Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Initial Impressions on Hamlet

The first two scenes of Hamlet by William Shakespeare gave me the impression that Hamlet is an expressive, caring, and intelligent prince.
Hamlet first appears in Act 1 Scene 2 at Claudius's speech to mourn for Old Hamlet's death. The King addresses Hamlet as "my cousin Hamlet, and my son –" To this address, Hamlet responds, "A little more than kin and less than kind" (Shakespeare 1.2.64-65). On the surface, Hamlet says that his relationship to Claudius is a more than that of a relative, but a little less than that of a direct family member (they are not the same kind of person). The remark made by Hamlet mentioned above can also be interpreted on a different level. I have deduced two possibilities of a double meaning that Hamlet insinuates in the quote. The first half of Hamlet's words are straightforward, but the word kind in the second half can be interpreted differently. The first denotation of the word "kind" means category. Hamlet could've used the phrase to draw the line between him and Claudius; Hamlet insinuates that although they are related, in no means are they the same kind of person (a foreshadow to Claudius's problematic character). Another denotation of "kind" is friendliness; this aforementioned denotation changes the quote's meaning to a snide remark at Claudius's insincerity. 
Hamlet's expressiveness is further demonstrated through an exchange with his mother. His mother Gertrude addresses Hamlets sadness with some life experiences: "Thou know'st 'tis common – all the lives must die, / Passing through nature to eternity." Hamlet responds with, "Ay, madam, it is common" (Shakespeare 1.2.72-74). Yet another play on words by our good friend Hamlet/Shakespeare. Hamlet uses "common", which according to the book and the dictionary, can also mean vulgar and poor taste. I think that in that quote, Hamlet makes fun of his mom's poor choice to remarry so soon and questions her loyalty to his dad while he agrees with her on the surface. Hamlet's expressiveness interconnects with the point I made earlier about Hamlet's care for his dad. This interaction with his mom proves that he still holds his father's best interest in the back of his mind. Towards the end of the scene, Hamlet also actively investigates upon discovering the existence of his father's ghost which again shows his care for his father and the wellness of the kingdom.
On top of all of this, Hamlet's intelligence is not only verified by the fact that he is in college but also shown through his clever play on words to mock his family members. I think Hamlet is quite a quirky kid who at the same time has a sense of responsibility. Here are my initial impressions of Hamlet in two photos:
Hamlet from Hamlet (2000)

Hamlet from Hamlet (2000)
He just seems like a young mischievous guy who has the intelligence and ability to take over when he is needed, but otherwise just living his life and doing his own thing.


  1. I'm glad you picked up on the different ways Hamlet plays with language - that skill is definitely one of his strengths. One tip--maybe add spaces between paragraphs so we can distinguish them better. Previewing your posts before you publish can help a lot with the visuals.

  2. Hey Elaine! Awesome post - I never focused on the double meanings of the words before. Another connection would maybe be that his intuition (which stems from his intelligence and analysis of other people's actions) tells him not to trust his uncle, the king. And he ends up being correct! Claudius killed his brother (Hamlet's father) and plays nice with his nephew because he needs Hamlet's approval. What do you think?