Hamlet Essay

1886 Words Mar 23rd, 2013 8 Pages
poisoning through the ear in hamlet
Hamlet is a drama that tells the story of a bewildered young prince, a thinker who must contend with vengeful impulses riled by his father's ghost and subsequently by the prince's own agonized sensibility to the decorum of revenge. Shakespeare manages to induce Hamlet's sensibilities in many ways, not the least of which is the "poison in the ear" motif that courses the length of the drama. Indeed, in Act 1 Scene 5 Shakespeare introduces the literal act of Claudius pouring poison into the "porches" of old King Hamlet's ear, as related to the prince by old Hamlet's ghost. But the extent to which ear­poisoning plays a role in the play is, at the juncture of Act 1.5, only beginning to take root. Even in Act
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And though this information is yet to be revealed in 1.4, Horatio, in protest of Hamlet following the Ghost, suggests the dangers of being led away and thereby begins the pattern of perilous, death­inducing suggestion begot by sounds or words:
What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff. . . .
The very place puts toys of desperation, Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath. (
Hamlet 1.4.69­78)
Horatio here advises Hamlet that, if the Ghost were to lead him to the sea, the mere sound of the waves crashing beneath the cliff may induce in him "toys of desperation," fancies or imaginings of harmful or desperate acts­such is the power of sound. Horatio's plea is more rhetorical than anything else, a desperate attempt to stay Hamlet, but it is no accident that he petitions Hamlet with an argument on the insidious nature of sound. It is also no accident that Hamlet overlooks Horatio's reasonable words, for though Horatio throughout speaks honey to his beleaguered friend, Hamlet is almost always consumed with fighting off the effects of venom, poured into his ears from nearly every other character.
Enter the Ghost, who in Act 1.5, mere lines after Horatio's innocent warning, puts "toys of desperation" into Hamlet's reeling brain by relating his murder

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