Contrast In Act V Of Hamlet

647 words - 3 pages

In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, contrast plays a major role. Characters havefoils, scenes and ideas contrast each other, sometimes within the same soliloquy.One such contrast occurs in Act Five, Scene One, in the graveyard. Here, therelatively light mood in the first half is offset by the grave and somber moodin the second half.The scene opens with two 'clowns', who function as a sort of comic relief.This is necessary, after the tension of Ophelia's breakdown (and subsequent death),and after the ever-increasing complexities of the plot. Previously, Polonious providedsome humour, but since he is dead, a new source must be found - the gravediggers.Their banter becomes the calm before the storm of the duel, and the play's resolution.There is also a juxtaposition of the clowns and the graveyard here, which furtherintensifies the effect. The clowns chatter about their work in a carefree manner,even going so far as to play with a riddle ( ' What is he that builds stronger ...carpenter' V,1,41-42). Shakespeare even went so far as to include his puns in thisgrave scene (V,1,120).Hamlet himself experiences a temporary lightening of mood from listening to thegravediggers' conversation. Their carefree treatment of death singing while digginggraves, not to mention tossing skulls in the air) is a parallel to Hamlet'snewfound attitude. After having committed himself to his cause in Act IV, he is nolonger bothered by the paradox of good and evil, and (seemingly) is untroubled byhis previous misgivings.Hamlet's musings on the equality of all men in death serve as a transition intothe darker second half of the scene. His contemplations on death reflect Act IV,Scene 3, when Hamlet gives voice to a humorous notion concerning ' how a kingmay progress through the guts of a beggar ' (IV,3,27-28). Hamlet expands on thisidea with his thoughts on how even Alexander the Great or ' Imperious Caesar 'may descend to such base uses as stopping a beer barrel, or stopping ' a holeto keep the wind away ' (V,1,207)The entrance of...

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