Explain how, in Act l of Hamlet, scene ll is a contrast to Scene l. What do we learn about Gertrude, Claudius, and Hamlet in this scene?  

2 Answers | Add Yours

kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

There are some simple contrasts, one scene is outside and in the dark of night, involving the visit of some kind of supernatural figure without any explanation, and there are just four characters involved, Bernardo, Francisco, Horatio and Marcellus.  The scene is one mainly steeped in terror.

Scene ii presents a scene of festivity and light and celebration where the entire court of Denmark is present as Claudius and Gertrude announce their union and in a flourish suggest that the kingdom no longer need mourn for the death of its former King, Hamlet Sr..

We learn that Claudius feels like he has gained everything he wanted and is very happy about his marriage to Gertrude and his assumption of the throne.  We learn that Hamlet is somehow sad and not really into the whole party, he is "too much in the sun."  We learn that Gertrude appears to be happy, though slightly worried about Hamlet and glad that he will not leave them but stay in Denmark for the time being.

andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Both scenes are quite similar in that they both convey a somewhat somber mood. What contrasts the two is that scene l opens up with a sense of alarm and danger being expressed. It seems that there is some threat against the kingdom in the form of young prince Fortinbras, a fact which Horatio so eloquently explains to his fellow Danes, whilst scene ll begins with king Claudius expressing both pain and pleasure. Pain for the untimely death of the erstwhile king and pleasure for having married his widow. The mood is much lighter than that of the first scene.

Scene two also differs from the first scene in that the focus is on Hamlet, who is distraught about his father's death and his mother's quick betrothal to his uncle who now occupies the throne. The focus in scene one is on a spirit which we discover later, is the ghost of young Hamlet's father. The watchers on the platform are surprised and frightened out of their wits by its appearance.

We learn that King Claudius is quite happy with himself. He has claimed the throne after marrying the widowed Queen Gertrude and is clearly happy about conducting affairs of state, which he does with pride and authority. He expresses some concern for Hamlet but we are soon to discover that his care is more show than real.

Queen Gertrude is also quite happy about her lot even though she has lost her husband less than two months prior to her marriage. This creates the impression that she is not that sorrowful about his passing since she observed a very short period of mourning. She has quickly married her deceased husband's brother and this has allowed her new husband to claim the throne, bypassing Hamlet's right to the title. Her act seems callous and indicates insensitivity to what her son might be experiencing although she does express concern about his dark mood.

Hamlet is clearly angry and depressed and feels that the world has nothing to offer him. He is disgusted by his mother's quick marriage and believes her to have been driven by carnal desire. He sees her decision as incestuous. He clearly despises Claudius whom he compares to his deceased father and finds no equal. Furthermore, he does not deem both his mother and Claudius' shows of sorrow and care for him as genuine and believes that they are feigning it. 

We’ve answered 318,994 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question