Hamlet Painting

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This is the painting Hamlet in the Queen’s chamber by William Salter Herrick. It was created in 1857 and is an oil on canvas. Its a very large painting (roughly 4 x 5 feet) and was housed in the London Royal Academy for some time.

This painting represents exactly what the title would imply: Hamlet in his mothers chambers. In Act III, Scene 4, Hamlet visits his mother and criticizes everything she has done. During his speech, his fathers ghost appears only to him. That makes him seem even more crazy as he talks to this apparition that the queen cannot see. It represents this conversation.

HAMLET

A king of shreds and patches—

                                                                Enter GHOST

Save me and hover o’er me with your wings,

You heavenly guards!—What would your gracious figure?

GERTRUDE

Alas, he’s mad!

HAMLET

Do you not come your tardy son to chide,

That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by

The important acting of your dread command?

O, say!

GHOST

 Do not forget. This visitation

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

But look, amazement on thy mother sits.

O, step between her and her fighting soul.

Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.

Speak to her, Hamlet.

Herrick paints an image that perfectly describes that scene. Hamlet looks crazy. The queen looks frightened and worried. Polonius is lying on the floor behind them with the sword Hamlet used to kill him next to him. And the ghost is there; barely visible on the right side, but there.

I really like all the detail the artist put into the painting. Having all the characters there is really important to portray the scene correctly. Also, the facial expressions of the characters is key to showing how a person interprets the story. In this painting, Hamlet really does look crazy (but who wouldn’t be if you could see something that others claim they cannot?). How Herrick painted the ghost interesting; rather than be fully present, the ghost is barely seen. At first glance, someone could easily miss the ghost and just see Hamlet looking crazed. But, I suppose that has purposefully done to show that maybe Hamlet was losing it. Maybe the ghost wasn’t really there. Or maybe it was; its all up to interpretation. Which this artist didn’t help by leaving it questionable.

Overall, I think this an amazing painting that has a ton of detail. Herrick was very talented and really portrayed all that is happening in this scene.

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2 thoughts on “Hamlet Painting

  1. I agree with you on the whole facial expressions thing. To be honest I would have probably looked at this painting and just did a small chalk list of what to describe within the painting like: Hamlet, Queen, Polonius [and the ghost]. I would have ever taken such a detailed look into how well depicted Hamlet’s insanity is in this moment. It’s also brilliantly highlighted by the fact that the Queen is leaning away and doesn’t even want to be touched by Hamlet in this state. But, most importantly, I find it interesting how this painter decided to actually draw in the ghost and not have Hamlet just speaking to air. It’s ironic because even us, the viewer, needs to look pretty closely before we can see him as well.

    Like

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