Does The Pattern Fit?

  • Category: Theater
  • Words: 985
  • Grade: 100
Does the Pattern Fit?



It has been said that Shakespeare follows a pattern when writing his tragedies that consists of eleven distinct steps. These steps explain how Shakespeare organized his works from beginning to end. There are, however, slight variations from play to play. The question is, does this pattern fit the tragedy of Hamlet? Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark does fits the mentioned pattern.

The first step is establishing the enveloping situation and the environment or world in which the action takes place. The atmosphere frequently involves or is accompanied by supernatural occurrences. Within the first couple of lines, it is evident that the story involves royalty. "Long live the King!" (A I, SI, L3) There is conversation among the guards involving a strange, recent occurrence. They have seen a ghost and are wondering if it will return. The very moment they are discussing it is the very moment that it appears to them again. "How now, Horatio? You tremble and look pale. Is not this something more than fantasy? What think you on't?" "Before my God, I might not this believe without the sensible and true avouch of mine own eyes." (AI, Si, L64-69) This is where the supernatural occurrence is presented. It is thought by the guards to be the ghost of the newly dead king, Hamlet's father.

The next step, which is the establishment of the political realm, comes directly after. Focusing on the main characters that will have an important part in the plot does this. Shakespeare puts emphasis on these characters by giving them an abundance of lines that are important to the overall story line. Claudius, the new king of Denmark since his brother's death, says "Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death the memory be green, and that it us befitted to bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom to be contracted in one brow of woe, yet so far hath discretion fought with nature that we with wisest sorrow think on him together with remembrances of ourselves. Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen"¦" (AI, Sii, L1-8) By giving Claudius these lines Shakespeare has let the reader know that this character is important. His speech was pertinent to the theme of the play. The political realm is now brought to the forefront. The main characters, mainly royalty, have the highest quantity of lines along with quality of content.

The tragic protagonist, Hamlet, is next to be introduced. The qualities of his character that will ultimately destroy him are now boldly exhibited. ""¦'tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature possess it merely. That it should come [to this]! But two months dead, nay, not so much, not two"¦O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourned linger---married my uncle, my father's brother, but no more like my father than I to Hercules." (AI, Sii, L137-140; 152-155) Here Hamlet's passionate hatred of his mother and uncle marriage is showcased. This hatred will drive him in all he does for the rest of the entire play.

The temptation of this hero ironically does not involve any other persons. The temptation for Hamlet, in fact, is whether or not to kill himself. In this famous soliloquy, Hamlet contemplates his own death, or "self-slander". "To be, or not to be, that is the question: whether "˜tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep- no more and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to; "˜tis a consummation devoutly to be wished." (AIII, Si, L62-70) This is also an example of the next step, which is self-debate, which ends in self-commitment. However, at this point it is not clear what Hamlet's self-commitment is. There may not actually be a self-commitment, but rather one to his father's ghost to seek revenge on Claudius.

Next on the list is the fatal act along with showing the hero in a succession of fatal mistakes made and, at the same time, the climax or turning point where the hero's fortune turns from good to bad is here. Hamlet slays Polonius accidentally. He thought it was his uncle, the king. "How now? A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!"¦Nay, I know not, is it the king?" (AIII, Siv, L26, 30) From here on out, it is down hill for Hamlet. This was the beginning of the end for him.

Hamlet's falling action, the worsening of the hero's position that runs straight on to his destruction and the defeat of all his hopes, is when he agrees to sword fight with Laertes. "Let the foils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the king hold his purpose, I will win for him and I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my shame and the odd hits." (AV, Sii, L158-160) It is here that his mother is killed by drinking poison meant for him and his own death occurs from the poisoned foil.

Another step is to build the image of the person who will assume control of the political realm at the play's end. This character, Fortinbras displays a very likable character here. "Let four captains bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage, for he was likely, had he been put on, to have prov'd most royal"¦" (AV, Sii, L394-397)

Lastly, there is supposed to be a final lift. One is not provided in this play. If there is a final lift, it is not made evident. It is left to the reader's imagination.

Though it is not 100 per cent accurate, the tragedy of Hamlet very closely follows this pattern of Shakespearean tragedy. The steps go in order, and for the most part are very clearly portrayed. In this case, the mold fits.
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