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Sofia Dominguez & Edith Murillo
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In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses mythological allusions to
emphasize the tragedy of the play and dramatize the
events happening through Hamlets eyes, all of which
lead to the reader’s better understanding of his
I. Hamlets view of other characters:
◦ Satyr; Hamlet is referring to king Claudius
◦ {“Hyperion to a Satyr”} {I.ii.142}
◦ Hamlet compares King Claudius to a Satyr, which in Greek mythology was a
creature known for its lust and promiscuity. This allusion hints that Hamlet
suspected of the affair between the King and Queen that had been going on
before King Hamlets death, before he encountered the ghost on act II. He
suspected because of their quick marriage not long after King Hamlets’ death.
◦ Hyperion/ Jove/ Mars/ Mercury/; Hamlet is comparing his father to Roman gods
◦ {See what a grace was seated on this brow; Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove
himself, An eye like Mars, to threaten and command, A station like the herald
Mercury New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;”} {III.iv.62-66}
◦ Hamlet compares his father, King Hamlet, to several roman gods, emphasizing the
admiration he had for him. This allusion in addition to the image of the ‘ghost’
reveal Hamlets’ inability to accept his fathers death and vulnerability. Moreover,
demonstrating Hamlets’ madness brought by dealing with King Hamlets death.
I. Continued…
◦ Niobe; referring to the queen Gertrude (responsible for her loved ones’ death)
◦ {“Like Niobe, all tears – “} {I.ii.151}
◦ Hecuba; compares Gertrude (no emotion for the death of her husband) to Hecuba
(full of grief and sorry) represented as the queen on the play
◦ {Say on, come to Hecuba} {II.ii.491}
◦ Hamlet made two allusions that compare the Queen to mythological woman.
◦ On the first quote he compared Queen Gertrude to Niobe (Greek Mythology), who
wept at the death of her children. However she not only cried from grief, but also from
guilt, (yet mourned longer than the Queen Herself). For she was the one responsible for
the violent destruction of her family. This allusion foreshadows the Queens’ fault in the
death of her husband. Hamlet is disgusted by the fact that the Queen mourned for so
little, and the fact that he compares her to Niobe, and even says right after that “a
beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourned longer” shows how much
Hamlet despised his mother.
◦ Later on, Hamlet contrasts his mother with Hecuba, whose grief for her husband was
much more passionate and unforgettable than Gertrude's. This ties in with how he felt
before about his mother, because he cannot believe that grief as passionate as
Hecuba's can exist, and yet his mother feel little to none for her husband.
II. Hamlets feelings about himself:
◦ Hercules; Hamlet contrasts himself
◦ {My father’s brother – but no more like my father Than I to Hercules.”} {I.ii.154-155}
◦ Hamlet contrasts himself with Hercules, which depicts the image he has about
himself. He sees himself as the opposite of Hercules: unworthy, weak and
incapable of heroic actions.
◦ Nemean lion◦ {My fate cries out And makes each petty artery in this body As hardy as the
Nemean lion’s nerve.”} {I.iv.91-93}
◦ After contrasting himself to Hercules, he makes a reference to the Nemean lion.
In Greek mythology this was a beast that was defeated by Hercules as the first of
his twelve Labours. At this point it can be implied that Hamlet feels like following
the ghost requires the same heroism and valor that it took to defeat the Nemean
lion. (Not that he feels capable or ready for this, but more like he has to because
he is being called to complete this duty)
III. Hamlet's perception of death
◦ Julius Caesar: Roman emperor who was assasinated ( Act 1, scene 1)
◦ Mars: Roman god of war (Act 2, scene 2)
◦ Priam: king of Troy who was killed by Pyrrus upon his public hummiliation for the return
of his son's body
◦ Nero: roman emperor who was murmured to have murdered his mother
◦ Cain: mudered his brother and was condemmed to a life of "a fugitive and a
◦ "The readiness is all": allusion to biblibal passage, Mathew 24:44
◦ As you can see, Hamlet’s perception of death shows to be somewhat unnatural in the
course of the play, as shakespeare constantly makes allusions of solely assassinations
and murders, rather than death of old age, or even accidents.
◦ Act 5, scene 2, line 211
◦ Hamlet: “Not a whit. We defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it
be now, ‘tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The
readiness is all. Since no man aught he leaves, knows aught, what is’t to leave betimes? Let
◦ Conversation between Hamlet and Horatio
◦ Constant refreshing of the concept of death in assassination
◦ Hamlet seems to keep the idea of death in the back of his mind at all times, through
the entire play, yet it was not until Act 5 that he actually stipulates that death is
inevitable, suggesting that it is a crucial factor for living, a betrayal.
Works Cited
◦ ""Classical Allusions in Shakespeare's Tragedy of Hamlet ..." N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016
◦ Robinson, Marsha S. "Shakespeare's Hamlet and the Controversies of Self." Renaissance
Quarterly 56.1 (2003): 242+. General OneFile. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.