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Transcript of Hamlet Introduction
"To be or not to be"
Shakespeare's longest play
Three versions published in Shakespeare's time:
The Revenge of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark Setting and Period:
Takes place in Denmark in Pre-Viking times
Some have argued the play is based in the 11th century Major Characters: The Older Generation
Claudius: The antagonist of the play and the new king of Denmark. Claudius is the “smiling, damned villain” of the piece, a devious, lustful, and corrupt politician and master manipulator of people and circumstances.
Gertrude: The Queen of Denmark and Hamlet’s mother. Gertrude’s secret affair withClaudius, her brother-in-law, culminates in their very public marriage. While Gertrude is a loving mother to Hamlet, her excessive sensuality and desire for social status motivate her immoral behaviour.
Polonius: Lord Chamberlain of the Danish court and counselor to King Claudius. Polonius is the suspicious and controlling father of Ophelia and Laertes. He is a self-important, rather bumbling schemer and Claudius’ chief spy against Hamlet. The Ghost: The spirit of King Hamlet, the prince’s murdered father. The Ghost calls upon Hamlet to avenge his murder by killing Claudius, his uncle/step-father/king, but the true origin of this spirit is never made clear. Hamlet fears it may be have been sent by the devil to manipulate him into performing an evil act. Shakespeare is said to have played this role in the first production of Hamlet. Major Characters: The Younger Generation
Hamlet: The protagonist of the play and prince of Denmark.
around 30 years old when the play opens
Hamlet is the natural son of Queen Gertrude and the recently killed Hamlet I
Horatio: Hamlet’s one true friend and trusted ally. They attended university in Wittenburg together. Ophelia: Polonius’ young, beautiful, and emotionally vulnerable daughter, sister to Laertes and Hamlet’s love interest. A dutiful daughter and sister. Laertes: Son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia. Fortinbras: The young prince of Norway.
His father, King Fortinbras, was slain by Hamlet’s father in one-on-one combat on the day Hamlet was born. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Former university friends of Hamlet who are brought to Elsinore by Claudius. THEMES Revenge
“If thou didst ever thy dear father love,
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” The Ghost, I.5.23-5 Sexual, Moral, and Physical Corruption
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Marcellus, I.4.90 Madness and Melancholy
“I am but mad north-north-west.”
Hamlet, II.2.347 Sovereignty/Leadership
Role of Women: Virtue vs. Corruption
Reason/Breakdown of Reason
Appearance vs. Reality
Random Fortune or Divine Master Plan?
“There is a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will --” Hamlet, V.2.10-11 Literary Devices Puns – primarily in Hamlet’s speeches
Imagery (Garden/flowers/nature, death/poison/blood/ violence)
Symbolism – Yorick’s skull, Ophelia’s flowers, etc.
Metatheatricality – play within a play (i.e. the “Mousetrap” scene)
Psychoanalysis – melancholia, Oedipal Complex The Simpsons and Hamlet??