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"serpent"
Allusion
Act 1,
Scene 5
Lines 36-41

An explanation of the biblical allusion to the "serpent" in Act 1, Scene 5 in myShakespeare's Hamlet.

myShakespeare | Hamlet 1.5 Allusion: Serpent

Ghost

A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark
Is, by a forgèd process of my death,
Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown.     

Hamlet

                                      Oh, my prophetic soul! 
Mine uncle?

Video Transcript

SARAH: Here's some nice language describing how the entire country has been given a false account of the king's death: "the whole ear of Denmark is ... rankly abused".

RALPH: Sarah, it also seems like Shakespeare is mixing in Biblical imagery here. When the ghost claims that "the serpent that did sting thy father's life now wears his crown." This seems a direct reference to the snake in the garden of Eden, that caused Adam and Eve's fall from grace.

SARAH: Well, of course, Ralph - after all, King Hamlet was sleeping in a garden. But more significantly, this Biblical imagery helps cement the relationship between Claudius' murder, and the tragic plight of the King, who was killed before he could confess his sins.

RALPH: I guess I'm going to have to think about that some more. But before we move on, we should take another look at Hamlet's response, "O my prophetic soul!" The line implies that something in the ghost's story is not a complete surprise to Hamlet. Perhaps his instincts have told him that there was something evil about his uncle Claudius - perhaps he even suspected that his father's death was foul play.