Act: 1 Scene: 4 "Hold off your hands." - Hamlet

Claudius, brother to the late king Hamlet has now assumed the role of King of Denmark. The death of King Hamlet was surprising, and was believed to be of natural causes for no one knew the true reason. At this time they did not have the technology to perform an autopsy, so his murderer went without notice, but the death was well known throughout Denmark. Claudius had extracted a poisonous substance (Hebenon; which there is no conclusion as to the plant) and had put it in King Hamlets ear as he slept which in turn killed him from the inside out.

Symbolic and Historical Significance of the Ghost'

During Elizabethan England many superstitions existed around the concept of ghosts and their meaninings. These can be applied to the Ghost in Hamlet' :

1. The dead came to haunt their lovers in the situation that, upon their deaths, they become involved with another. This belief was specific to those lovers who did so in an untimely manner, with no definite release of their past lover.

§ "But two months dead, nay, not so much, not two; / So excellent a king" (I,ii,138-139) Implies that Gertrude married after hardly two months of Old Hamlet's death.

§ As a result of the circumstances of his death, Old Hamlet and Gertrude never had a formal parting.

2. The dead can present themselves as ghosts as a result of extreme grief of the living which does not allow for the dead to rest in peace.

§ In regards to his darkened clothing: "These are but the trappings and the suits of woe" (I,ii, 86) Hamlet confesses his continued grief for his father.

§ This grief is later displayed in Hamlet's first monologue (I,ii, 129-159)

This being said, the appearance of the Ghost implies Purgatory a doctrine which is accepted by Lutheranism, the faith of Denmark during this time period [despite the fact that Shakespeare wrote in England, an Anglican state] and therefore the mention of purgatory:

"Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,/ and for the day confin'd to fast in fires,/ Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature,/ Are burnt and 'purg'd' away" (I,v,10-13) provide a historically accurate basis as to why such a concept would have been believed by the characters of the play.

The Effect of Old Hamlet's Death on Character Development:'

1. The death of Old Hamlet and the events which follow immediately bring into question Claudius's character. Do to the convenience of the death, before it is even confirmed, Claudius is suspicious and disliked.

2. Gertrude's marriage to Claudius then brings into question her part in the muderer. The Ghost claims that Claudius "won to his shameful lust/ The will of my most seemingly-virtuous queen" (I,v,44-45) Thus becomes the question of what lust is in question. A physical desire, or perhaps the desire for the throne.

3. Hamlet, as a result of his father's death, alters his behavior " How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself/ As I perchance hereafter shall think meet/ To put on an antic disposition" (I,v,169-171) Therefore from that point, and in direct consequence to the murder of Old Hamlet, the reader is never certain of Hamlet's sincerity of character again.

The Effect of Old Hamlet's Death on Plot Development:'

1. Were it not for the death of Old Hamlet, Claudius would not have become king.

2. The death of his father is Hamlet's motivation for the murder of Claudius

§ In Act I scene v Hamlet swears ["I have sworn't'] to avenge his father

3. Hamlet's plan for revenge destorys his relationship with Ophelia.

§ Hamlet takes to abusing Ophelia, both verbally and to some extent physically

§ "Get thee to a nunnery"(III,i,121) is one of the phrases used by Hamlet, a nunnery of course being a slang term for a whorehouse.

§ This is either a result of his "antic-disposition" or his sheilding her from the fact that he is about to commit treason

The Effect of Old Hamlet's Death on Atmosphere:'

The over-arching theme of Hamlet' is that of disease, that is to say dis-ease as well. The entirety of the play is dripping with an anxious tension that can only be explained by the death, disease, and otherwise utter decay of the entire world of the play. These tragic elements are largely, if not entirely, to be attributed to the initial death, that of Old Hamlet.

1. The very first scene of the play indicates anxiety amongst the guards

§ Francisco says that he is "sick at heart"

§ Barnardo follows with a warning to his partners: "bid them haste" he is affraid to be alone

§ Even Horatio who is an educated man proclaims: "It horrors me with fear and wonder"

2. The first speech given by Claudius as king begins with the mention of death:

§ "Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death/ The memory be green" (I,ii,1-2)

3. This mood is most felt in Hamlet and his speaches

§ He begins his first speech with "Oh that this too too sullied flesh would melt" (I,ii,129)

§ He describes the world as "an unweeded garden/ That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature" (I,ii,135-136)

§ These feelings which he harbours are a result of his father's death

4. As a result of Denmark's weakness in its new monarchy, it is on the brink of war

§ First noted during Claudius's first speach

§ Emphasized by Marcellus " Something is 'rotten' in the state of Denmark" (I,v,90)

Parrish, P. J. An Unquiet Grave. New York: Kensington Pub., 2006. Print. -,_drawn_and_quartered