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The Impact of Historical & Mythological Allusions in Hamlet

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Michael D`Andrea

on 5 November 2014

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Transcript of The Impact of Historical & Mythological Allusions in Hamlet

Use in Hamlet
Hamlet compares his father to Hyperion who is the God of light and wisdom
The light symbolizes knowledge displaying the knowledge Hamlet was given by his father about his death and mothers affair.
Hamlet also thinks his father is wise and great like Hyperion
Use in Hamlet
Hamlet compares his mother to Niobe who mourned forever for her children
Queen Gertrude on the other hand remarried just a few months after the Kings death and barely mourned at all for old King Hamlet
This really disrupts Hamlet and makes him angry
Use in Hamlet
Hamlet compares his uncle to a Satyr saying he is ugly and a coward of a man for the things he did to his father.
Claudius is also lustful and drinks a lot much like a Satyr
Hamlet displays how much he despises his uncle for what he did
Use in Hamlet
Polonius says this to Hamlet which foreshadows his death in the same way as Caesar
Both were stabbed to death
Use in Hamlet
Again we see how we will all return to dust when we die just like everyone else even great people
Alexander is a contrast to Hamlet, Hamlet being a coward and Alexander being a warrior
Use in Hamlet
"O, heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever the soul of Nero enter this firm bosom" (Act iii.ii.385)
The Impact of Historical & Mythological Allusions in

Thesis 1 min
Main Points 10-15 mins
Video 3 mins
Activity 10 mins
Conclusion/Question Time 2 mins

William Shakespeare has always incorporated many literary elements into his writings which made them so memorable. The element of Allusion specifically historical and mythological allusion are a huge part in Hamlet. This seminar will assess the mythological refrences,the historical refrences and the reason Shakespeare chose to use them.
One of the 12 children of Goddess Gaia(the earth) and the God Uranus(the heavens)
He is the Titan God of the sun, the Titan of the east and God of watchfulness, wisdom and light
His children are Eos the dawn, Selene the moon and Helios the sun
(Act i.ii.140)
They are deities of the woods and mountains and have hooves, legs and a tail of a goat.
They are old,ugly and cowards
Gods of wine, spending time drinking, dancing
and seducing Nymphs
(Act i.ii.140)
Queen of Thebes and had 14 children
She bragged about her children to Leto who only had 2 children.
Leto sent Apollo and Artemis to kill all of Niobe`s children
Niobe pleaded to the Gods to stop the pain of seeing her dead children so Zeus turned her into a rock but even as a rock she still cried
Symbol of eternal mourning
Mortal son of Zeus
Strong and Courageous
The Goddess Hera drove him mad making him kill his children
To atone for his crime he was given 12 labours
Use in Hamlet
Hamlet compares himself to Hercules
Hercules wants to cleanse his soul by doing these labours instead of seeking revenge on Hera
Hamlet seeks revenge for his father`s death and cannot bring himself to move past his feelings like Hercules did
He is not strong like Hercules
"So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a Satyr: so loving to my mother/That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly ./ Heaven and Earth..."
"So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a Satyr: so loving to my mother/That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly./Heaven and Earth..."
"My father's brother- but no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules..." (Act i.ii.152-153)
"Like Niobe, all tears;-why she, even she,- O God! a beast that wants to discourage of reason Would have mourn`d longer,- married with mine uncle..." (Act i.ii.149)
Priam and Pyrrhus

Myth from the Trojan War
Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, goes to revenge his father who was killed in the war
He kills the Trojan King Priam while Queen Hecuba looks on and mourns.
Use in Hamlet

"With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam..." (Act ii.ii.447-480)
Hamlet and the Player are reciting this part of a play
The story of Priam and Pyrrhus parallels the life of Hamlet which is why Hamlet has so much passion for this scene
Pyrrhus is like Hamlet, avenging his father while King Priam is like King Claudius and Queen Hecuba is like Queen Gertrude
Julius Caesar
He was a politician and General of the Roman Republic until he seized power and became a dictator.
He was killed by senators led by Brutus and Cassius because they were not happy with how he put himself in power
"I did enact Julius Caesar: I was killed i' the/Capitol, Brutus killed me." (Act iii.ii.101)
"Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay/Might stop a hole to keep the wind away."(Act v.i. 207-210)
After seeing Yorricks skull Hamlet understands that everyone returns to dust when they die even a great leader like Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar was killed by the ones he knew and loves like Old King Hamlet and his brother
Alexander the Great
Alexander led his army to conquer land north, south, east and west of Greece in only a decade
He was a military genius and inspired loyalty in his soldiers
"To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may
Not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander,
Till he find it stopping a bung-hole?" (Act v. i. 197-200)
"Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of
Earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he
Was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?"(Act v.i.203-206)
Nero the
Roman Emperor
Many people did not like him because they believed he began the fire of Rome
Persecuted Christians
Killed his own mother
Hamlet does not want to do what Nero did and kill his own mother
He fears he will get too angry and be compelled to do so
"Hamlet focuses on the death of the Trojan king Priam and specifically on the king's killer, Pyrrhus, who also happens to be the avenging son of his fallen father, Achilles."(Bloom 2)
Why Shakespeare Used it in His Play`s

Shakespeare incorporates myth and historic allusions in many of his plays from the names he chooses for his major characters to directly stating stories of myth
Shakespeare made many of his plays similar to Greek dramas using the knowledge of his audience to produce the effect of tragic irony
His plays follow many plots of Greek myths and also follow many Roman Emperors
Greek Mythology and Roman times included stories of imperial corruption, adultery, incest, assassination, and poisoning
Shakespeare relates this in many of his plays because the audience was familiar with it and it made the audience think that it could happen to anyone
Emperor Claudius
Came to power by assassinating Roman Emperor Gaius(Caligula)
He sent troops to expand the Roman Empire in Britain which he did successfully
Use in Hamlet
King Claudius is the parallel to Emperor Claudius
Same name
The audience would have despised him because he was important figure in taking over Britain for Rome
Also killed family to become Emperor like Claudius killed King Hamlet to become King
If Shakespeare did not use any Mythological and Historical Allusions do you think the Play would have the same effect on the audience?
Emphasizing the worthlessness of all human life and its endevours.
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