Analysing the Impact of the Opening Scene of Hamlet and Comparing It to the Opening of the Revenger's Tragedy

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In the opening of Hamlet, Shakespeare quickly establishes a sense of ambiguity and mystery, in which the audience is immediately consumed. Through the initial exchange between Barnado and Francisco - ‘Who’s there?’ to which Francisco replies ‘Nay answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.’ - Shakespeare secures this dominant mood of uncertainty and fear. The men’s verse do not flow, and so their broken fragments of speech emphasise this atmosphere of unease. Francisco’s unexplained phrase of ‘I am sick a heart’ further generates a sense of anxiety, and it spreads amongst the audience. We fear the unknown and soon the supernatural also. It too - the ghost - appears ambiguous, in one instant seeming ‘majestical’ and the next ‘like a guilty thing’. Audience’s of the time believed ghosts to be ‘agents of the afterlife’ and therefore suspect that the ghost, who appears in the dead king’s armour, has some unfinished business to attend to. In contrast, the opening scene of Revenger’s Tragedy appears much more focused and accessible in comparison with Shakespeare's complex opening scene. It is soon clear to the audience that Vindice will play a central role in the play since we are quickly bombarded with his thoughts and opinions. Here, there is no room for complexity. Vindice labels himself avenger for his wife’s death - the ‘old duke poisoned’ her. Very little ambiguity is found within this verse, as Vindice’s motive is clear: revenge. He jokes ‘Hum, who e’er knew murder unpaid?’ and finds no difficulty in justifying his dark plans to seek revenge, so much so that the scene almost becomes comical. Already, the audience sense Vindice is undercutting his wife’s death: his attitude is flippant and we suspect that this will not serve him well, foreboding what is to come later in the play. When comparing the two plays, it also becomes clear that serious matters are dealt with in

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