To what extent is Act 1 of "Hamlet" a study in social disorder?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With the death of Hamlet's father and the unexpected assumption to the throne by his brother, there is a skewering of the proper order of the tradition of monarchy.  For instance, in the 20th century, Prince Edward of England abdicated the throne for the love of an American divorcee whom he insisted upon marrying.  As a consequence of this abdication, his brother George, father of the current Queen Elizabeth, became king.  With the shy and unprepared George's unexpectedly being made king, the English felt an order of their society disrupted.

So, too, is there this sense of social disruption in Denmark, and especially, in the eyes of the sensitive Hamlet.  In addition, there is an upheaval within the family as Hamlet's mother has quickly married the very brother of her dead husband.  To Hamlet, this action seems offensive to the honor of his father, and even incestuous.  It is an action rendered even more perverse in the fact that his mother is older and should be beyond lustful temptations:

You cannot call it love, for at your age/The heyday in the blood is tame,.../O shame, where is thy blush? (III,iv,69-82)

Guiltily the mother admits her shame,

O Hamlet, speak no more!/Thou turn'st my eyes into my very soul,/ And there I see such black and grained spots/As will not leave their tinct (III,iv,89-92)

Even the evil Claudius considers this disruption of the natural order of the family:

O my offence is ran, it smells to heaven;/It hath the primal eldes curse upon't,/A brother's murder....(III,iii,16-18)


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