Atmosphere Of Mystery In Opening Scene Of Hamlet

  • Category: English
  • Words: 930
  • Grade: 100
In William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, the opening scene of the play is of great significance. Shakespeare's definitive style is articulately expressed in his way of creating suspense in his opening scene. He provides the audience with sufficient knowledge in order to enable an understanding of the occurring situation, but he leaves out just enough information in order to capture the audience's attention. Shakespeare uses a specific arrangement in order to establish a plot line, and chooses the actions and words of his characters very carefully to achieve just the right atmosphere. Thus, within Act I, scene i of Hamlet, Shakespeare uses certain element in order to create an atmosphere of mystery.

        One of the numerous components that contributes to the creation of the atmosphere of mystery within the first scene of Hamlet, is the setting. Situated in Elsinore, a platform before the castle in Denmark, the play begins with an ominous night setting. The distinction of mystery and strangeness are attained within the scene as the bell, "struck twelve" (I. i. l. 7). The scene takes place on a cold night, for as it was stated by Francisco: "'tis bitter cold" (I. i. l. 7). With this cold night setting comes an obscure feeling. Since, with night is associated an eerie atmosphere, there is feeling that something horrible will happened. Suspense is thus, created; since the audience is awaiting for the unexpected. Therefore, the setting of the play strengthens the creation of the atmosphere of mystery.

        Additionally, one of the other elements is the play that supplement the atmosphere of mystery is the behaviour and words of the characters. Mystery is instantly attained at the very beginning of the scene through the nervousness of the guards, Barnardo and Francisco. The nervousness of both guards is evident when Barnardo questions "Who's there?" (I. i. l. 1). Francisco, the guard on watch, is extremely cautious in that he challenges the newcomer by replying, "Nay, answer me: stand and unfold yourself" (I. i. l. 2). Through Francisco's response Shakespeare on the guards are so nervous of those who come near. Even as the guards await the arrival of their friends Horatio and Marcellus, they still are apprehensive when "[they] think [they] hear them; Stand ho, who is there?" (I. i. l. 13). Thus, the actions and words of the characters within the scene provide a mysterious atmosphere.

        Lastly, the most critical of all the elements that contribute to the atmosphere of mystery within the first scene, is the appearance of a specter. Mystery is instantly established through the first mention of the specter, "What, has this thing appear'd again to-night?" (I. i. l. 21). Through Shakespeare's reference to the specter as being a "˜thing', suspense is generated in that the audience is curious about what exactly the "˜thing' is. Uncertainty begins to arise when Horatio suggests that the specter is not real, but merely a hallucination and states that, "'twill not appear" (I. i. l. 29). In the Elizabethan time period it was believed that the appearance of a ghost meant two things: the first being that the ghost came back as evil, and the second being to come and finish unfinished business. Through this belief, the appearance of the ghost gives rise to numerous speculations. When the specter does appear, it give an eerie quality to the scene. This eeriness is especially observed as the specter "stalks away" (I. i. l. 50). This creates suspense in that, the actions of the specter are unknown. Not until the specter appears does Horatio believe the story of the ghost told to him by Barnardo and Marcellus, for as he states:
                Before my God I might not this believe,
                Without the sensible and true avouch
                Of mine own eyes. (I. i. ll. 56-58).

When the ghost reappears to the characters for a second time, further suspense is created. The ghost had not spoke when it appeared previously, and so uncertainty arises whether it will speak this time:
                O, speak!
                Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
                Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
                For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,
                Speak of it, stay and speak! (I. i. ll. 135-139).

As the specter is departing for the final time, all of the audience's attention is drawn to ghost. When the specter finally leaves, the audience is filled with suspense; since, it is said that, "It was about to speak when the cock crew" (I. i. l. 147). Therefore, the appearance of the silent specter is the most significant of all the elements that contribute to the mysterious atmosphere.

        Therefore, Shakespeare uses specific elements within Act I, scene i, in order to create a concrete atmosphere of mystery. One of first noticeable elements within the scene unquestionably creates the atmosphere of mystery is the setting in which the scene takes place. Another technique used by Shakespeare, is his use of characters actions and words in order to create a mysterious atmosphere. The final element employed by Shakespeare in order to attain his mysterious atmosphere is his use of the supernatural. This last element is the most dominant of all the elements, creating the most suspense in the audience. Thus, the importance of style is evident in the way in which Shakespeare obtained the audiences interest through the atmosphere of mystery within the first scene in the play.
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