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An Introduction to Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

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Kate Turner

on 30 October 2013

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Transcript of An Introduction to Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

An Introduction to
Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

The Basic Plot
The Play's History
Written about 1600-1601
Possibly written in earlier version, known as the “Ur-Hamlet”
First of “Tragic Period Plays,” followed by Othello (1604-5), King Lear (1605-6), Macbeth (1605-6), and Anthony and Cleopatra (1606-7)
Considered a mature work that explores
emotional and intellectual questions
Shakespeare played the part of the Ghost King in 1601

Before play begins:
King Hamlet had killed King Fortinbras, king of Norway, in a duel
King Hamlet (Hamlet’s father) has died
King’s brother, Claudius, has married queen, Gertrude, and assumed the throne
As the curtain rises:
King Hamlet’s ghost vows revenge….Hamlet must fulfill it
As legend has it...
Scandinavian legend
Saxo Grammaticus (Danish historian) recorded earliest narrative account of Amelthus in his “Historica Danica” from the early 13th century
Grammaticus’ work adapted around 1576 by Francois de Belleforest in “Histories Tragiques” (Perhaps the version Shakespeare was familiar with)
Belleforest’s version had crowd pleasing elements: adultery, murder, revenge, and madness
Also had early variations of Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Polonius, and Hamlet
Why isn't Hamlet considered an
historical play?
For Shakespeare, history is not just the study of cause and effect, political ideology or intellectual process
He is interested in how cultural ideas affected human emotions and behavior.
The history of Denmark revolves around the tragic plight of various emotions related to humanity’s struggle with greed, lust, hate, and revenge.
These emotions have a real impact on a country’s destiny…any modern connections to be made?
Ur-Hamlet vs. Prince of Denmark
The murder of old Hamlet is public knowledge (his brother said he killed him as the the king was about to murder the the queen
Prince of Denmark:
Young Hamlet, feigning madness for self-protection, is regarded as suspect by Uncle Claudius, who resolves to kill him as soon as he can prove Hamlet sane.
Shakespeare’s genius infuses familiar plot and characters with life, flesh and blood and spirit
Major Themes
A need for social stability and the orderly succession of the throne, especially in a Renaissance society.

When society can hide “something rotten” it becomes a metaphor for what’s “rotten” in the human spirit.

Importance of tradition

Importance of being true to one's intelligence & thoughts ...
maintaining integrity

Appearance vs. reality:
Who to trust?
What to trust?
Are loyalty and honesty real or merely words?

Theater vs. life:
All characters are, in a way, some form of make-believe; wear masks, assume roles;

No one knows what to believe, or what’s truth.

Diseased body politic, hidden source of evil:
All are affected by evil & corruption.

Imagery of disease throughout: Beauty is seen through characters who are not “diseased”

Parents vs. children:
Family relationships
(esp. fathers and sons)

Relationship between thought and action:
Shall one act without thinking?
What are the consequences?

Question of revenge, with all its psychological, spiritual, and political variations

Concept of authoritarian governments, spies everywhere; no free thinking, no free speech (except in Hamlet’s soliloquies)

Hamlet's Language
Demonstrates a heavy use of puns and sarcastic turns of phrase as a function of his mood and motivations...
Reveals quick wit and incomparable intelligence
Reflects his emotional sensitivity and many-sided intellect (as he knows the double sides of words, he knows the double sides of men)

Shows his sensitivity to ironic disparity between appearances and reality (he acts real, but “must play a part”)

Represents the university intellectual (as opposed to his father, who represents a warrior fit for Danish Saga, like Amelthus)

Subsequent representative of a new age:
The Renaissance Man

Flipped Classroom:
Take notes on the following introduction to Hamlet: Prince of Denmark
Bring your text next class period

All pictures are from Google Images
Full transcript