and sincerely a hope that Ophelia is the root cause of Hamlet’s “seeming” madness.
“And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
That your good beauties be the happy cause
Of hamlet’s wildness. So shall I hope your virtues
Will bring him to his wonted way again
To both your honours.”
Here, the queen is hoping as in the previous paragraph to “unite” the “family”, to hope for a happy ending, to end the family troubles. Therefore Gertrude here express her need for a complete and happy family through her hopes of curbing hamlet’s wildness through perhaps marriage to Ophelia. It can also be said that Gertrude is also aware of hamlet’s difficulties in coping with her re-marriage.
This brings us to a more cynical view of Gertrude in the sense that the reason why she hoped that Ophelia will be the cause of Hamlet’s wildness will be that she might not be willing or dare not face up to the fact that the actual cause that leads to Hamlet’s madness is actual her incestuous remarriage to Claudius.
“She married. -O, most wicked speed to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheet”
By this, it is consistent with the more cynical view of Gertrude that the most condemnable thing about the queen is her lack of guilt regarding the act of her adultery, thus it is actually her own selfish, intentions that cause hope to hope that Ophelia is the cause and not her own incestuous marriage. Therefore we can say that a tinge of selfishness has manifested the relationship between mother and son in the court of Denmark. However whichever view might to take, the queen is genuinely concerned and anxious about her son and it is this maternal act that redeems her most of all in our eyes.
The nature of relationship between Polonius and Ophelia is also tainted with plotting. Ever since compelled by her father Polonius, to repel Hamlet’ affections, Ophelia’s will power and even sanity has been steadily going down hill. Hence Ophelia has become the pawn in the king’s game to test hamlet’s madness. She is told to put on an act of reading a book which is so superfluous that in the next line Hamlet appear, he sees through it immediately and sense that the king and Polonius are hiding somewhere watching the whole conversation thus prompting Hamlet to ask ” where is your father?” It is thus Ophelia’s image of the sacrificial lamb, the unknowing victim, the helpless pawn being manipulated in a political game, it is show here as Polonius his own father and the King dictated her every movement. And we can also see that Polonius’ old usual self here by professing to know all about the whole affair and even in his ridiculous absurd suggestion of the book reading act which have been mentioned earlier, does not take in hamlet the slightest bit.
However if will be very unfair to simply state that Polonius is just making use of Ophelia. A touch of parent kindness is seen in the Nunnery scene when Hamlet asks Ophelia to go to the nunnery. Polonius must have known that Ophelia would be hurt and embarrassed by Hamlet’s speech. Therefore Polonius said
“You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said;
We heard it all”
This is perhaps out loyalty of his daughter, and a kind of kindness to avoid any embarrassment. Therefore their relation is not totally manifested by making use and being made use of.
Here is perhaps one and only one relationship in the court of Denmark that is not tainted by any political struggle, which is between Hamlet and Horatio. Their relationship is out of genuine friendship. Hamlet has openly praised and shows his admiration for Horatio, saying that he had not met anyone like him.
“Horatio, thou art e’en just a men
As e’er my conversation coped withal.”
The tone he speaks to Horatio is very different to the other character like Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In fact it is a stark contrast between the character of Horatio and the rest of the people in the court of Denmark. He is the only one who did not spy on him. Unlike Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who later betrayed Hamlet’s friendship or rather being manipulated by King Claudius to spy on Hamlet. An irony can also bee seen in Rosencrantz speech, ” My most dear lord!” we know that these two men will betray hamlet. This again further reinforced the idea of spying which is the ominous indication in the nature of relationship in the court of Denmark.
In conclusion, the moral and psychologically atmosphere is that is often contains moral uncertainties as well as tense and danger. Spying and plotting has manifested relationship in the court of Denmark.