Journal on Hamlet by Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 1

Essay by Serena_DangCollege, UndergraduateA, June 2009

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“Hamlet”, the play written about the prince of Denmark by Shakespeare was a tragedy of revenge and sorrow. In only five acts Shakespeare has portrayed the greatest revenge drama in the history. The first scene in Act 1 plays an important role in introducing the story and foreshadowing the plot, helps getting the audience instantly caught up with the play.

Scene 1 in Act 1 is about the ghost of Old Hamlet the dead king suddenly appears at Elsinore castle platform in front of the guards. The two officers Bernardo and Marcellus saw the ghost twice, along with Horatio, Hamlet’s friend; they suspect the ghost to look much alike to the deceased Old Hamlet. Later in this same act, they decide to inform the prince Hamlet about this incident, and he immediately offers to join them. Hamlet gets to talk to his dead father, and is exposed to the truth about his father’s murder.

He swears to take revenge for his father, and from this point the bloody tragedy begins.

As a whole Act 1 plays the role of introducing the main characters and main conflicts in the storyline. The most significant ideas, however, are presented in scene 1. As the guards discuss about the ghost, they wonder if that is the real dead King or an evil spirit. Some discussions have an insight that perhaps the appearance of the ghost actually is the key to the tragedy of the play. May it be the ghost telling of what happened motivated the killing and revenge in the play? Or perhaps with his own nature, young prince Hamlet will eventually find out the truth and get his revenge nonetheless, regardless of the ghost’s telling. The writer may have several intentions with the King’s spirit, or maybe he simply is using the ghost as a story teller to fasten the plot.

Another main suggestion is of Francisco’s line: “For this relief much thanks. ‘Tis bitter cold,/ And I am sick at heart.” (ll. 8-9). This sentence could be interpreted as a foreshadowing for the events in the storyline. Even though Francisco is not a main character nor does he have any action with great influence to the play, but as a part of the introduction he foretells the story’s outcome. In fact, as a sub character, his line has the most reliable tone of the story teller with no affection of the events. Francisco comment remarks a sad story full of vengeance and non-deserving deaths.

Most audience do not realize the importance of the first scene of Act 1, however this is the best introductory scene with full summary of the main characters and events, included with deep insight in the later content of the drama. Shakespeare creates complex and delicate structure like this to set a mystical yet glorious background for the drama.

Work CitedShakespeare, William. Hamlet. Rpt. in Compact Literature Reading Reacting Writing. By Kirszner and Mandell. 6th ed. 2007.