Mythological References in Hamlet

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Mythological References in Hamlet What's in a name? Hamlet's good friend and confidant Horatio is doomed by the etymology of his nomenclature to give good speech. Shakespeare has gifted Horatio with an elegant lucidty that, when inspected closely, enables the reader to better comprehend the nature of the play; one of his first addresses is key in setting the tone of what James Joyce called "'the grave and constant' in human suffering" (Campbell 8). This is also a principal theme of classical mythology, and to fully understand Hamlet as a tragic hero, a comprehension of the mythological references at the beginning of the play must be foremost in the reader's mind. These metaphoric intimations of tragedy; leaked in Hamlet's and Horatio's early soliloquies deliver the fundamental clues to unlocking Hamlet's enigmatic madness and foreshadow its violent emotional, physical and supernatural battles. The early Greeks believed that the universe created the gods, not .he other way around(Hamilton 24). They created their myths to explain the order of things; how the sun sets, why the moon rises, the tides coming in and out, etc. When these patterns were interrupted, people assumed it was the wrath or folly of the gods and went on making up more stories. Shakespeare has given his characters a heritage influenced by the Teutonic and Nordic races. Both cultures developed a collateral paganish belief shared by the early Greeks, and this parallel helps offer an explanation towards the choice of metaphor in the text. This is most important in the following excerpt from Horatio's second soliloquy. After seeing the ghost of Hamlet's father, he remarks to Bernardo: Disasters in the sun; and the moist star, Upon w... ... middle of paper ... heroic obligation. Claudius questions Hamlet's mood after a month of mourning for his father: CLAUDIUS: How is it that the clouds still hang on you? HAMLET: Not so, my lord, I am too much i' the sun.(I.ii.65-66) The reader is reminded of Horatio's portentous thoughts of misfortune and simultaneously called to recognize Hamlet as the center of future woes, around whom all the disasters at Elsinore revolve like satellites of the Fates: is he too much like his father or not? If Hamlet truly embodies the Promethean essence, then he does know what is to happen: Prometheus means "foresight." What is in a name? Works Cited Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988. Dukore, Bernard F. "Shaw on Hamlet." Educational Theatre Journal 23 (1971): 152-59 Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York: Mentor, 1969.
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