To what extent does Shakespeare reveal that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” in Act 1.
In Act 1 Scene 4 Marcellus state that there is “something rotten in the state of Denmark” and Shakespeare goes to prove Marcellus to be right through his use of politics, faith and individuals. Thus conveying to the Jacobean audience that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” but also portraying a sense of tragedy which coincides with the tragic conventions outlined by the Aristotelian and Seneca tragedy model.
Shakespeare employs the use of politics, creating a sense of uneasiness in the state of Denmark to suggest that “something is rotten”. As Hamlet was written around 1600 in the final reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Jacobean audience would have been aware of the concern the transfer of powers from one monarch to another entails. Shakespeare exploits this fear and thus automatically conveys to the audience that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. The death of King Hamlet is the first sign of the descent of the state in Denmark that Shakespeare gives. The King is described to be “fair and warlike form”. The use of lexis such as “warlike” paints the picture that the previous king was great, majestic and a great protector of Denmark. The king is also described as “fair”. “Fair” carries connotations of purity, cleanliness and justice which again elevates King Hamlet and thus creates a greater sense of tragedy for Denmark to bear by losing him. Moreover adhering to the Aristotelian tragedy model where the protagonist experiences a reversal in fortune (peripetia) and in this case Hamlet faces his reversal of fortune in the death of his father again creating an implicit sense of tragedy. A further sense of tragedy is conveyed through the use of language; “buried Denmark”. By using a synecdoche to refer to the dead King as “Denmark” Shakespeare thus implies that Denmark will come to the same state as the King. By doing this Shakespeare supports the theory of microcosm and macrocosm. The King was the heart and centre of the body politic so the fact that he has been “usurp’d” and “buried” will have a knock on effect on the state of Denmark.
Shakespeare- Tragedy Class 101 Shakespeare- Tragedy Class 101 Essay, Research Paper Shakespeare: Tragedy Class 101 If you were to walk out onto a street and get hit by a car, people might think this is a tragedy, referring to the common usage of the word as meaning anything bad that happens to a person or society. But in the days of Shakespeare, the word tragedy had on more significant meanings; ...
The theory of microcosm and macrocosm is further explored as Shakespeare portrays Claudius as a bad King thus conveying to the audience that “something is rotten in the state of Demark”. This adheres to the Seneca model which states that a benign ruler is killed by a bad ruler. It is said of Claudius by Marcellus that he “does not divide the Sunday from the week”. This would have had a very big impact on the Jacobean audience who were incredibly religious. As working on Sunday is against the 10 commandments which states “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. He Six days you shall labour and do your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God”. This would have caused fear for in Jacobean audience for the state of Denmark as they would have viewed Claudius as a King who went against the ruling of God and according to the theory of microcosm and macrocosm this will affect the state of Denmark. Claudius is described by the ghost as being an “incestuous… serpent”. The use of the word lexis “incestuous” would have again alarmed the Jacobean audience as they would again be aware that in the Bible incest is wrong and punishable by death again suggesting that Claudius is going against God. The sibilance of “incestuous… serpent” speeds up the line and makes Claudius seem even more evil. The sibilance also adds to the effect of the word serpent. The Jacobean audience would have been aware of the biblical connotations that the word serpent has in line with the beginning of the world in Genesis. In which the deceitful “serpent” led to the downfall of humanity. Thus implying that Claudius will lead to the downfall of the state of Denmark.
In the play Hamlet there are two kings, both brothers, one dead because of the actions of another. Both the old and the new kings interpret this harsh murder very differently. William Shakespeare uses diction, imagery, and tone in the speeches of both kings to bring out these very different emotions about the same crime. When old Hamlet is speaking about the murder he describes it as, "Oh ...
Shakespeare also utilizes religious beliefs in Act 1 to convey that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. The supernatural appearance of the ghost on a chilling night outside the castle immediately conveys that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” and as a ghostly visitation adheres to the Seneca model this immediately creates a sense of tragedy as the ghost in Hamlet serves to enlarge the shadow of tragedy already cast by the death of King Hamlet. This suggests that the death of the King Hamlet has upset the balance of nature, the ambiguity and lack of characterization goes to further serve the fact that something is rotten in the state of Denmark as there is no certainty. Alternatively the ambiguity of the ghost could reflect the certainty of religious beliefs of the time. This is a stronger interpretation as in the time which Hamlet was written the Lutheran movement begins to influence England and this was at odds with the Catholic ideal. Whereas as Protestants believed that ghosts were evil spirits who brought evil to the people they came to. Whereas, Catholics believed ghosts where spirits paying their dues in purgatory, who returned to the earth to right a wrong. This