What is one way Hamlet foreshadows the content of the play?

1 Answer
Jan 6, 2018

Foreshadowing is one of the key stylistic features of the Shakespeare's tragedy; Hamlet.


At the beginning of the play, Hamlet is mourning his father's death and agonizing over his mother's marriage to his uncle, Claudius. Watchmen alert the prince to the appearance of a ghost who looks very much like the dead King Hamlet.

Hamlet waits for the ghost to appear, and finds that it is his father, dressed in battle gear, and stuck in limbo because he was murdered without being forgiven for his earthly sins. The murderer? Of course, it is Claudius, who purportedly put poison in the king's ears while he was napping in the garden. The young prince is assigned the task of revenging his father's death.

There is an element of foreshadowing in the fact that the departed king is dressed for battle: soldiers from Norway are preparing to attack Denmark. This issue will come out to both the characters and the audience a bit later in the action.

Later, Hamlet has an opportunity to kill Claudius while he kneels in prayer but restrains himself because he does not want his uncle to die without heavenly forgiveness, as King Hamlet did.

People that have read other shakespearian tragedies will be award that a tragedy ends in the total downfall of most of the characters. This is true of Hamlet as well. At the end of the play, basically everyone except Horatio and the Norwegian intruders lies dead on the stage.

A key instance of foreshadowing for this carnage is Marcellus' statement in Act One, Scene IV, ''Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.'' The adjective rotten carries a double meaning: decayed and ruined like a spoiled piece of meat, and also mean, evil behaviour. Denmark turns out to have both sorts of rottenness afoot.

The death of Ophelia is foreshadowed by Hamlet’s unusual behaviour towards her. Hamlet showed Ophelia his unconditional love through his acts of kindness. He showed her his affections by sending her letters and pledging his love to her. She believed his devotion of love and felt the same way because he “made many tenders/of his affection to [her]” (1.3.108-109).

His madness increased after his uncle Claudius and his mother Gertrude married two months after his father’s death. Ophelia described Hamlet’s appearance “as if he had been loosed out of hell/to speak of horrors’”since he was so pale and dreadful looking (2.1.93-94). After his father’s death and his mother’s marriage Hamlet’s depressed state of mind caused him to neglect Ophelia. Therefore, she felt very lonely especially since her father, Polonius, was murdered by her lover. Her lover’s neglect, her brother’s absence and her father’s death caused her to go mad.

She just needed to be comforted. The lack of love she received caused her madness which left her with no other choose but to take her own life by drowning.

I hope this helps get you on the right track :)