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Mythological References in Hamlet

Mythological References in Hamlet

What’s in a name? Hamlet’s good friend and confidant Horatio is doomed by the etymology of his nomenclature to give good speech. Shakespeare has gifted Horatio with an elegant lucidty that, when inspected closely, enables the reader to better comprehend the nature of the play; one of his first addresses is key in setting the tone of what James Joyce called “‘the grave and constant’ in human suffering” (Campbell 8). This is also a principal theme of classical mythology, and to fully understand Hamlet as a tragic hero, a comprehension of the mythological references at the beginning of the play must be foremost in the reader’s mind. These metaphoric intimations of tragedy; leaked in Hamlet’s and Horatio’s early soliloquies deliver the fundamental clues to unlocking Hamlet’s enigmatic madness and foreshadow its violent emotional, physical and supernatural battles.

The early Greeks believed that the universe created the gods, not .he other way around(Hamilton 24). They created their myths to explain the order of things; how the sun sets, why the moon rises, the tides coming in and out, etc. When these patterns were interrupted, people assumed it was the wrath or folly of the gods and went on making up more stories. Shakespeare has given his characters a heritage influenced by the Teutonic and Nordic races. Both cultures developed a collateral paganish belief shared by the early Greeks, and this parallel helps offer an explanation towards the choice of metaphor in the text. This is most important in the following excerpt from Horatio’s second soliloquy. After seeing the ghost of Hamlet’s father, he remarks to Bernardo:

Disasters in the sun; and the moist star,

Upon w…

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…is heroic obligation. Claudius questions Hamlet’s mood after a month of mourning for his father:

CLAUDIUS: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

HAMLET: Not so, my lord, I am too much i’ the sun.(I.ii.65-66)

The reader is reminded of Horatio’s portentous thoughts of misfortune and simultaneously called to recognize Hamlet as the center of future woes, around whom all the disasters at Elsinore revolve like satellites of the Fates: is he too much like his father or not? If Hamlet truly embodies the Promethean essence, then he does know what is to happen: Prometheus means “foresight.” What is in a name?

Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Dukore, Bernard F. “Shaw on Hamlet.” Educational Theatre Journal 23 (1971): 152-59

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York: Mentor, 1969.

Tough Love in Mel Gibson’s Hamlet and Branagh’s Hamlet

Tough Love in Mel Gibson’s Hamlet and Branagh’s Hamlet

One of the most emotional and moving scenes in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet is in Act III, Scene I lines 90-155 in which the title character becomes somewhat abusive toward his once loved girlfriend Ophelia. It is interesting to examine the possible motives behind Hamlet’s blatant harshness in this “Get the to a nunnery” scene toward the easily manipulated and mild mannered girl. While watching Kenneth Branagh and Mel Gibson’s film adaptations of the play, the audience may recognize two possibilities of the many that may exist which may explain the Prince’s contemptible behavior; Kenneth Branaugh seems to suggest that this display of animosity will help the troubled man convince his enemies that he is in fact demented, whereas the Mel Gibson work may infer that Hamlet’s repressed anger toward his mother causes him to “vent” his frustrations upon Ophelia, the other female of importance in his life.

Though the reader realizes Hamlet’s extreme anger and brooding throughout the entire play, he has no actual confrontation with another character until the aforementioned lines in Act III Scene I. One may notice the Prince’s biting tone aimed at Claudius, Polonius or even Gertrude, but until his “Get the to a nunnery!” speech, no outbursts of pure rage in the presence of others can be found. This harshness in relation to Ophelia may be one of Hamlet’s first moments of “action.” The Prince seems reluctant to act upon any of his emotions toward anyone, though he often does give off an aura of discontentment and sorrow over his father’s death. However, in these specific lines the audience sees Hamlet take an active stance in purging this young lady’s once p…

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…he primary cause of the violent reaction to Ophelia.

Living in an environment of deception and hostility, the reader can easily identify with Hamlet’s anger. Most all compassionate audiences will be sympathetic to his plight. However, the origins of Hamlet’s vehement actions toward his once beloved Ophelia can be debated from several different points of view. Whatever his reasoning may be, it is probably correct to assume that he regrets deeply every harsh world spoken toward Ophelia. He only realizes again what a beautiful and kind person she was- after her death.

Works Cited

Hamlet. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Perf. Mel Gibson and Glenn Close. Videocassette. Warner Home Video, 1990.

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, and Kate Winslet. Videocassette. Castle Rock Entertainment, 1996.

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