Hamlet by William Shakespeare Written during the first
Hamlet by William Shakespeare Written during the first part of the seventeenth century (probably in 1600 or 1601), Hamlet was probably first performed in July 1602. Set in Denmark, during the late medieval period. Hamlet
by William Shakespeare The raw material that Shakespeare appropriated in writing Hamlet is the story of a Danish prince whose uncle murders the princes father, marries his mother, and claims the throne. The prince pretends to be feeble-minded to throw his uncle off guard. There are three revenge plots in this play. Hamlet:
The Prince of Denmark and the protagonist. Approximately 30 years old. He is a reflective and thoughtful young man who has studied at the University of Wittenberg. Hamlet is often indecisive and hesitant, but at other times prone to rash and impulsive acts. He is the son of the late Hamlet and Queen Gertrude, and the nephew of the new King, Claudius. Hamlet is melancholy, bitter, and cynical, full of hatred for his uncles
scheming and disgust for his mothers sexuality. Ophelia: Poloniuss daughter; a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love. Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her Brother, Laertes.
Polonius: The Lord Chamberlain of Claudiuss court, a pompous, conniving old man. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia. Hamlet (THE GHOST): The specter of Hamlets recently deceased father. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, and calls upon Hamlet to
avenge him. It is not entirely certain whether the ghost is what it appears to be, or whether it is something else. Hamlet speculates that the ghost might be a devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder, and the question of what the ghost is or where it comes from is never definitely resolved. Gertrude: The Queen of Denmark, Hamlets
mother, recently married to Claudius. Gertrude loves Hamlet deeply, but she is a shallow, weak woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth. Claudius:
The King of Denmark, Hamlets uncle, and the plays antagonist. The villain of the play, Claudius is a calculating, ambitious politician, driven by his sexual appetites and his lust for power, but he
occasionally shows signs of guilt and human feelinghis love for Gertrude, for instance, seems sincere. Young Fortinbras: The young Prince of Norway, whose father
the king (also named Fortinbras) was killed by Hamlets father (also named Hamlet). Now Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his fathers honor, making him another foil for Prince
Hamlet. In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the antagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of another character. Norway is here.
Denmark is here. Laertes: Poloniuss son and Ophelias brother, a young man who spends much of the play in France. Passionate and quick to action, Laertes is clearly a foil for the reflective Hamlet.
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern: Two slightly bumbling courtiers, former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg, who are summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the cause of Hamlets strange behavior. Horatio: Hamlets close friend, who studied with the prince at the
university in Wittenberg. Horatio is loyal and helpful to Hamlet throughout the play.
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