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Hamlet: characters, plot and main themes

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Eleonora Luzi

on 30 December 2013

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Transcript of Hamlet: characters, plot and main themes

William Shakespeare
Setting
Elsinore, Denmark
Characters
The Tragedy of Hamlet
The Prince of Denmark
Plot
by
William Shakespeare

His life
Shakespeare lived to 52. It is known that he was born on 23rd April 1564 (in Stratford-upon-Avon) and that he died on 23rd April 1616. He therefore died on his fifty-second birthday, coinciding with St George’s Day. How fitting that the great English writer is so closely identified with the patron saint of England!
Shakespeare had seven siblings. Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway when he was 18. She was 26. Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway had three children together – a son, Hamnet, who died in 1596, and two daughters, Susanna and Judith.
During his life, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets! Apart from writing his numerous plays and sonnets, Shakespeare was also an actor who performed many of his own plays. There is evidence that he played the ghost in Hamlet. During his life Shakespeare performed before Queen Elizabeth I and, later, before James I.
The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 in Southwark on the south bank of London’s River Thames.
The Globe was built as a large, round, open air theatre. There was a roof around the circumference which covered the seating area, leaving the theatre looking like a doughnut from above. At the base of the stage was an area called “the pit” – people paid just a penny to stand and watch a performance. Part of the stage was called the “apron stage” – a rectangular platform that projected out amongst the audience into the pit.
It was illegal for women and girls to perform in the theatre in Shakespeare’s lifetime so all the female parts were written for boys.
The Globe Theatre burnt down in 1613 when a special effect on stage went wrong. After burning down in 1613 The Globe Theatre was rebuilt on the same spot in 1614.
The Puritans brought an end to The Globe Theatre in 1642 with an order suppressing all stage plays.
In 1997 a third version and faithful reconstruction of The Globe Theatre was built as “Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre”, close to the original site in Southwark. We have a reconstruction also here in Rome.
I'm dead! My brother killed me!
I killed
the king
I'm the King's councellor
Hamlet
I'm Hamlet's
best friend
Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark, who has recently lost his father, the King. Hamlet's uncle, Claudius, has married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, and taken the throne. One night, Hamlet is persuaded by some guards to go to see his father's ghost. The ghost reveals to Hamlet that Claudius murdered him, and asks Hamlet to avenge his death. Hamlet swears to do this, informing his friend , Horatio, and the guards of his plan.
Hamlet is in love with Ophelia, but she ignores him because her father (Polonius) and her brother (Laertes) suggested her to do so. After the declaration of the ghost, Hamlet's attitude changes and everyone believes that he is mad. Polonius and Claudius both believe that this madness comes from Hamlet's love for Ophelia.

An acting troupe comes into town, and Hamlet orders them to perform a play in which the brother of the king kills the king. Hamlet arranges the performance to be acted out in the same way that Claudius killed Hamlet's father. Horatio and Hamlet watch closely: Claudius is unable to watch and stops the play.
Claudius asks Gertrude to speak with Hamlet, then sends Polonius to spy on the conversation. Hamlet hears Polonius and blindly stabs through a tapestry, killing him. Everyone is now convinced of Hamlet's complete madness, and he is sent to England. Ophelia goes mad because of her father's death, and in her madness, kills herself.
Laertes is angry with Hamlet for both Polonius ' and Ophelia's deaths. In his anger, Laertes conspires with Cladius to kill Hamlet, who is on his way back from England. Laertes challenges Hamlet to a duel, where Laertes has a poisoned sword. In case Laertes fails, Claudius has prepared a poisoned cup.
Gertrude accidentally drinks from the poisoned cup and dies. Laertes wounds Hamlet, then they accidentally switch swords and Hamlet injures Laertes. Mortally wounded, Laertes reveals Claudius' plan. Hamlet then stabs Claudius and makes him drink from the poisoned cup. As Hamlet is dying, he tells the truth of everything to Horatio.
Themes
Death
It's a tragedy!
To be or not to be?
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
To be or not to be?
Act
Avenge his father
Love Ophelia
Commit suicide
Be damned
Revenge
Hamlet avenges his father
Laertes avenges his father Polonius and her sister Ophelia
Madness
Who is really mad?
Hamlet pretends to be crazy to investigate his father's murder.
But while he pretends to be mad, the world around him goes mad:
his uncle killed his brother
his mother married the killer of his husband
Full transcript