Taylor Veasley's Hamlet Annotation

Hamlet Annotation

Taylor Veasley

Water Stream

March 1, 2013

William Shakespeare was a man of complex thoughts and language, this makes his work a challenge to dissect and to analyze. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is recognized as an especially difficult piece of writing in literature because of the extensive vocabulary and the difficult story plots. The main character of Hamlet is a young man who loses his father and the story focuses on him avenging his father’s death. In this paper an excerpt from Hamlet will be dissected and analyzed. The excerpt that is going to be used was taken from Act 1 Scene 5, and was spoken by the Ghost of the King and spans from Line 9 to Line 24.

“I am thy father’s spirit.”(Act 1, Scene 5 Line 9)The very first line of this speech sets the entire piece up, it is a simple statement yet it is very powerful. Before this encounter the ghost never verified that he was the spirit of Hamlet’s father. So when he followed the first line with saying that he is walks on the earth at night and is confined to hell during the day. “Doomed for a certain term to walk the night And for the day confined to fast in fires,” (Act 1 Scene 5 Lines 10&11). I found it interesting and unexpected that the spirit was in hell considering how he was portrayed in the book leading up to this. Throughout the book whenever the King was mentioned he was spoken about as an honest and kind man so the sins that he speaks of were surprising. I also find it odd that after mentioning these sins Shakespeare never actually specifies what the sins were.

The ghost then goes on to say that he is sentenced to hell until his sins that he committed while he was alive have gone away, but that he is forbidden to tell why he is sentenced. “Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid To tell the secrets of my prison house,” (Act 1 Scene 5 Lines 12-14) Again, I feel as though Shakespeare not bringing up the reasons for the King to be in Hell was an odd but seemingly intentional aspect. I believe that the reasons were left out because of the image that has been painted for us of the King. We see the King as a wonderful man and ruler and if Shakespeare were to change that perception of this character it could conflict with prerequisite ideas about this character.
The way Shakespeare has the ghost describe what will happen to humans if they hear of the horrible tales of the underworld is captivating. Shakespeare uses very descriptive similes when the ghost is describing what will happen to Hamlet if he tells him of the forbidden sins that explain why he is sentenced to hell. “Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, Thy knotted and combinèd locks to part. And each particular hair to stand on end, Like quills upon the fearful porpentine.” ( Act 1 Scene 5 Lines 18-21) He compares Hamlet’s hair to that of a porcupine’s quills and his eyes to stars, both comparisons paint clear pictures of the reaction. After all of the description of all of the horrid side effects to what the spirit is about to tell him, the spirit says that if he loves his father then he will listen. “List, list, O, list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love—” ( Act 1 Scene 5 Lines 23-24) I saw this line as a sort of foreshadowing for what he was about to tell Hamlet. When the spirit said if you ever love your father it made me think that he was going to tell him of how he died. Following the speech that is being analyzed is another speech where the spirit tells of how he died.

Shakespeare’s language throughout this text is exciting. He plays with his words and plays with contrasts and comparisons of objects to body parts. All sixteen lines feature an important aspect of this speech. Because the speech is an opening to another piece of writing Shakespeare does a superb job on setting up the stage for the next piece to come along.
Hamlet Annotation PDF