Hamlet allusions

What is an allusion? Reference to someone/something directly/indirectly.
How does Hamlet use allusions? To define himself and others
How are allusions used in ‘The Mousetrap’? To decorate the language, throwing an air of fantasy over the play-within-the-play
‘O my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; / It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t, / A brother’s murder.’ Fratricide in the story of Cain and Abel (where Cain murdered Abel out of jealousy), underlining the shocking nature of Claudius’ crime.
‘Not a whit; we defy augury. There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow’ Jesus explains to disciples not to worry as they are more valuable than sparrows. Also, Matthew 10:29 ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.’ – Hamlet refers to himself as the sparrow; he stops playing God, embraces death, allows fate to control him.
‘O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hast thou’ Jephthah was told by elders that if he was successful in campaign against the Ammonites he could be leader, but he had to sacrifice his only child. Hamlet fears Ophelia may be harmed by Claudius’ lust or power, imploring her to get to a ‘nunnery’
‘ ‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, / A serpent stung me-so the whole ear of Denmark / Is by forged process of my death’ Referencing the Garden of Eden, Old Hamlet is viewed as a good man, a victim of a horrible murder. When the ghost first tells Hamlet about his murder he uses images of the Garden of Eden; his kingdom was his paradise. Claudius is therefore the equivalent to the Devil.
‘The owl was a baker’s daughter’ A woman was making bread for Jesus but her daughter decided the dough was too big and so reduced it in half. It swelled anyway, and scared her. She cried out three times, sounding like an owl does today, and was turned into the creature. To do with Ophelia not following her father’s instructions?
‘What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?’ Hecuba was ideal mourning woman, a reverse image of Gertrude who does not express grief.
‘Like Niobe, all tears’ Niobe, who witnessed the destruction her whole family as nemesis for her own arrogance towards the mother of Apollo and Artemis, epitomises grief as Hyperion does majestic (male) beauty.
‘So excellent a king, that was to this / Hyperion to a satyr. So loving to my mother’ He compares his deceased father to Hyperion, the Greek sun god, and Claudius to a satyr, a Greek mythic combination of man and goat. Satyrs are often associated with lust and promiscuity.
For Hamlet, his father’s usurping brother is no more like his father ‘Than I to Hercules’ Self-deprecation and sense of unworthiness; Hamlet’s image suggests that he sees himself as unheroic and incapable of noble action.
‘Lethe wharf’ Ghost suggests he has begun the process of weaning himself away from the earth by drinking the waters of forgetfulness of the Underworld river.
‘an eyrie of children’ Companies of child-actors that in Shakespeare’s London were providing fierce (and unfair) competition for the established adult acting companies, have stolen the public’s imagination.
‘Priam’s slaughter’ Hamlet recalls ‘Priam’s slaughter’ (II. ii. 454) by Pyrrhus in revenge for the death of his father, Achilles, effected by the poisoned arrow of Paris. Although one would expect Hamlet to identify himself with the avenging son, the quality of language in the set speech tends to indicate his sympathy with the old Trojan King. This confusion lies partly in Hamlet’s repugnance at the thought of actually having to take revenge himself and partly in his identification of the victim with his father and the killer with Claudius. Hence, as Pyrrhus advances towards the subject of his revenge, he resembles ‘th’ Hyrcanian beast’ (II. ii. 456) rather than the invincible warrior of Book Two in The Aeneid.
‘I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i’ the’ Capitol; Brutus killed me.’ Refers to Caesar’s assassination by his friend Brutus. It reminds us of Claudius’ murder of King Hamlet as well as Hamlet’s mission to avenge his father’s death. It is also significant because Polonius is referring to his role as an actor. Acting, playing a part, is a major motif in the play. What’s more, it foreshadows Polonius’ death.
‘Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust, the dust is earth, of earth we make loam—and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer barrel? / Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay, / Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.’ Alexander refers to Alexander the Great and Caesar refers to Julius Caesar. Both of these are considered great military leaders – Hamlet shows how even the great will die.
‘I am more antique Roman than Dane’ Contemplating suicide, Horatio shows his ethical code is more in line with the Roman one than a modern Danish one. For Romans, suicide was a heroic and respected way to end one’s life.