On Shakespeares "Hamlet" - past and present, memory and forgetting

Term Paper 2008 9 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature


Remembrance is the key factor to every person’s past life. So one can agree with Hammersmith in that without memory, which actually develops through remembrance, all our former experience vanishes and seems never to have existed. The only thing remaining is the ‘Here and Now‘, the single moment we experience something. Past and present do not have any further significance for our lives (cf. JSTOR trusted archives for scholarship).

In his play Hamlet, William Shakespeare represents characters who seemingly have a past and whose lives are strongly influenced by this. In Hamlet ‘Shakespeare appears to have given exceptional care and thought to the problem of dramatizing the past’ (Alexander, 1971: 38). Through various techniques which will be discussed and developed in this essay, he gives his characters a whole life consisting of a past, which influences their present and, even more strongly, their future actions. This essay will show how Shakespeare manages to combine past and present without disturbing the common time-related order of the play. In addition, I will show how Shakespeare’s audience is informed about all the crucial events it has to know in order to understand what is happening on stage, although past and present time are presented in an uncommon way.

Right at the very beginning of the play, the audience is informed about what has happened in the past, what circumstances influence the characters and what events are going to affect the characters' future actions. With the first appearance of the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Horatio informs the audience indirectly about the political situation in Denmark, so that the Denmark on stage becomes a real state for the audience, with political affairs, rules and conventions. The ghost of the old king Hamlet appears in full armour, which prompts Horatio to speak of all the political events which have taken place in Denmark under the reign of old King Hamlet and still influence the present time to a very high extent.



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dramatization remembrance Denmark audience future dramatic collision Elizabethan Age dump show melancholy King Hamlet ghost



Title: On Shakespeares "Hamlet" - past and present, memory and forgetting