How Does Shakespeare Explore Elizabethan Ideas Of Kingship In 'hamlet?

2096 words - 8 pages

In what ways does Shakespeare explore Elizabethan ideas of Kingship in 'Hamlet'?Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' is described by many as the most famous play in the English language and praised as his greatest tragedy. 'Hamlet' is different to other tragedies, because of its Christian, rather than pagan imagery as with other tragic works.In Hamlet, Shakespeare addresses many issues, but one of the most prominent being that of power and the role of a King. A great deal of his attention was devoted to this subject, and not only in this play: it is found in nearly all of the so-called history plays, and in many of the tragedies it is the predominant theme; in "Macbeth", for example.Shakespeare presents us with a clear scenario. The rightful King has been deposed from the throne and his place taken by a usurper. In the first scene of the play, Hamlet returns from university at Wittenburg because his father has died, and Denmark is in a state of alert fearing a Norwegian invasion. Immediately and economically, using fragments of conversation, Shakespeare establishes a mood of anxiety and dread. The verse does not flow, and these broken rhythms generate an atmosphere of unease and apprehension. Francisco particularly feels 'sick at heart' (I.i.9).There have been reports of a ghostly apparition with a striking resemblance to the late King roaming the grounds of the castle, and Hamlet is sent to investigate. He finds that the ghost is indeed that of his late father, and alone with Hamlet, the ghost tells his story. Denmark has been deceived; Old Hamlet did not die by snake bite, but was infact poisoned by his own brother! 'The serpent that did sting thy father's life, now wears his crown' (I.v.46,47).The ghost commands that Hamlet avenge the murder and cleanse the throne of the pollution of incest. The ghost's parting words are 'Remember me' (I.v.91). Hamlet shares his feelings with the audience, vowing to be faithful to the ghost, and is appalled by his mother's behaviour, 'O most pernicious woman!' (I.v.106)It may be difficult to believe today, but to the Elizabethan audience, Heaven, Hell and consequently, ghosts where believed in without question. Therefore, the idea that a ghost could dictate to the living would be plausible, though unlikely.Summarily, Hamlet should be King of Denmark, and though he has not really expressed much desire for the throne, by instruction of the ghost it is his duty to reclaim it.In a time of unrest in the English monarchy, an Elizabethan audience would find the questions of Kingship a pressing issue: This was a period in which the divine right of Kings, that is, the idea of the King actually being appointed by God as the only one with the right to rule, was a strongly-held belief by almost all. This is often referred to as 'the Elizabethan world picture'. The King was God's deputy elect and thus, was infallible. This was fine if he was a strong King, liked by all the people but what if he was hated? Would one disobey and risk...

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