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To What Extent Does Shakespeare Reveal That “Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark” in Act 1.

  • Date Submitted: 03/12/2014 01:17 PM
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To what extent does Shakespeare reveal that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” in Act 1.
In Act 1 Scene 4 Marcellus state that there is “something rotten in the state of Denmark” and Shakespeare goes to prove Marcellus to be right through his use of politics, faith and individuals. Thus conveying to the Jacobean audience that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” but also portraying a sense of tragedy which coincides with the tragic conventions outlined by the Aristotelian and Seneca tragedy model.
Shakespeare employs the use of politics, creating a sense of uneasiness in the state of Denmark to suggest that “something is rotten”. As Hamlet was written around 1600 in the final reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Jacobean audience would have been aware of the concern the transfer of powers from one monarch to another entails. Shakespeare exploits this fear and thus automatically conveys to the audience that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. The death of King Hamlet is the first sign of the descent of the state in Denmark that Shakespeare gives. The King is described to be “fair and warlike form”. The use of lexis such as “warlike” paints the picture that the previous king was great, majestic and a great protector of Denmark. The king is also described as “fair”. “Fair” carries connotations of purity, cleanliness and justice which again elevates King Hamlet and thus creates a greater sense of tragedy for Denmark to bear by losing him. Moreover adhering to the Aristotelian tragedy model where the protagonist experiences a reversal in fortune (peripetia) and in this case Hamlet faces his reversal of fortune in the death of his father again creating an implicit sense of tragedy. A further sense of tragedy is conveyed through the use of language; “buried Denmark”. By using a synecdoche to refer to the dead King as “Denmark” Shakespeare thus implies that Denmark will come to the same state as the King. By doing this Shakespeare supports the...

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