Hamlet Act I
Theme: discerning between appearance and reality • Is the ghost really there? • If it is, is it a devil or the king? • Mirrors: Hamlet and young Fortinbras • Father defeated by a foe • Obligation to avenge • Obligation to reclaim stolen properties
Theme: Passing of the torch from old to young • Duty of the young to live up to their elders’ expectations • A son must obey a father’s instruction no matter how unreasonable it may seem • A single covenant drives the play – Fortinbas’s promise to avenge his father
Attitude toward witches and ghosts in Elizabethan England • Ghosts & apparitions linked with religious fears of devil’s power & hell’s dominion • Witches and ghosts – agents of an afterlife • Witches always represent the devil • Ghosts might be angel or devil
Ghosts – one must identify the ghost’s purpose and form. It could be: • A hallucination engendered by the devil • A restless spirit returned to perform a deed left undone in life • A specter sent by God as a prediction or warning • A spirit returned from beyond the grave by divine permission • A devil disguised as a dead person
What does the ghost represent? • Dead king’s armor suggests a soldier returned to finish a job left undone (an omen for the impending war) • Any other references?
Hypocrisy (appearance vs. reality) • Key words “show,” “seems,” “play” • People may or may not be sincere in their grief for the dead king or their lack of grief • Polonius – a world of show – cares only about appearances, not about Ophelia’sfeelings or desires • Claudius appears to be a powerful man, but has a weakness for wine and revelry • Hamlet’s madness – a mask?
Rule by Divine Right –Elizabethans believed that: • Monarchs ruled because God Himself appointed them to rule the land • Church of England also gave king the highest rule of the church • English Monarch represented God on earth