Dramatic Techniques In Hamlet
In your view, how have dramatic techniques been used to reveal memorable ideas in ‘Hamlet’? Support your view with detailed reference to text. Shakespeare’s intensely theatrical revenge tragedy ‘Hamlet’ utilises dramatic techniques to explore memorable issues, which transcend through today’s context due to their universality. The morality of vengeance, inevitability of death and the detrimental consequences of illusions and corruption are issues developed through linguistic diversity and construction. Hamlet’s contemplative and scholarly nature amongst the social and religious hierarchy enforced by the Middle Ages results in his ethical and metaphysical uncertainty of these ideas and subsequent downfall as a Shakespearean hero.
‘Hamlet’ explores how the resonating conflict between appearance and reality inevitably causes disorder within society through dramatic techniques. A.C. Bradley wrote that ‘Hamlet is called upon to assert a moral order in a world of moral confusion and obscurity.’
Hamlet’s metaphoric depiction of Denmark as ‘an unweeded garden’ juxtaposed against the ceremonious kingdom portrays this illusive nature of his society.
The symbolic portrayal of a mirrored room within the Castle of Elsinore in Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film production of ‘Hamlet’ further reflects the transparency of the kingdom and how its conflicting illusions result in the inevitable disorder of society. The dramatic irony of Claudius, the murderer, appearing to grieve over his brother’s death, highlights his misleading character, reinforced through Hamlet’s shock of this ‘villain, villain, smiling damned villain!’ murdering his father, the exclamation mark and repetition increasing dramatic force and atmosphere. The conflict between appearance and reality of Claudius’ guilt thus leads to Hamlet’s confusion and ambiguity, whilst the instability of the political leaders reverberates down the structural hierarchy.
Hamlet’s acknowledgement of his Machiavellian ‘antic disposition’ foreshadows his metamorphosing passions of composure and paroxysms of fury. His lucidity and the austerity of blank verse deteriorate into fragmentary prose, portraying his apparent madness. Through his syntactic variation and language, Hamlet’s illusive persona contributes further to the moral confusion of his world and its chaotic downfall, contrary to A.C. Bradley’s comment. Thus, through dramatic techniques, Shakespeare illustrates the inevitable consequences due to the conflict between illusions versus reality, a universal issue that still transcends through today’s society. Through dramatic techniques, Shakespeare explores the inevitability of death in his tragedy ‘Hamlet’. Hamlet’s beliefs parallel with the Renaissance, an era of the rebirth of learning and contemplation over the timeless philosophical ideas of existence. The antithesis ‘to be or not to be’ in Hamlet’s soliloquy intensifies his sense of conflict on the meaning of life.
His divergence and uncertainty is reinforced in his metaphoric and rhetorical questions on whether ‘to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ or ‘to die: to sleep- no more’. Personification of ‘this fell sergeant Death is swift in his arrest’ characterises death and highlights its inevitability. The skulls in the graveyard scene symbolise mortality, emphasising the inescapable fate for all humans. Hamlet’s anaphora ‘Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust’ reflects on the cycle of life, the repetition lengthening his soliloquy on mortality. The following rhyming couplets ‘Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay, might stop a hole to keep the wind away’ loses the seriousness of the issue, his language indicating procrastination to delay the plot further.
The additional placement of the graveyard scene before the final catastrophic downfall foreshadows the destined death of Hamlet, intensifying the ultimate climatic tension. Thus, through construction and language, Shakespeare explores the universal issue of mortality and the inevitability of death. The morality of vengeance is explored through various dramatic techniques in ‘Hamlet’, and resonates through time as a universal issue, allowing it to be memorable. J. Kerrigan’s interpretation ‘Hamlet knows that revenge would gratify the stern militaristic father whom he loves, and he appears to want to please him; but he cannot overcome his radical sense of its pointlessness’. Hamlet’s hyperbolic comparisons and juxtaposed imagery comparing Claudius to his father as a ‘hyperion to a satyr’ signify his intense devotion to his father, who embodies an older medieval feudal world. However, Elizabethan and Protestant views opposed revenge, causing his scholarly nature to diverge between his repressive feminine side and aggressive male side and debate the moral complexities of vengeance.
Shakespeare portrays the dramatic irony of Hamlet’s inaction since he originally claims to ‘sweep to my revenge’ with metaphorical ‘wings as swift as meditation’. This reaction parallels with Laertes’ blind anger through destructive imagery and vengeful language ‘to hell allegiance, vows to the blackest devil, conscience and grace to the profoundest pit!’ However, Hamlet’s indecision is strongly juxtaposed against the impulsive characterisation of Laertes and Fortinbras, lengthening the play further and adding to a sense of delay and dramatic suspense. Through Shakespeare’s use of dramatic techniques, the universal concept on the morality of vengeance is explored in ‘Hamlet’. Shakespeare’s use of dramatic techniques in his exploration of the detrimental effects of corruption and deception allow it to be a memorable issue, which resonates within our modern world.
Derek Marsh states ‘Hamlet is a noble figure, shocked by corruption yet holding beliefs in responsibility and justice which stop him yielding to despair or acquiescing in the evil.’ Repeated imagery of poison and disease reveal this ‘rank corruption, mining all within’ the ‘rotten’ state of Denmark, a rigidly structured hierarchy of the seventeenth century. The dramatic irony of Rosencrantz’s and Guildenstern’s corruption and betrayal to Hamlet increases the audience’s suspense, however the inevitable consequences of deception result in their ironic deaths and Hamlet’s decent into evil, contrary to Marsh’s comment. Hamlet’s juxtaposed imagery in his uncertainty of the ghost’s loyalty, being ‘a spirit of health’ or a ‘goblin damn’d’ reflects in his moral conflict between trust and deception, causing his detrimental inaction.
Ophelia’s references to ‘rosemary’, ‘pansies’, and ‘violets’ metaphorically depict her feminine and vulnerable qualities of ‘remembrance’, ‘thoughts’, springtime and love, susceptible to the corruptive dominance of her father and brother. These strong patriarchal influences result in her ultimate madness and death, signifying the subsequent victimisation of women due to men’s power games. Thus, the universal issue of corruptive and deceptive relationships and their detrimental consequences are explored through the use of dramatic techniques. [Rhyming in the Play-within-a-play displays Hamlet’s machiavellian need to ‘catch the conscience of the king’ ( allows audience to observe both characters inside and outside this set play ( adds to suspense and intrigue of action. mounting tension + Claudius’s sudden exit]
‘Hamlet’ ultimately explores the universal ideas on the morality of vengeance, inevitability of death and the detrimental consequences of illusions and corruption. Hamlet’s conflict between these difficult ethical and metaphysical issues, results in the weakness of his mind, his hamartia, causing his ultimate downfall. Through dramatic techniques, a new dimension amplifies meaning and atmosphere, allowing the audience to experience an overall cathartic effect.
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In your view, how have dramatic techniques been used to reveal memorable ideas in ‘Hamlet’? Support your view with detailed reference to text. Shakespeare’s intensely theatrical revenge tragedy ‘Hamlet’ utilises […]