How does Shakespeare use linguistic and dramatic devices to introduce the character of Hamlet in Act 1? Hamlet is first introduced in Act 1Scene 2 by Claudius; “But now my cousin Hamlet, and my son – ” There is the use of a dramatic hyphen which emphasises the significance of the entrance of Hamlet, as well as the use of a paraprosdokian sentence which surprises the audience and potentially causes them to try and reinterpret what has been said.
Claudius’ sentence could also be interpreted as a futile attempt at ingratiating himself to the bitter Hamlet through the emphasising of family and familiarity in the rhetorical appellative. The first time Hamlet speaks in the play is after the above sentence by Claudius; Shakespeare’s use of an aside immediately reveals the sarcastic, witty and deviant nature of Hamlet while also foreshadowing the inevitable rapport the audience will soon develop with the prince. “A little more than kin, and less than kind” is incorporated by Shakespeare to illustrate the forthcoming complexities in Hamlet’s speech. Kind” has multiple potential meanings, it could be considered to be Hamlet’s way of saying Claudius is not a direct blood relative ‘of the same kind’, he could be referring to his own resentment to the King for his hasty and inconsiderate marriage of the queen, or he could even be using the word ‘kind’ to portray Claudius’ unnatural desire for his sister in law (kind meaning natural in this scenario). Subsequently, Claudius portrays Hamlet as a melancholic character with a clouded disposition through Shakespeare’s use of figurative language “How is it that clouds still hang on you? Conversely, Hamlet portrays himself again as a character of wit and humour by responding to Claudius’ condemnatory statement with the use of a ‘pun’ on the word sun/son in “I am too much in the sun”. Moreover, Gertrude reiterates Claudius’ representation of Hamlet as a morose being, “cast thy nighted colour off” and “vailed lids”, Shakespeare uses imagery in the words ‘nighted’ and ‘vailed’ to emit a sense of foreboding gloom in Hamlet’s character.
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This presentation of Hamlet is again contrasted by Hamlet’s own speech in lines 76-86; Shakespeare’s use of polysyndeton within the speech through the word ‘nor’ creates the impression of a powerful and dominating speaker. This first significant speech from Hamlet also contains Shakespeare’s use of metaphor: “inky cloak”, this symbolises Hamlet’s temperament and he later goes on to explain how his exterior self closely resembles his interior thoughts (potentially juxtaposing Hamlet in later scenes when he puts on an antic disposition).
Hamlet’s first soliloquy is seething with Shakespeare’s linguistic and dramatic devices. The repetition of the word “too” shows Hamlet’s desperation, while “solid flesh would melt” and “canon ‘gainst self slaughter” symbolises his self-depreciating condition and desire for a ‘liquid state’ of being; so that he can be free from earthly responsibilities. Furthermore, one could suggest that the line “Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon ‘gainst self slaughter” reveals that Hamlet is a character of conflict, conflict between his irrational thoughts and his moral conscience.
Shakespeare’s use of rhetoric listing in “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable” deepens the ominous atmosphere further and demonstrates the strength in Hamlet’s feelings. The use of a false start and caesura in “But two months dead ??? nay not so much, not two ???” hyperbolises his anger over the hastiness of his mother’s marriage and potentially this unnatural relationship is being juxtaposed with the previous references to nature “Fie on’t, ah fie, ’tis an unweeded garden That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature”.
The “unweeded garden” may also be Shakespeare’s metaphor for the world, and “things rank and gross in nature” may represent man, if this was to be true then this would mean Hamlet is being presented as a character who is contemplating the society around him; a character of ‘Weltschmerz’. After Hamlet has announced the cause of all his misery in “That it should come to this! ” his speech becomes fragmented and he repeatedly topic shifts, this denotes his interior confusion and perhaps foretells the forthcoming hesitancy of his character.
Shakespeare uses the comparison of “Hyperion to a satyr” to show Hamlet’s fondness of his late father while also showing his aversion for Claudius by dehumanising him; this also presents Hamlet as an intellectual through his elevated lexis. The line “frailty, thy name is woman” might have been used by Shakespeare to indicate Hamlet’s misogynistic and misanthropic nature, or conversely to show his sympathy for Gertrude in the sense that he understands that she has married quickly to survive.
The lines “Niobe all tears, why she, even she ??? O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason” again emphasises Hamlet as an intellectual while also showing his antagonistic side by degrading his own mother to a ‘beast’. Lines 150-153 “Would have mourned longer ??? married with my uncle, My father’s brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules” are important as they not only espouse the presentation of Hamlet as intelligent, but they may also be the first lines that intimate Hamlet’s Freudian Oedipal complex.
The dramatic irony used in one of the last lines “it cannot come to good” is used to prognosticate the coming of the ghost, and Hamlet’s last line of the soliloquy “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue” is perhaps used to engage the audience into empathising with the sorrowful prince. The soliloquy itself is of course a dramatic device, used to tell the audience Hamlet’s innermost thoughts. At the end of Act 1 Scene 2, Marcellus, Barnardo and Horatio enter.
All three of the men abide to politeness principles seen through their use of the address form ‘My lord’. This presents Hamlet as a character of high standing and shows that he is respected by other characters and is able to form camaraderie; he is not just melancholic. This scene shows how Hamlet can engage in conversation fluently and does not always use blunt responses in his speech as seen in Scene 1.
In Scene, Laertes immediately presents Hamlet as a naive and youthful character as well as describing his love as a pretence, “Hold it a fashion, and a toy in blood, A violet in the youth of primy nature, Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, The perfume and suppliance of a minute” Laertes uses tautology to emphasise the temporary nature of Hamlet’s love for Ophelia.
Furthermore, Laertes presents Hamlet as a sexual deviant with the metaphor “chaste treasure” and “unmastered importunity”, meaning that the purpose of Hamlet’s uncontrolled harassment is to take Ophelia’s virginity. However, Laertes does perhaps sympathise with Hamlet when he talks about how Hamlet’s will is not his own, “Carve for himself, for on his choice depends The sanctity and health of this whole state”. When Polonius enters, he reinforces the pretence of Hamlet’s love for Ophelia: “Affection?
Puh! ” this presents Hamlet as a deceitful character. Moreover, Polonius uses metaphors in the lexical field of clothes to insinuate Hamlet’s erroneous exterior, “Not of that dye which investments show, But were mere implorators of unholy suits” In Scene 4, Hamlet is presented as being bitter towards Claudius and Claudius’ coronation celebrations through the juxtaposition in situations and especially in temperature.
Hamlet figuratively shows how he resents the type of celebration Claudius is partaking in as he says it ruins the Danish reputation, “They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase Soil our addition; and indeed it takes From our achievements”. The entrance of the Ghost in this scene transforms the way Hamlet is presented by showing his religious and bewildered nature. “Angels and ministers” shows Hamlet’s religious lexis and also his shock, and the antithesis in “Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned” contributes to this religious aspect of Hamlet.
The use of nomadic language “King, father, royal Dane” shows Hamlet’s unreserved politeness as well as his fear and the use of questions “but tell Why thy canonised bones, hearsed in death, Have burst their cerements, why the sepulchre, Wherein we saw thee quietly enurned, Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws To cast thee up again” insinuates Hamlet’s shock and bewilderment. Additionally, Hamlet’s referral to death “canonised”, “hearsed”, “enurned” and “corse” could be deemed to denote not only his fear of the unknown, but also his suicidal tendencies. In Scene 5, Hamlet talks directly to the audience “O all you host of heaven!
O earth! what else? And shall I couple hell? Oh fie! Hold, hold, my heart, And you my sinews grow not instant old But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee? ” This dramatic technique sometimes referred to as a ‘theatrical wink’ is hyperbolised here, and there is the use of a pun relating to the globe theatre, “In this distracted globe”. The re-entrance of Horatio and Marcellus contributes an interesting presentation of Hamlet as being mad, although Hamlet states he will be putting on an antic disposition, Horatio suggests that his sanity may already be compromised “These are but wild and whirling words”.
Overall, there are clear contradictions in the presentations of Hamlet. Claudius and Gertrude provide the presentation of a melancholic character, Laertes and Polonius encourage the idea of a deceitful deviant, Marcellus and Barnardo suggest Hamlet is a character of high standing; Horatio also contributes to the idea of him being of high status until he suggests his insanity and Hamlet himself shows he is a witty, sarcastic and intelligent character. The converse culmination of all these presentations supports the theme of confusion and ambiguity in the play, as well as in Hamlet’s interior self.