Analyse How Act 1 of Hamlet Illuminates the Key Concerns of the Play

Analyse how Act 1 of Hamlet illuminates the key concerns of the play

Shakespeare’s Hamlet introduces in act 1 many of the key concerns and issues that are further explored throughout the play. The themes of verisimilitude, revenge, honour, filial duty and political chaos remain relevant in our contemporary society and are illuminated throughout the first act.

The theme of appearance versus reality is introduced in act 1 through the characterisation of Claudius. The appearance of the Ghost reveals Claudius’s lies as he says, “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.” This revelation resonates deeply with Hamlet as he is already grieving his father’s death and the idea of revenge opens up a channel into which he can direct his emotions. The juxtaposition of the scenes further enhances the depth of Claudius’ duplicity as in one scene we see him referring to Hamlet as, “my cousin, Hamlet, my son” which is completely undercut in a following scene where we are enlightened to the idea that he perhaps committed the “foul and unnatural murder”. This suggestion, although later revealed to be true, is at the time only speculative however in Hamlet’s grief and need for closure he assumes that “it is an honest ghost”. The ghost’s appearance is therefore what triggers all levels of deception in the play as even Hamlet, who is perceived to an honest character becomes dishonest when he develops his plan to act mad, “to put an antic disposition on.” His act of deception is aimed at drawing attention away from his suspicious attempts to gather evidence against Claudius. However, by agreeing to the Ghost’s demands for revenge he is therefore sentencing himself to this deceitful plan and it could be said that by doing this he is lowering himself to the devious nature of Claudius.

Hamlet was originally written as a revenge tragedy and although it explores much deeper themes than this genre normally explores, the idea of revenge and punishment is still...