Author William Shakespeare
Genre Play
Setting Denmark in the Middle Ages, in and around the Castle Elsinore
Major Characters: Hamlet Strange and impulsive, for most of the play he is conflicted, angry, and grieving. He is the prince of Denmark and well-liked by the people.
Major Characters: Claudius Greedy, sneaky, and prone to jealously, Claudius is the king of Denmark.
Major Characters: Ophelia Ophelia cares for Hamlet. She is sweet and innocent at the beginning of the play but eventually goes crazy.
Actions/Behaviors/Relationships: Hamlet Nephew of Claudius and son of Gertrude. Hamlet resents his mother and uncle for marrying each other after his father’s death. He seems to have had feelings for Ophelia, but during the play he rejects her. Hamlet was also friends with Ophelia’s brother, Laertes.
Actions/Behaviors/Relationships: Claudius Uncle to Hamlet and husband of Gertrude. Claudius killed his brother and married his widow to gain the throne. He resents Hamlet for his behavior, mostly Hamlet’s disobedience and disrespect.
Actions/Behaviors/Relationships: Ophelia Sister to Laertes, daughter of Polonius and love interest to Hamlet. She becomes mentally unstable after Hamlet rejects her.
Conflicts Hamlet V. Claudius – Hamlet doesn’t trust or like Claudius for marrying his mother Gertrude after the death of her husband, Claudius’ brother. Claudius also distrusts Hamlet and tries to have him killed at the end of the play.Hamlet V. Himself – When the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to him and tells him that Claudius murdered him, Hamlet begins to think he’s going crazy. He struggles with the decision to kill Claudius and avenge his father throughout the play.
Plot Summary Pre-Duel The king of Denmark dies and his wife Gertrude gets remarried to his brother, Claudius. This makes Gertrude’s son Hamlet, the prince, bitter. The King’s ghost appears to Hamlet to say that his death was not an accident, but murder, and his murderer is Claudius. Hamlet starts to act crazily while he tries to decide if it’s right to kill Claudius and avenge his father. Gertrude and Claudius hire two of Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to look after him due to his erratic behavior. Hamlet tries to talk to his mother about her betrayal to his father, and during the course of their argument he kills Polonius, the king’s adviser, who is hiding behind a tapestry in the room, thinking it is Claudius. Laertes returns for his father’s funeral and Claudius convinces him to kill Hamlet for murdering his dad. Laertes’ decision is cemented when Ophelia goes mad with grief over Polonius’ death and Hamlet’s rejection and drowns herself.
Plot Summary During and Post-Duel Laertes challenges Hamlet to a duel, which Hamlet accepts. During the duel, Gertrude drinks from a poisoned cup meant for Hamlet. Hamlet and Laertes stab each other with Laertes’ poisoned sword, then Gertrude collapses, says she’s been poisoned, and dies. Laertes tells Hamlet the sword was also poisoned and that it was all Claudius’ idea. Hamlet stabs Claudius and makes him drink from the poisoned cup to avenge his mother and father, killing him. Laertes and Hamlet forgive each other and die as well, first Laertes followed by Hamlet. Fortinbras of Norway arrives at Elsinore with ambassadors from England, and it is assumed that Fortinbras takes over the kingdom.
Climax Hamlet’s murder of Polonius
Resolution Hamlet kills Claudius then dies himself, and Fortinbras of Norway assumes control of the kingdom.
Theme Revenge
Literary Element: Metaphor Example – “That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat, Of habits is devil, is angel yet in this:That to the use of actions fair and good He likewise gives a frock or livery….” (lines 163-166, Act III, scene 4)Hamlet is pleading with his mother to not go to his uncle’s bed. He means that Habit will make you do bad things without thinking, but that you can also learn to do good things by habit too.
Literary Element: Sarcasm Example – “Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of polite worms are e’en at him.” (lines 21-22, Act IV, scene 3)”But if indeed you find him not within this month, you shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby.” (lines 36-38, Act IV, scene 3)”He will stay till ye come.” (line 39, Act IV, scene 3)Hamlet speaks to Claudius after killing Polonius, showing his disregard for Claudius as well as his lack of remorse for killing Polonius.