Literary analysis of Hamlet: Act 1 scene 5
The scene begins when the ghost appears to Hamlet alone. The ghost comes from purgatory where he is paying for his sins. The ghost tells him that he is the spirit of his old father and goes ahead telling him that he wants Hamlet to seek revenge for his death. The ghost tells Hamlet that his father was not bitten by a snake as the story was, but, actually, he had been poisoned by his uncle. It seems that Hamlet had also suspected this. Hamlet accepts to take revenge on this father’s death. However, the ghost warns him not to take any revenge on his mother as she is just a lustful woman. The ghost bids Hamlet goodbye, telling Hamlet to remember him. With this, the Shakespeare illustrates on superstitions of the then society and the belief in the supernatural world to control and influence the daily occurrences in life. Horatio and Marcellus soon rush in. Hamlet refuses to tell them what happened between him and the ghost. However, he probes them to swear that they will not tell anyone of what they have seen. They swear it, but Hamlet insists that they swear by his sword. On the background, the ghost is heard telling them to swear. They accept and swear by his sword. Hamlet tells them that he will take vengeance on Claudius and that in the near future, when he begins to act oddly, they should not show any signs of knowing what is going on. The scene embraces the key themes, richly developed traits of characters, literary devices and styles, which Shakespeare used to build in the play, thus require a critical analysis.
Shakespeare uses the ghost from the onset to illustrate the existence of the supernatural world apart from the physical one. For instance, the ghost mentions that he comes from purgatory. The ghost tells that he has come to seek revenge and repent for his sins. The reader is supposed to understand that people are going to pay for their sins. In this case, Shakespeare is insinuating on the idea that; indeed, there is life after death, and that there is always retaliation for our actions. The author shows that human spirits hover around and that there is an afterlife. This is supported by the fact that the ghost says he has to go “back” before it is morning. Therefore, the use of the character of a ghost in this scene is highly symbolic and signifies the subject matter the author is mainly interested in.
A number of ethical issues are being presented in the scene. The most notable one is the theme of revenge. For instance, Hamlet is told the truth about his father’s death and is infuriated. He finds out that actually it is his uncle who killed his father. He is determined to seek revenge as he promises the ghost to avenge his father’s death. Secretiveness is also a vital aspect here. This is first shown by the fact that Hamlet wants Horatio and Marcellus to pass over with silence about what they saw. He tells them to swear by the sword that they will not say a word about the ghost’s appearance. Hamlet conceals about his conversation with the ghost. However, he openly asks Horatio and Marcellus not to ask him anything because he will not tell them. As Hamlet plans on how he will pretend to be mad, he also warns his friends not to show that they might know anything. All this shows how Hamlet is determined to keep his revenge plan secretive. Another crucial issue is deception.
The ghost reveals to Hamlet how his father was actually killed. As earlier known, everybody was made to believe that he was stung by a snake in the orchard while sleeping. However, the truth is that he was murdered by his uncle Claudius so as to take the throne. Claudius went ahead and married his brother’s wife. This shows the deception that is spread everywhere and how much Claudius could do to get power; even killing his own brother is not an obstacle on his way to power. Gertrude (Hamlet’s mother) is depicted as being deceptive. She went ahead and got married to Claudius. The ghost terms her as a “lustful woman.” Therefore, the mentioned themes form the core issues arising in the play.
Characterization is also a quintessential aspect of this scene. Hamlet is depicted as an obedient person since he accepts the ghost’s desire for seeking revenge. He is also told by the ghost not to seek vengeance on his mother, and he accepts this without complain. Hamlet can be perceived as a secretive person as well, as he does not want his friends to know about his conversation with the ghost and wants them to keep silent about what they know.The ghost is depicted as a bitter person longing for revenge on Claudius for killing him. He is also regretful saying he was snatched away from this sinful life. Horatio and Marcellus are faithful friends to Hamlet. They agree to keep Hamlet’s secret and even swear by the sword as a proof of it. Therefore, this scene develops both superficial and inner character traits of Hamlet, his friends and the ghost.
The tone of the scene is generally calm; however, the undertone of bitterness is vividly described. .It is also well illustrated on Hamlet’s speech as he learns to accept the death of his beloved father and the way Horatio and Marcellus consent by swearing not to tell what they have witnessed.
In conclusion, Hamlet is the most famous Shakespearean character of all times with the play being one of the longest and most intriguing still acted to date. This scene relays out some of the inner traits of human’s character, as well as the beginning of the theme of revenge and superstition.
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