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Hamlet Literary Devices

In: English and Literature

Submitted By groovydude54
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William Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Hamlet is a magnificent piece of literature that is teeming with numerous themes. The most prominent theme brought out in this play is that revenge can consume every part of one’s life. William Shakespeare develops this theme through the use of foreshadowing. The mood that is set from the very beginning of the play prepares the reader for the obvious evils that the act of vengeance can lead to. The play is set in Denmark and is centered on Prince Hamlet’s revenge that he seeks for the death of his father by the hand of his uncle, Claudius. Claudius killed his brother in order to gain the throne and marry Gertrude, his brother’s wife. All seems to be in favor of the deceptive pair until one night when Hamlet’s father’s ghost appears to his good friend Horatio and two castle guards, who promptly tell Hamlet. Not believing them, Hamlet waits one night on the rampart of Elsinore Castle to see for himself. He is convinced when the apparition appears and speaks to Hamlet. His father tells him of the injustice that has befallen the family and tells Hamlet to “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (I.v.25). He wants Hamlet to destroy the man who had him murdered and who married his widow. Hamlet wants to know of every detail of the crime and tells the spirit “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift/ As meditation or the thoughts of love, / May sweep to my revenge” (I.v.25-31). Hamlet promises to devote himself to this cause. Such a rage began to brew within Hamlet from this time forward. The appearance of his father and Hamlet’s reaction foreshadows the fury and rage that is sure to follow after this scene. Slowly, as the play progresses, Hamlet becomes increasingly unstable and unpredictable.
He leads his life solely through his emotions, rather than rationality. Likewise, his behavior toward Ophelia, his lover, becomes extremely volatile and foreshadows the fatal end to their relationship. After Hamlet accidentally kills her father, Polonius, Ophelia begins to go mad. Her crazy babbling is misconstrued as grief. She ultimately “drowns” in a brook, but it is argued that she poisoned herself and committed suicide. The truth of this is never fully disclosed and we are left to believe her death was, indeed, a suicide. Hamlet’s quest for revenge foreshadows the ultimate deaths of his uncle and mother as well. When Hamlet finally has the nerve to kill his uncle, he finds him at a time of prayer: “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;/ and now I’ll do’t. And so he goes to heaven; /and so I am revenged “(III.iii.73-75). Hamlet believes that killing him during prayer might send his uncle’s soul to heaven, so he decides to wait and kill him during a time he is acting deceitful so that his soul will go to hell. This hesitation foreshadows Claudius’s chance to realize Hamlet’s true intentions and plan Hamlet’s murder. The play's tone reveals a mood and atmosphere perfect for the motif of revenge. For the most part, Hamlet happens to be a very dark and bleak play that is full of anxiety and uncertainty. This is mostly because Hamlet is dark and introspective. When Hamlet speaks his tortured monologues about death and betrayal, he creates a dismal atmosphere that allows us to see the world as he see it. Hamlet's tortured mind isn't the only thing that creates the play's dark mood. The tone is set from the very first line "Who's there!" (I.i.1). This is what Bernardo, the castle guard, says one dark night on the castle rampart. The guards are fearful and on edge because a ghost that looks like the dead king has been visiting them every night. The moods set in first scene play a major role in what happens in the rest of the play and ultimately in how the play ends. Irony also plays a major part in the play. It is clearly established at the beginning of the play that Hamlet’s role will be to avenge the death of his father, no matter what the cost. Hamlet fiercely takes on this challenge and begins to plan his revenge. Our expectation would be that he forge ahead and take care of this business. The irony of the situation is that he does not do this. Rather, he procrastinates throughout the entire play. Hamlet, though appearing to be irrational and mad, ironically ponders his predicament with an intellectual mind. He is not as spontaneous as he first seems. “Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent:/ when he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,/ Or in th’ incestuous pleasure of his bed;/ At game, a-swearing, or about some act /That has no relish of salvation in’t;” (III, iii, 88-92). He exhibits a clear mind when considering whether or not to kill Claudius, which is in sharp contrast to the many clouded moments he reveals throughout the play. The ghost of Hamlet’s father demanded retribution for the injustice brought upon him. Hamlet accepted the role of avenger, as it was common during this time period to avenge the death of a family member. It would have been dishonorable not to accept the challenge. We have compassion for Hamlet’s predicament and feel that he will immediately enact upon his new plot in life. Ironically, it takes the entire play for him to find his nerve: “Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! …Oh, vengeance! What an ass am I!” (II.ii.58). In his play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare created the character of Hamlet as a moral and just person who became consumed by his emotions. Through the use of foreshadowing, mood, and irony, revenge became a very apparent theme in the play.…...

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