Surveillance (English/Cymraeg)


English translation:

The word “surveillance” is derived from French, meaning to observe something or someone to find and block crime. “Sur” means “from above” and “veiller” means “to watch”. Surveillance is a form of social control.

David Lyon defines it as “any collection of data and processing of personal data, whether identifiable or no, for the purpose of influencing or managing those whose data has been garnered”.

Examples include:

  • CCTV;
  • Tagging;
  • Tracking and
  • Storing of DNA.

In modern Britain, there are about forty thousand CCTV cameras, and in the last four years, the British Council spent roughly £515 million on them. This amount of money would be enough to employ an extra 4121 police officers.

The sociologist Gary Marx used this idea of a “surveillance state” to convey the idea that “the all-encompassing use of computer surveillance technology in modern society is for total social control”. It is possible to associate this idea with the Left Realists as they believe that surveillance is beneficial for society because it “hardens targets” – it makes it harder for people to commit crime.

Yet, despite the thousands of CCTV cameras that Britain has, crime rates aren’t comparably lower than countries who have less surveillance. Germany, for example.

The British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) used this idea of surveillance to make a building called “the Panopticon”, which he used as a prison. The design of the “perfect prison” was structured in such a way that cells would be open to a central tower. Individuals in the cells would not be able to interact with each other and they are permanently facing a central panoptic tower. They cannot see whether or whether not there is a person in the tower and therefore must believe that they can be watched at any moment. Bentham noted that this is a model for how society should work in general.

The French postmodernist philosopher Michel Foulcault (1926-1984) also agreed that this is how society should work in order to maintain social order. He argued that the Panopticon was “a diagram of the mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form”, thus it was a positive objective because it shows that society has significantly moved forward from barbaric acts of so-called justice, such as the death penalty. Other postmodernists, like Stanley Cohen (1942-2013), supported this claim by stating that social control and detention used to be public and overt, but in modern society, it is considered to be more discrete and subtle.

Also, the Panopticon helped Foulcault explore the power-knowledge concept and the relationship between agencies of social control (like the police, for instance) and the public.  Because of this, surveillance is extremely useful, and to some extents, it helps to avoid the functionalist term of “anomie” (meaning: complete lack of social control/utter chaos).

However, many Marxists would disagree with Foulcault because they believe that surveillance is a weapon that is used by the Bourgeoisie (ruling class) to exploit and use the Proletariat (the working class).

Cyfieithiad Cymraeg:

Mae gwyliadwriaeth yn air Ffrangeg sy’n golygu gwylio rhywun neu rywbeth er mwyn darganfod a rhwystro trosedd. Mae “sur” yn golygu “o uwchben” ac mae “veiller” yn golygu “i wylio”, ac yn ffordd o sicrhau rheolaeth gymdeithasol. Mae David Lyon yn ei ddiffinio fel, “any collection of data and processing of personal data, whether identifiable or not, for the purpose of influencing or managing those whose data has been garnered”. Mae esiamplau’n cynnwys CCTV, tagio, tracio, a chadw cofnod o DNA. Bodola tua 40 mil o gamerâu monitro cymdeithasol (CCTV) ym Mhrydain, a gwariodd y Cyngor Prydeinig  tua £515 miliwn arnynt yn y pedwar blynedd ddiwethaf. Byddai math hyn o arian cyflogi 4121 heddwas.

Soniodd Gary Marx am y syniad o “cymdeithas gwyliadwriaeth”, sef, “defnydd holl-gynhwysfawr o wyliadwriaeth dechnolegol yn y gymdeithas gyfoes am reolaeth gymdeithasol gyflawn”. Mae modd cysylltu’r cysyniad gyda Realwyr y Dde oherwydd eu bod yn credu mai gwyliadwriaeth yn fuddiol i’r gymdeithas oherwydd mae’n enghraifft o galedu targedau. Mae’n caledu targedau, megis trwy “Neighbourhood Watch”, yn gwneud i drosedd fod yn fwy anodd i gyflawni.

Ond er hyn, er gwaethaf y miloedd o gamerâu monitro ym Mhrydain, nid yw cyfradd trosedd Prydain yn gymharol is na gwledydd sydd â llai o wyliadwriaeth, megis yr Almaen.

Defnyddiodd Jeremy Bentham y syniad o wyliadwriaeth i greu adeilad o’r enw “y Panoptican”. Defnyddiodd yr adeilad hwn fel carchar ac roedd yn caniatáu i warchodwyr i wylio carcharon heb iddynt allu gwybod os ydynt o dan sylw neu ddim. Roedd dim ond angen un gwarchodwr. Felly mae rhaid i’r carcharon wastad ymddwyn fel y petai eu bod yn cael eu gwylio i osgoi sancsiynau posib.

Mynegodd yr athronyddwyd ôl-fodern Michel Foulcalt yn defnyddio’r Panopticon fel trosiad i’r gymdeithas ehangach, ac mae’n “diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form”, felly mae rhywbeth cadarnhaol yw hyn oherwydd mae’n ddangos bod y gymdeithas wedi symud ymlaen o weithredoedd barbaraidd o sancsiynu, megis yn lle’r gosb eithaf. Mae’r ôl-fodernwyr Stanley Cohen yn atgyfnerthu at y syniad hwn trwy ddweud bod rheolaeth gymdeithasol a chosbi yn arfer bod yn ddull cyhoeddus ac amlwg, ond bellach mae’n fwy arwahanol a chynnil trwy wyliadwriaeth, megis CCTV a thagio.

Hefyd, mae’r Panopticon yn helpu Foulcault i ddeall ac ystyried y cysylltiad rhwng asiantaethau rheolaeth gymdeithasol a’r cyhoedd a’r cysyniad pŵer-gwybodaeth. Oherwydd hyn, mae gwyliadwriaeth yn ddull pwerus iawn, ac i ryw raddau, mae’n osgoi’r term swyddogaethol o “anomi”.

Byddai Marcswyr yn anghytuno gyda Foulcault oherwydd maent yn dweud bod gwyliadwriaeth yn arf sy’n cael eu defnyddio gan y Bourgeoisie yn erbyn y Proletariat.


Is the British Criminal Justice System institutionally racist? / Hiliaeth sefydliadol o fewn y System Cyfiawnder Troseddol? English and Welsh translations.

English / Saesneg:

There are strong implications that ethnic minorities in Britain, particularly the black community, get treated a lot more unfairly by the Justice System. For instance, the number of black prisoners counts for 13% on a whole, where the population of the black community counts for only 2.8%. Similarly, 5.8% of our society belong to the Asian community (for instance, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian etc.), but 7.9% of all prisoners are Asian too. These statistics are comparable with the underrepresentation of white people in prison: 88% of us are white, but prison consists of 73% of white ethnicity. This tells us that ethnic minority groups (EMG’s) are hugely overrepresented in the prison system. On one hand, a lot of sociologists do consider this to be a matter of institutional racism, but other possible explanations need to be explored in order to come to a full conclusion.

Institutional racism is a term that refers to prejudice and racial bias in a social system, in this case, the police would be an example. “Institutional racism is about stereotyping; it is about ignorance… it is about seeing black people as a problem and it is about White pretence” (Grieve and French). Thus, for these reasons, the police are much more likely to target black people, and they’re much more likely to be “stopped and searched” by the police. The ‘Youth Justice Board’ (YJB) support this claim through their research into the overrepresentation of young people from EMG’s in crime. Between 2003-4, they counted as 2/5 of every case of stop and searches, particularly amongst the younger generation. In London alone, black males are 28% more likely to be stopped and searched than any other ethnic group.

Then again, demographic reasons offer an explanation for this. The population of EMG’s appears to be younger. In fact, 40% of the black community are under 16, compared to 35% of Pakistanis and only 20% of white people (National Statistics, 2005). But to reinforce my former point, Smith, Gray and Holdaway argue that the police follow old stereotypes of people from EMG’s and target them as potential suspects as a result. Many sociologists are doubtful of this because of the victim’s prejudice, so essentially the police only target these particular groups because they are who the public tend to report.

The term “Canteen Culture” was coined by an ex-police officer named Reyner and is used to describe racism within the police force. He believes that racial prejudice and sexism is bred and nurtured within the police force because they arguably need to adopt these feelings in order to be part of the “rank”. These ideas are morphed into the police system because they tend to work long hours in a stressful work setting, so for many people, negative influences are often hard to ignore.

What the Metropolitan police say is that racism within the police force is a mere reflection of the racism in society as a whole. Macpherson reinforces this idea by saying that the vast majority of police officers are white males, which allows racism because it does not reflect Britain’s multicultural society. Exactly 10% of the police force come from EMG backgrounds. Even Sir Anthony Burden of the South Wales Police agreed with this, ““I would be the first to accept that for 150 years, we have been a white male organisation”.

Not only that but the police tend to target areas with a higher population of people with ethnic minority backgrounds. Yet many sociologists argue against this theory by saying that the police are only hardening the targets and has no link whatsoever with racial bias.

The organisation ‘Crime Concern’ reiterates this idea that black males are much more likely to be thrown into the justice system because of their overrepresentation in risk groups, for instance, poverty, educational failures, mental health and a lack of positive role models. Statistics shows that people who experience poverty and deprivation, tend to be more inclined to commit a crime, respectively. In the same way, if these particular risk groups are tackled correctly, then it is likely that we would see the figures of overrepresentation fall. Merton states that people mainly commit crime because of status frustration, which could be linked to the amount of people from EMG who currently do tend to be a lot poorer than their white counterparts. So essentially, people from EMG are more likely to commit crimes because of the many problems they face in society, such as racism and poverty.

The ‘Race and Criminal Justice System’ states in their article that “black males are five times more likely to be imprisoned than white people”, and further investigations prove that black males and Asians are far more likely to receive immediate custody from the Court: 29% of Asians, 29% of black males and 22% of white males. These statistics should not be as it is if you consider the predominant population of the white community in Britain. It is evidence of the overrepresentation ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system. Then again, black males are statistically more likely to commit more serious crimes, so tougher treatment would seem logical in this sense.

Black criminals are more likely to receive fines and more community service compared to white people (Sharpe, 2005). Furthermore, a black magistrate once noted that black defendants were “more likely to receive harsh remarks, severe sentencing, disregard for personal mitigation, easy findings of guilt irrespective of evidence, most likely to refuse bale, and most likely to receive a sentence” (Bird, 2009). This outlines the idea that EMG are treated unjustly in comparison with white people.

There has been recent research into the probation system, and what was found was that there is a strong element of racial prejudice that is directed towards members of EMG, particularly towards the black community, “There has been a systematic failure to address issues of race and racial discrimination in an adequate but appropriate way” (Travis). Therefore racism is a factor exists, despite efforts for it to not be.

The labelling theory (Howard Becker, Interactionist), means that a person is never deviant until society labels him/her as one. This ties into the idea about the Criminal Justice System because everyone from any social group commit a crime, yet only a specific few are actually labelled as one. Often, people are labelled even if they’ve not committed any crime or act of deviance, and are only labelled because their identity is associated. For instance, an Asian may be called a “terrorist”, or a black person may be called a “drug dealer”. These labels have bad effects because it is likely that these targeted individuals can form a “self-fulfilling prophecy”, which means to live up to the label that has been given to them. Then again, this is not always the case because there has been a trend, though mainly female, who react to the unfair label by rebelling against it, and thus defeating the label. The police, specifically, react to these stereotypes by following them, according to Miller.

The Neo-Marxist Stuart Hall focuses on the labelling theory to explain the overrepresentation of black males in the Justice System, but instead of taking the Interactionist approach, he argues that people from ethnic minority groups use violence and crime as a frustrated response to institutional racism. They turn to racism as a way to survive in society, which could explain overrepresentation and the apparent racism of society as a whole.

The Left Realists contradict the labelling theory by stating that ethnic minority groups tend to commit more crime because of three main reasons: social exclusion, relative deprivation, where they feel rejected from society, and because of a lack of good role models, such as good parents. Therefore the Criminal Justice System is not necessarily to blame for the overrepresentation of ethnic minority groups, but there are other social factors which are (Lea and Young).

Of course, it’s obvious to us that institutional racism is still a problem within the Criminal Justice System after looking at the irrefutable evidence. Additionally, there are other factors that exist that explain the noticeably high statistics that I have mentioned before, such as poverty and academic failure. Yet institutional racism proves to be the overriding issue for many: 58% of black people feel that they’re treated unfairly by the police, compared to 41% of Indians, and 45% of Pakistanis. There’s a clear percentage who believe that they’re being mistreated by the Justice System.

The Criminal Justice System has, nevertheless, evolved to become more efficient in tackling racism in society, as a result, modernisation and efficiency. The police, in particular, have changed their tactics on dealing with racism efficiently and have become considerably more mindful and sensitive of it. Stephen Lawrence’s mother once stated that “The police made mistakes (in the past), but now they’ve learnt their lesson and they’ve not made the same mistake twice”.


Cymraeg / Welsh:

Mae awgrym cryf bod grwpiau ethnig, yn bennaf pobl groenddu, yn cael eu trin yn fwy llym gan y system cyfiawnder troseddol. Er enghraifft, mae canran o garcharwyr croenddu yn cyfri fel 13.2%, lle yn y gymdeithas, dim ond 2.8% o’r boblogaeth yn groenddu. Yn debyg, mae canran o garcharwyr Asiaidd yn cyfri fel 7.9%, lle dim ond 5.8% o’r boblogaeth Prydain yn Asiaidd. Mae modd gymharu hyn â phobl wen, gan fod dim ond 73% o garcharwyr ag ethnigrwydd gwyn, ac mae’r boblogaeth Prydain yn cynnwys 88% o bobl wen. Mae hyn yn dangos i ni fod grwpiau lleiafrifol ethnig yn cael eu gorgynrychioli o fewn y system cyfiawnder troseddol.  Ar un llaw, sonnir nifer o gymdeithasegwyr bod hyn yn adlewyrchu’r hiliaeth sefydliadol o fewn y system, ond hefyd nid oes modd anwybyddu’r rhesymau arall sy’n esbonio’r ystadegau.

Mae hiliaeth sefydliadol yn derm sy’n cyfeirio at hiliaeth o fewn system cymdeithasol, megis yr heddlu, “institutional racism is about stereotyping; it is about ignorance… it is about seineg black people as a problem and it is about White pretence” (Grieve a French). Ac am y rhesymau hyn, mae’r heddlu yn fwy tebygol o dargedu pobl groenddu, ac mae mwy ohonynt gael eu “stopio ac archwilio” gan yr heddlu. Ffeindiodd y ‘Youth Justice Board’ (YJB) fod y gor-gynrychiolaeth o ifancwyr o grwpiau ethnig lleiafrifol yn dechrau gyda’r ffigwr amghymesurol o ifancwyr a chafodd eu stopio ac archwilio gan yr heddlu. Rhwng 2003-4, roedd ifancwyr rhwng yr oedrannau deg ac ugain yn cyfri fel 2/5 o bob achos o stopio ac archwilio. Felly gall gor-gynrychiolaeth o bobl groenddu fod yn gysylltiedig ag oedran cyn unrhyw esboniad arall. Yn Llundain yn unig, mae bechgyn croenddu yn 28% yn fwy tebygol o gael eu stopio ac archwilio ganddynt.

Er hyn, gall resymau demograffig esbonio’r patrwm hyn. Mae gan grwpiau ethnig poblogaeth fwy ifanc: mae tua 40% o gymuned y dduon dan 16, a 35% o bobl Bacistanaidd, lle mae dim ond 20% o bob dan 16 allan o bobl wen (Swyddfa am Ystadegau Swyddogol, 2005). Ond i atgyfnerthu ar fy mhwynt blaenorol, mae Smith, Gray a Holdaway yn dadlau fod yr heddlu yn dilyn hen ystrydebau o bobl groenddu, ac yn targedu nhw’n fwy fel canlyniad. Mae rhai cymdeithasegwyr yn amheus o hyn gan ystyried tuedd y dioddefwyr, a gall yr heddlu targedu pobl ddu oherwydd dyna’r grŵp mae’r cyhoedd yn adrodd iddynt.

Mae hiliaeth ymysg yr heddlu yn cwympo o dan derm o’r enw “Canteen Culture” (Reyner), lle mae ymddygiadau hiliol a rhywiaethol yn bodoli o fewn yr heddlu oherwydd maent yn teimlo fel dyle nhw fod yn rhan o’r ranc. Caniateir i’r syniadau yma i bridio o fewn y system heddluol achos yr oriau hir mae’r heddlu yn gorfod gweithio; maent yn treulio amser eithriadol o hir â’i gilydd ac felly’n dylanwadu ar ei gilydd mewn ffordd negatif.

Ond, yn ôl yr Heddlu Metropolinaidd, mae’r hiliaeth sy’n bodoli o fewn yr heddlu yn adlewyrchu’r hiliaeth o fewn y gymdeithas. Mae Macpherson yn ehangu gan ddweud fod canran enfawr o’r boblogaeth o fewn yr heddlu yn wyn, ac maent yn hiliol gan nad yw’r sefydliad yn adlewyrchu cymdeithas amlddiwylliannol. Yn wir, dim ond 10% o’r heddlu yn dod o grwpiau lleiafrifoedd ethnig. Cytunodd Sir Anthony Burden, o’r Heddlu De Cymru, ar yr ystadegau hyn gan ddweud, “I would be the first to accept that for 150 years, we have been a white male organisation”.

Hefyd, mae’r heddlu yn dueddol o dargedu ardaloedd sydd â phoblogaeth uwch o bobl sy’n rhan o leiafrif ethnig. Ond nid yw rai cymdeithasegwyr yn gweld hyn fel ffactor hiliol oherwydd gall yr heddlu gael eu cymhelli i galedu targedu yn unig, a trwy dargedu ardaloedd lle mae poblogaeth uwch o grwpiau lleiafrifoedd ethnig yn mynd i edrych yn hiliol beth bynnag.

Mae’r sefydliad ‘Crime Concern’ yn atgyfnerthu’r syniad bod bechgyn croenddu yn dueddol o gael eu carlamu i yn y system droseddol oherwydd y gor-gynrychiolaeth mewn grwpiau risg, gan gynnwys tlodi, methiannau addysgol, iechyd meddyliol a diffyg rhieni sy’n ddylanwadol mewn ffordd gadarnhaol. Mae pobl sy’n profi tlodi ac amddifadedd yn fwy tebygol o gyflawni troseddau.  Mae tystiolaeth yn dangos fod lleihau’r targedau risg yn lleihau’r canran o droseddwyr sy’n rhan o grŵp lleiafrif ethnig, felly gall daclo’r ffactor hyn lleihau gor-gynrychiolaeth o grwpiau lleiafrifoedd ethnig yn y system cyfiawnder troseddol. Yn ôl Merton, mae pobl yn troseddu oherwydd rhwystredigaeth statws. Yn y cyd-destun yma, mae pobl o grwpiau lleiafrifoedd ethnig yn fwy tebygol o gyflawni trosedd oherwydd yr holl broblemau cymdeithasol maent yn eu hwynebu, megis diffyg addysg, tlodi, a hiliaeth.

Yn ôl adroddiad gan ‘Hil a’r System Cyfiawnder Troseddol’, mae “fechgyn du yn pum gwaith yn fwy tebygol o gael eu carcharu na phobl wen”, ac mae astudiaethau pellach yn dangos fod pobl groenddu ac Asiaidd yn dueddol o dderbyn dalfa ddi-oed gan y system cyfiawnder troseddol: 27% i’r dduon a 29% i bobl Asiaidd, gan gymharu â 22% i bobl wen. Dyle’r canrannau hyn ddim bod yn mor uwch na phobl wen gan fod canran uwch o bobl wen ym Mhrydain. Er hyn, mae astudiaethau’n dangos fod pobl o grwpiau ethnig lleiafrifol yn dueddol o gyflawni troseddau mwy difrifol, felly bu’n rhaid i’r system gyfreithiol eu trin yn fwy llym er gwaethaf eu hiliaeth.

Mae troseddwyr croenddu yn fwy tebygol o dderbyn ffin o arian a fwy o wasanaethu’r gymuned na phobl wen (Sharpe, 2005). Ac yn bellach, sylweddolodd ynad du fod diffynyddion du yn fwy tebygol o dderbyn “sylwadau llym, delfrydau difrifol, diystyru ar gyfer lliniaru personol, canfyddiadau hawdd o euogrwydd heb ystyried y dystiolaeth, ac yn fwy tebygol o fynd i’r carchar” (Bird, 2009). O hyn, mae’n glir fod pobl o grwpiau lleiafrifoedd ethnig yn cael eu trin yn wahanol na phobl wen.

Yn ddiweddar, cynhaliwyd ymchwiliadau i mewn i’r system ‘gwasanaethau prawf’ (probation system), a ffeindiwyd elfen gryf o hiliaeth tuag at grwpiau lleiafrifoedd ethnig, yn bennaf yn erbyn pobl groenddu.“There has been a systematic failure to address issues of race and racial discrimination in an adequate but appropriate way” (Travis). Felly mae hiliaeth yn bodoli er gwaethaf yr holl ymdrechion i’w waredi.

Mae’r theori labelu (gan Howard Becker, rhyngweithwyr), yn golygu nad yw person yn gwyredig nes i’r gymdeithas ei labelu fel un. Mae hyn yn gysylltiedig gyda’r system cyfiawnder troseddol oherwydd gall bawb o bob grŵp cymdeithasol cyflawni trosedd, ond dim ond nifer gyfyngedig yn cael eu labelu’n gwyredig. Mae modd defnyddio’r damcaniaeth hyn fel esiampl, megis mae pob person du yn gwerthu cyffuriau, neu bob person Asiaidd yn derfysgwyr. Mae’r heddlu yn benodol yn ymateb i’r stereoteipiau hyn trwy eu dilyn nhw, yn ôl Miller.

Mae’r Neo Farcswyr Stuart Hall yn ffocysu ar y theori labelu esbonio gor-gynrychiolaeth o bobl ddu yn y system cyfiawnder, ond yn lle, mae’r grwpiau ethnig lleiafrifol yn defnyddio strategaethau troseddol fel ymateb rhwystredig i’r hiliaeth o fewn y gymdeithas, ac nid oherwydd hiliaeth systematig, o reidrwydd. Maent yn troi at drosedd fel ffordd o oroesi yn y gymdeithas.

Mae’r Realwyr y Chwith yn gwrthddweud y theori labelu trwy fynegi fod grwpiau ethnig lleiafrifol yn dueddol o droseddu’n fwy am dri phrif reswm: ymylaeth cymdeithasol, tlodi cymharol, felly’n teimlo’n wahardd o’r gymdeithas, ac isddiwylliannau sydd â dylanwadau gwael sydd wedi gwahanu o normau a gwerthoedd y gymdeithas. Felly nid yw’r system cyfiawnder troseddol yn gatalyst am gor-gynrychiolaeth o grwpiau lleiafrifol o fewn y system (Lea a Young).

Wrth gwrs, mae’n amlwg i ni fod hiliaeth sefydliadol dal yn broblem o fewn y system cyfiawnder troseddol. Bodola cymaint o ystadegau i brofi’r ffaith hyn. Gall ffactorau eraill tu hwnt o hiliaeth esbonio’r rhesymau dros ganran uwch o bobl o grwpiau lleiafrifoedd ethnig sy’n cyflawni troseddau, er enghraifft perthyn i grwpiau risg, megis tlodi a methiannau addysgiadol. Er hyn, mae 58% o bobl groenddu yn teimlo eu bod yn cael eu trin yn annheg gan yr heddlu, gan gymharu â 41% o bobl Indiaid a 45% o bobl Pacistanaidd. Mae canran amlwg o bobl yn credu mai’r system heddlu yn eu trin yn annheg.

Mae’r heddlu wedi ymdrechu, beth bynnag, i wella’r sefyllfa hyn gan ymateb i’r adroddiadau negatif sy’n cael eu cyhoeddi amdanynt. Mae’r heddlu yn newid eu tactegau am sut i ymdrin â’r gymdeithas heb gynnwys y ffactor hiliol fel ymateb i’r holl sylw drwg gan y gymdeithas. Yn ôl mam Stephen Lawrence, pwy fu farw o ymosodiad hiliol, “The police made mistakes (in the past), but now they’ve learnt their lesson and they’ve not made the same mistake twice”. Mae hyn yn awgrym fod y system cyfiawnder troseddol yn datblygu mewn ffordd gadarnhaol, ac am barhau gwella yn y dyfodol.

A brief analysis of John Donne’s ‘A Valediction: forbidding Mourning’

It is widely considered that Donne gave this poem to his wife before traveling Europe in 1611. It is also considered to be one of his quintessential metaphorical poems.

The title itself suggests a farewell, yet not allowing any sadness in this departure. The Speaker explains that he is forced to spend time apart from his lover but tells her that their parting should not be sorrowful before he leaves. The Speaker does not want to experience the normal conventions of grief, or how Donne puts it, he doesn’t want “tear-floods” and “sigh-tempests”. The Speaker uses hyperbole to make his point, which subtly lightens the tone of the stanza, by exaggerating.

A gentle tone is created by the long vowel sounds of the first line: “As virtuous men pass mildly away”, it is as though it’s mimicking breathing and thus adopting tranquillity and peacefulness.

A snippet of dialogue is used in the first stanza to punctuate Donne’s feelings about death: “Their breath goes now”, and some day, “No…”

In the second stanza, he uses a nature metaphor to tell how they should part: “So let us melt, and make no noise”. The Speaker wants his departure to be completely natural, like the changing of the seasons. He wants their farewell to be voluntary, even though it is ultimately inevitable.

For them to put their love on display would “profanation” – he wants their love to remain with dignity and beauty. He implies that their love is sacred, and it would be blasphemous to cry over it.

He explains that a predominantly physical love cannot survive a physical separation, and their love is spiritual, so thus physical separation cannot harm them. They aren’t “dull sublunary lovers”, like the common “laity”.

The “moving of th’ earth” metaphor in the third stanza isn’t intended to refer to earthquakes, but to the theory of Donne’s time about the movement of the earth. This is supported by the use of the phrase, “trepidation of the spheres”, which is an obsolete astronomical theory used in the Ptolemaic system. As we know, earthquakes were little understood by Englishmen of the 17th century as they were exotic. It is based on the idea of vibrations of stars and planets creating music that controlled our fates. During Donne’s time, scientists were beginning to look beyond that theory, as well as the idea that the earth was the centre of the universe. Despite this, these ideas were popular amongst artists, and Donne included. These intellectual arguments to explain emotional matters is typical of a metaphysical poem.

The Speaker uses “gold” to compare the love the between him and his lover in stanza six. The gold (like their love) is being stretched out and distributed throughout the air, which now covers the room and has widened the distance between the couple, instead of being destroyed. This means that their love is now part of the atmosphere itself. Donne gives a vague allusion to alchemy (the ancient theory that turned metal into gold. This turned out to be impossible and the people who claimed to be alchemists were fakes).

The created a compass analogy to convey their love. They need each other to function, so whereas one travels the globe, the other stays in one place, supporting the other. “The fixed foot, makes no show/To move, but doth, if the other do.” Having her makes the speaker a complete and perfect circle, and gives him a point and direction to his journey. The compass is a metaphysical conceit that’s used by the Speaker to fully convey the extent of their love.

The poem has a simple ABAB structure:

  • As virtuous men pass mildly away,
    (B) And whisper to their souls to go,
    (A) Whilst some of their sad friends do say, The
    (B) breath goes now, and some say, No:

The tone is melancholic without being melodramatic. The poem is serious, and yet wholly optimistic. This conveys that, although the Speaker must part from his lover, they will still be together because of the strength of their love.

Disorder in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act 1) with links to Middleton’s Revenger’s Tragedy

Hamlet is believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601 and is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s most prestigious plays. The play itself remains loyal to the genre of Jacobean revenge tragedy, and thus, revenge ultimately exposes themes of disorder and corruption, particularly through issues of secrecy and deceit.

The sense of urgency and panic is immediately conveyed in the first lines of Hamlet through its setting. It’s cold and dark outside, which underlines the vulnerability of the guards because this possibly leaves them disadvantaged in an attack. This idea is reinforced when Barnardo, the guard, opens with, “Who’s there?” the jumpiness of the guards adds to the sense of unrest and impending danger in Hamlet. These feelings are deepened as the “ghost” appears. The presence of the ghost immediately adheres to the supernatural tendencies of Senecan plays, but nevertheless, the superstition surrounding it would be terrifying to the Shakespearean audience, as ghosts usually hold hellish connotations in Protestantism,  which was the main religion during the period in which Hamlet was written. The ghost is a major catalyst for the presentiment of chaos in this scene. And also the fact that there are “two Sentinels” on duty implies that there are possible preparations for an imminent attack. Furthermore, it becomes clear when Marcellus mentions that it is a Sunday that Claudius is breaking the Fourth Commandment, and thus compelling men to work on Sabbath. This would suggest to the audience that Claudius, the new king, was modern, pragmatic, and prepared to defy conventional morality.

During the time in which the play was set, religion and monarch always had to be intimate because it was assumed that religion and civil order went together, and it was always the task of the monarch to protect the Church and Christian society. Moreover, despite the play being set in Denmark and not England, it is still relevant because Shakespeare wrote Hamlet with the intentions to mirror English society, whilst remaining a safe level of distance from it without raising political questions. Therefore, this idea would have greatly influenced the Shakespearean audience in how the play portrayed Claudius’s character, which could possibly heighten sense of disorder because of his need to defy the religious norms of the time.

Disorder is immediately created in scene two because we learn that Denmark has recently lost a king, “Hamlet our dear brother’s death…our whole kingdom to be contracted in one brow of woe”. This idea of accordance with one another in “one brow of woe” is refuted when Claudius later adds, “Our state to be disjoint and out of frame”. This is in timing with young Fortbrinas’s threat from Norway, and the fact that Claudius only glosses over this topic during his soliloquy without going into too much detail heightens the audience’s suspicion of him. Moreover, Claudius also states in his soliloquy that Hamlet’s mourning presence is “unmanly grief”, and therefore, improper behaviour before the Court. Claudius also doubts his feelings, “why seems it so particular with thee”. Hamlet takes this to be an accusation that his feelings are false. This is comparable with Vindice in Revenger’s Tragedy, where he is see holding the skull of his “beloved” in the beginning of the play. This display of grief is what partly drives both characters on to conspire to commit revenge.

Notably, both Hamlet and Vindice see their adversaries as adulterers. In the first line of the Revenger’s Tragedy, Vindice refers to the Old Duke as “grey haired Adultery”, which exposes the corruption of the court and the Old Duke’s crimes, particularly the one against Vindice’s beloved. Hamlet, similarly, is angered by Claudius for committing adultery by marrying the Old King’s wife, Gertrude, a short time after his death. In his soliloquy, he focuses specifically on Gertrude’s sexuality to convey his anger, “Frailty, thy name is woman – a little month…married with my uncle”.  He is angry at his mother for being weak-willed and giving into pressure too soon. This rather misogynistic view of his mother has raised questions about the extent of love he has for his mother. Many critics believe that it is clear evidence that the reason why he wants revenge on Claudius is because he’s subconsciously jealous of him marrying Gertrude. Even during the Elizabethan era, the King’s marriage to Gertrude would be considered incestuous and unlawful, as it is a sin that is written in the Bible. This ultimately implies disorder because the audience is aware that the King is defying the religious norms of the time.

Hamlet’s first soliloquy also widens the sense of corruption within the Royal Court through using disease and uncleanliness imagery, “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable”, and, “seed; things rank and gross in nature”. These images of decay reveals his view of the withering and no longer healthy Denmark, and the listing indicates that he is fed up with the structure of the Court. Critics read “rank and gross” as a metaphor for Denmark, which insinuates corruption and disorderliness within the State. This parallels somewhat with Revenger’s because, through the main character Vindice, we learn of the amount of corruption within the Italian court, which is mainly governed by the Old Duke, whom Vindice is plotting revenge against. Hamlets’ of dislike of Claudius leads the audience to be suspicious of him, “A little more than kin, and less than kind”, this implies that though the two are related, they are dissimilar. This feeling of suspicion in subsequently concreted when the ghost tells Hamlet of his murder, where his loathing of Claudius is immensely justified, and the audience, too, becomes suspicious of the new Head of State.

The theme of unrest is projected in scene two because of the significant amount of secrecy that is needed. For instance, “If you have hitherto concealed this sight/ Let it be tenable in your silence still”. This is comparable with the 2010 remake of Hamlet, which starred David Tennant, where the idea of surveillance and the need for secrecy is relayed through the use of security cameras on set. This eludes to the idea that everyone is spying on one another, and thus, the emphasis on secrecy is necessary.

Distrust is a key theme that is conveyed within scene three when Polonius and Laertes advise Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet. According to Polonius, Hamlet is not genuine in his feelings and wants to take her as a mistress, “When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul/ Lends the tongue vows”. He believes that Hamlet, like any other person, will say anything to get what he wants. Laertes, on the other hand, is much more caring in his advice, “His greatness weighed, but his will is not his own”. So although Hamlet may love Ophelia, he cannot marry her; she would be a burden on the state because it needs a strong marriage to secure the health and stability of Denmark, “The main voice of Denmark goes withal”, the country is relying on Hamlet, and thus his marriage options are “circumscribed”, ruling out any hope for Ophelia, considering her inferior status within the court.

A sense of disarray and danger is underlined when Hamlet acts in spite of the security of Denmark, “I do not set my life at a pin’s fee…I’ll follow (the ghost)”, he acts as though his life is meaningless by putting his life in possible danger. This also strongly suggests that he has a low sense of self-worth, and thus adding to the theme of disorder. This idea is reinforced when, in Act one Scene two, he says, “My father’s brother, but no more like my father than I to Hercules”, he emphasises the difference between the old King and Claudius by comparing to a heroic Greek God. Marcellus directly indicates corruption and disruption within the court: “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. This is a clear foreshadowing of the events to come, which as we know, eventually leads to the death of Hamlet, Claudius and Gertrude, amongst known characters.

Marcellus hints at corruption when he says “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, though it is doubtful whether he is referring to the monarchy. More likely, he is indicating the presence of evil supernatural beings. This idea of foreboding of future events is reinforced when Marcellus says, “this bodes some strange eruption to our state”. Horatio is trying to find meaning in the apparition, and warns of its violent disturbance, which made the guards fear, despite being armed.

The ghosts’ story of incest and murder committed by the King in act five cements any suspicions of Claudius and of the true court politics. It is what justifies Hamlet’s sentiment of “A little more than kin and less that kind” and his revenge on the King. This is where the audience sees Hamlet’s gut feelings about Claudius become confirmed, “O, my prophetic soul”, he is understandably shocked and disgusted with his “damned villain(ous)” uncle, and shares this feeling with the ghost. The theme of dysfunction is emanated further on in the scene when Hamlet says, “time is out of joint”. He is directly stating to the audience that there are many things that are out of place and disorderly. This is where we see Hamlet coming to comprehend his role, he was “born to set it right”, to bring justice onto the system that he sees as vile and corrupt.

The first act of Hamlet is very powerfully descriptive. By using a number of literary devices, such as imagery, punctuation and listing, he uses them to convey themes of disorder and corruption in the play. Throughout, we get insights into Hamlet’s mind and the development of his character. We learn of the factors and faults of the court that eventually leads Hamlet to fulfil his revenge on who he sees as this “smiling, damned villain”, which is Claudius.