Title page of the second quarto of “Hamlet”
His longest play, “Hamlet” is also Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy. ({{PD-US}})

Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare, is probably the playwright’s most well-known play as well as his longest one. It is a tragedy and focuses on Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark’s, quest for the revenge of his father’s murder by his uncle Claudius. He is driven yet frequently finds himself procrastinating from taking what he believes to be the required action. 

Death, as murder and as suicide, is a theme that runs throughout the play. It is picturized through the deaths of several characters and is a subject of much pondering as well. 

The play is frequently performed on stage and has several movie adaptations, including in 1990 starring Mel Gibson, in 1996 with Kenneth Branagh, and in 2000 starring Ethan Hawke. 

Hamlet Essay Examples

Imagery in Hamlet

The imagery in the play of Hamlet is composed of disease, poison, and decay this adds to the overall atmosphere of horror and tragedy. First, hamlet uses images of disease to show the state of the country of Denmark and his mother. Second, the imagery of poison is used to describe his father’s death.

The Meaning of the Ghost in Hamlet by Shakespeare

In traditional and modern, ghost reflects death and fear, and it never change. In Hamlet, the ghost is a symbol of Hamlet’s father who is killed by Claudius. Its propose is to demand Hamlet to avenge its death. Although the ghost only appears three times in front of Hamlet, it is a specify role to develop the whole story and plot.

Similarities and Differences Between Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth

The Shakespearean playwrights Macbeth and Hamlet are both very well-known tragedies. They have many things in common but are different in some ways. Both plays involve greed but the characters are different. There are some characters that have the same qualities such as Hamlet and Malcolm who both killed for revenge. 

Hamlet Revenge Essay

Revenge almost always has the makings of an intriguing and tragic story. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a perfect example of how revenge unfolds and what it unveils. The play tells the story of Hamlet, the prince of Denmark. Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, marries his mother soon after his father’s death. 

Themes of Love and Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Love is one of the most powerful themes in Hamlet, but a superior force – REVENGE, drives Hamlet’s love. Revenge of his father’s murder. Hamlet is confused and melancholic over the fact that his mother married his own uncle and so quickly after his father’s death.

Hamlet: Summary

The play opens on a dark night at the changing of the guards at midnight. The watchmen who have just begun their shift, Bernardo and Marcellus, have asked Horatio to accompany them to witness an apparition they believe to be the ghost of the recently deceased King Hamlet of Denmark. As the three men discuss this, the ghost suddenly appears and then just as quickly vanishes. It remains silent when Horatio tries to speak to it. He decides that Prince Hamlet must be informed of this.

The following morning, the newly crowned King Claudius addresses the court about his marriage to Queen Gertrude, the widow of his brother, King Hamlet. Prince Hamlet is also present, dressed in mourning for his father. This draws the attention of his mother and his uncle, who encourage him to cheer up and move on from the king’s death. Once everyone leaves, Hamlet expresses his grief, lamenting that suicide is a sin. Horatio arrives and tells him about his father’s ghost, asking him to join the guards later that night.

An illustration of Hamlet on his knees before his father’s ghost
Revelations made by the ghost of King Hamlet set Prince Hamlet on the path for revenge. ({{PD-US}})

That night, the ghost appears and beckons Hamlet to follow him to a place a little away from the others. It confirms that it is King Hamlet’s spirit and adds that he brings information about a murder: the king was killed by his brother Claudius, who poured poison into his ear while he slept in the garden. The ghost bids Hamlet to seek revenge for his father’s murder, but to leave his mother out of it, and then leaves. Hamlet refuses to tell Horatio everything but says that, from now on, he is going to pretend to go mad. 

As he puts his plan into action, Hamlet’s increasingly erratic behavior becomes a cause of concern for Claudius and Gertrude. They invite his friends from school, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to visit him, in the hopes that they will cheer him up. Claudius believes that it is Hamlet’s love for Ophelia that has driven him mad. (Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain. She has been warned away from Hamlet by her father and her brother Laertes, a diplomat for Denmark in the French court). He decides to hide behind a curtain to observe an interaction between Hamlet and Ophelia in order to prove his theory and orders Polonius to arrange it. 

Hamlet arrives and is happy to see his friends, who ask him what he feels about the traveling troupe of actors that is going to visit the castle soon. When the actors are introduced, he asks one of them to perform a speech and is impressed by it. Once they leave, he reveals to the audience his intention to stage a play that will resemble the murder of his father in Claudius’s presence as a trap to confirm the latter’s guilt. 

In the next scene, Claudius and Polonius attempt to spy on the melancholic Hamlet and have instructed Ophelia to talk to him. Before she approaches, Hamlet, believing himself to be alone, delivers the play’s most famous soliloquy, contemplating death and grief as he asks “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” When Ophelia approaches him on the pretext of returning all the tokens of love he has previously given her, he yells at her, denying that he gave her anything. He rants about women and tells Ophelia that she ought to join a nunnery.

Painting depicting the play scene in Hamlet
Hamlet’s hopes to use the narrative of a play to confirm Claudius’s guilt.

Hamlet’s play is performed, and he watches Claudius’s reaction. When it reaches the part of the murder, Claudius is agitated and calls for the play to stop and leaves the room. He discusses his concern about Hamlet with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and decides that Hamlet will be sent to England. Once they leave, he expresses his guilt over his actions and begins to pray for forgiveness. Unknown to him, Hamlet has witnessed this confession and approaches to kill Claudius. However, he stops himself, believing that killing Claudius while he is praying could send him to heaven, which is not just. 

Hamlet goes to see his mother, who is upset about his behavior and the play. Polonius is also present in the room, hidden from Hamlet by a curtain. Hamlet expresses his anger over his mother’s new marriage, almost becoming violent. Gertrude and Polonius are scared by this, and the latter calls for help. Hearing him, Hamlet stabs him from behind the curtain, believing that it is Claudius. Gertude is appalled. Hamlet responds by exposing Claudius’s sins. He gets heated, yelling at her about the terrible mistake she has made. King Hamlet’s ghost appears and reminds Hamlet of his promises, but Gertrude is unable to see it. Hamlet tries to describe it to her, assuring her that he is not mad and asking her to keep it a secret. 

Learning of Polonius’s death, Claudius announces his intention of sending Hamlet to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He also reveals to the audience that he is sending a note with them for the English, telling them to kill Hamlet. However, the ship is taken by pirates, who return Hamlet to Denmark.

Meanwhile, the combination of Hamlet’s behavior toward her and her father’s death has driven Ophelia mad. At the same time, her brother has returned from France too, with a retinue of men who seem to support his claim to the Danish throne. He is angry about his father’s death and is out for revenge.

Painting depicting Ophelia’s drowning
Though the theme of suicide recurs in the play, Ophelia’s death is the only one that fits the category. ({{PD-US}})

When he learns that Hamlet has returned to Denmark, Claudius encourages Laertes to seek his revenge. The two plot to have a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes; they sharpen the latter’s sword and poison its blade to make it lethal. Just then, Gertrude arrives with the news that Ophelia has drowned herself in the river. At her funeral, Hamlet and Laertes get into a fight at her graveside. 

The next day, the fencing match is held at the castle. Before they begin, Hamlet apologizes to Laertes for killing Polonius, blaming it on his madness. They select their swords and begin to fight. Unknown to everybody else, Claudius has poisoned some of the wine being served in case Laertes is unsuccessful. Gertrude drinks some of this wine and falls down, realizing that she has been poisoned. Meanwhile, Laertes has managed to hit Hamlet with his poisoned blade. Immediately after this, Hamlet also wounds Laertes with the same sword. Laertes reveals that the blade was poisoned and that he had conspired with Claudius. Noticing that his mother is also dying, Hamlet stabs Claudius with the sword and forces him to drink the poisoned wine. As the two draw their last breaths, Laertes forgives Hamlet. Hamlet asks Horatio to tell his story  and that the throne of Denmark be given to Prince Fortinbras of Norway, whose father had been killed in battle against King Hamlet. 

Does Hamlet Make a Good King?

In the play Hamlet, the young prince never does have the chance to become king. Shortly after his uncle Claudius dies, so does young Hamlet. Therefore, many readers wonder whether the prince would have made a good king. Hamlet would indeed make a great king due to his compassion, loyalty, and intelligence.

Claudius – Guilty or Innocent?

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a play that tells of a young man, Hamlet, who wanted revenge for the death of his father. After speaking with his father’s spirit, Hamlet was led to believe that the person who murdered his father was his uncle, Claudius. Claudius kills his brother mainly because of jealousy, the crown, the queen and a hatred of his brother.

Characters in Hamlet

Illustration of Hamlet and Horatio with the gravediggers
Today, Hamlet is frequently depicted talking to a skull, highlighting the theme of death in the play.
  • Hamlet – He is the Prince of Denmark and the protagonist of the play. His father, King Hamlet, has recently been murdered, and his mother, Queen Gertrude is now married to the new King of Denmark, his uncle Claudius. Hamlet becomes obsessed with avenging his father’s death and wants to kill his uncle. 
  • Claudius – He is the King of Denmark and Hamlet’s uncle. He is the play’s antagonist, a calculating and ambitious man. He has a lust for power, but he occasionally shows signs of guilt and human feeling, especially his love for Gertrude.
  • Gertrude – She is the Queen of Denmark and Hamlet’s mother. After the late King Hamlet’s death, she marries Claudius, unaware of his actions. However, even after finding out about them, she does not leave or denounce him.
  • Polonius – He is the Lord Chamberlain, and the father of Laertes and Ophelia. He is  devoted to Claudius and attempts, several times, to spy on Hamlet. 
  • Laertes – He is an ambassador for Denmark in the French court, Polonius’s son, and Oplehlia’s brother. He returns from France to Denmark to avenge his father and sister’s deaths and conspires with Claudius to murder Hamlet.
  • Ophelia – She is the daughter of Polonius and the sister of Laertes. Though warned to stay away from him, she loves Hamlet and is distressed that her love is not reciprocated. 
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – They are former friends of Hamlet, whose loyalties shift to Claudius.
  • Horatio – He is Hamlet’s friend and trusted confidant. 
  • Fortinbras – He is the Prince of Norway and the ultimate inheritor of the Danish crown.

Is Hamlet A Coward Analysis

What is a coward? A coward is one who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things. In William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet a grief-stricken prince of Denmark comes home to his father’s funeral and he seeks revenge against the murderer. Hamlet is a story of love, loss, and overall revenge. Revenge is central to the plot of Hamlet

Hamlet Ophelia Character Analysis

In the play Hamlet Ophelia is portrayed as an innocent young woman who does not have a say in anything. All the men control Hamlet, her father Polonius, and her brother Laertes. She is portrayed as inferior to all of them and lets herself be pushed around by them. She is unable to convey her opinions or emotions throughout the play.

Quotes from Hamlet

Drawing of the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes
The final scene of “Hamlet” brings the play to an end with the deaths of several characters, including Hamlet himself.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:”

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

“This above all: to thine own self be true,”

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!”

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Hamlet Procrastination Quotes Analysis

One of Aristotle’s Five Rules for Tragedy state that the main character should possess a tragic flaw, something in his character which causes his downfall. In William Shakespeare’s tragic play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the main character’s tragic flaw is procrastination. There are four major quotes in the play that supports the argument that Hamlet’s tragic flaw is procrastination.

William Shakespeare Hamlet Suicide Quotes

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Shakespeare utilizes his ability to use words to paint emotion, the story, and characters into the readers mind. Shakespeare creates the memorable character of Hamlet Junior in his poem, Hamlet, through the characteristics of insanity and madness and suicidal tendencies or thoughts of suicide.

A Comparison of the Revenge of Fortinbras and Hamlet

In Hamlet, Shakespeare introduces us to Fortinbras and Hamlet. Both characters are bent on avenging the death of their fathers who were murdered. In Act I, two different revenge plots by these two men are revealed, and while Fortinbras is very open and bold about killing Claudius, Hamlet is sly and quiet about his plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When was “Hamlet” written?

    “Hamlet” was written between the years 1599 and 1601.

  • What is “Hamlet” about?

    “Hamlet” is about revenge, obsession, and madness; at the behest of his father’s ghost, Hamlet attempts to avenge his murder by devising a plot involving madness.

  • Who was Polonius in “Hamlet”?

    Polonius was the Lord Chamberlain of the Danish court in “Hamlet.” A loyal subject to King Claudius, he spies on Hamlet at various times to try to understand his madness. He is also the father of Laertes, an ambassador to the French court, and of Ophelia, Hamlet’s lover.