How does Shakespeare use structure to instill excitement, suspense and climax?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare's central plot and conflict in Hamlet arise out of the murder of King Hamlet before the play opens. Suspense and excitement are created when Hamlet is told by the Ghost that his father was murdered and that Hamlet should avenge his murder.

The plot and conflict (elements of structure), then, center on Hamlet's revenge against Claudius for the murder of King Hamlet.  The questions of when, where, and how (and how soon) Hamlet will get his revenge drive the play and create suspense.  On one level, the reason an audience keeps watching or a reader keeps turning the pages is to see when and if Hamlet will be successful in killing Claudius.  Climax is reached when Hamlet has the perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, and decides not to because he doesn't want to send Claudius to heaven by killing him when he is confessing.

Subplots are also involved, of course.  Subplots involve the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia and Ophelia's reactions to the death of her father and Hamlet's rejection of her; the true identity of the Ghost; Hamlet's feigned madness; Laertes's revenge against Hamlet; Fortinbras's role in the affairs of Denmark.

On another level, suspense is created by the presentation of Hamlet's state of mind and his mind in general.  Character's thoughts act as actions on the reader in fiction, and soliloquies present character thoughts in drama.  Thus, when Hamlet's thoughts are revealed in his speeches (when he thinks he's alone or he's acting like he's alone) and soliloquies the plot is moved forward.  Hamlet moves from depression and obsession to contemplation to self-loathing to regret to action, etc., and the workings of his mind provide development and suspense in the play. 

troll123 | Student

In Act 1 section 5: The Ghost reveals to Hamlet that Claudius is the murdere of Hamlets father. Then Claudius decided to spread rumours that he died of a snake bite. Which has resolved as a true story in Denmark. The use of dramatic irony has been resulted because only hamlet and the readers know the truth that Claudius is the murderer of Hamlets father.After all these revelation,we start to symphaphise the reaction Hamlet has towards his father's death."Now Hamlet, hear...Now wears his crown".This quote tells the audience that Hamlet is trying to get revenge on Claudius.

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