Monday, March 17, 2008

Act 1:5

In act one scene five, Lord Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father, who reveals the secret of his death. Throughout this scene, Shakespeare repeats different words three times at different instances, as a form of emphasis. By choosing to repeat the words three times precisely, Shakespeare also creates allusions to different historical and mythological triads that allow the reader to find a deeper meaning in various phrases. The first instance where repetition is encountered is at the beginning of the scene when Hamlet begins to follow the Ghost. He begs the Ghost to speak and threatens him with leaving if he does not reply. In an anxious tone, the Ghost confesses that he is in fact Hamlet’s father and that he is trapped in hell for his unforgivable and untold sins. Although the Ghost is not allowed to tell Hamlet the secrets of the purgatory, he begs Hamlet to “List, list, O, list!” (22). In this occasion, the repetition of the word “list,” emphasizes how important it is for Hamlet listens to his father’s story. This triad may also be alluding to Cerberus, a guard in Greek mythology. Cerberus is a three-headed dog with a snake tail that guards the gates of Hades; he makes sure that people’s souls enter, but never leave. Shakespeare repeats the word “list” three times to remind the reader of this three headed beast. By doing so, he is suggesting the perhaps if the Ghost does tell Hamlet of his secrets and Cerberus finds out that he escaped Hades, the ghost will never again be able to return to the mortal world and seek revenge. Hence, it is extremely important that Hamlet listens carefully to his father’s ghost. The fact that Cerberus has a snake tail and three heads also foreshadows the murderer of the Ghost. The three heads represent Claudius’ different personalities when among different people. And the snake tail, which is very subtle and discrete in movement, represents the way in which Claudius was able to remove his brother from the throne. As the scene continues, the Ghost reveals the way in which he was murdered. He tells Hamlet Claudius poisoned him before he could confess his sins. Claudius did this on purpose so that his brother would go straight to the purgatory. As a response to his brother’s actions, the Ghost says, “O, horrible, O horrible, most horrible!” (80). He cannot believe what his brother was capable of doing and confesses Claudius’ evilness. Here, Shakespeare makes an allusion to the Catholic triune, “father, son, and holy spirit” or the idea of being three in one. The Ghost describes Claudius as “horrible” and repeats it three times in order to refer to his three different states of being. Claudius is forced to appear as Hamlet’s “father” because of his marriage to Gertrude, but in reality, he is nothing but Hamlets’ selfish uncle. Furthermore, Claudius appears as a royal “son”, therefore the brother of Hamlet’s father, who envied and cursed his older sibling. Finally, Claudius appears as the “Holy Spirit”, someone who was kind enough, in the eyes of the people of Denmark, to marry poor Gertrude and save the nation after the king’s death. Towards the end of his speech, the Ghost asks Hamlet not to judge his mother. Suddenly, he realizes that the sun will soon be rising, signaling his need for departure. As he exists on line 90, the Ghost says, “Adieu, adieu, adieu! Remember me.” Once again, Shakespeare repeats the same word three times. For Pythagoras, triad is the number three. Triad became very important to him because it is the only number that equals the sum of its previous numbers. In this final section of the Ghost’s speech, Shakespeare uses repetition to crate a parallel between the Pythagoras’ triad and the information the Ghost just revealed. Since the actual whole number three is the sum of the digits below it, the Ghost repeats “adieu” three times so that all of the information he has just told Hamlet “sums” up and becomes a whole. The “whole” information and the whole number three become parallels to each other, resulting from information prior to their existence.