Hamlet

Blank Verse Definition Verse (as in poetry) that does not rhyme and has a metrical structure (a set amount of syllables per line).
How is Blank Verse presented in Shakeseperean text? The text is indented/set in from the margin and only takes up part of the page – in the same way as poetry often does.
Why is Blank Verse used? Effects? Blank Verse creates structure and order in the way in which characters speak and often indicates formality. It can also show pre-prepared, carefully rehearsed thoughts. Broadly speaking, it is used by more high-ranking characters.
Iambic Pentameter Definition A line of verse containing five iambic feet. An iambic “foot” is a unit of rhythm consisting of one unstressed and one stressed syllable that looks like this: ( x / ) Iambic pentameter therefore consists of 10 syllables per line. It is a form of Blank Verse, but is even more rigid and structured.
How is Iambic Pentameter used in Shakeseperean text? In the same way as Blank Verse.
Why is Iambic Pentameter used? Again, for very similar reasons to Blank Verse. It is a formal and structured method of speaking.
Prose Definition The ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure (no set syllable count) as distinguished from poetry or verse.
How is Prose used in Shakesperean text? The text “runs on” continuously from the left to the right margin of the page without a break (the same structure as novels often use).
Why is prose used? Effects? Prose is often spoken by more low-ranking /low-status characters and it is used in more informal situations. It can be likened to conversational or spontaneous speech and often shows characters’ honest emotions.
Ophelia’s appearance On the stage, theatrical representations of Ophelia have shifted according to the dominant theories and images of female insanity, while historically the images of Ophelia have played a major role in the construction of medical theories of insanity in young women. These have been presented most clearly in 19th century artwork.Ophelia’s appearance is used to highlight her youth and femininity, which is a stark contrast from the dark emotions exhibited from the demeanor of characters such as Hamlet. On the stage, Ophelia was costumed in virginal white to contrast with Hamlet’s scholarly black, and in her mad scene she entered with dishevelled hair, singing bawdy songs, and giving away her flowers, symbolically deflowering herself. Drowning, too, was a symbolically feminine death.
Ophelia and Mental instability throughout time The representation of her mental instability has provoked a critical response in the 21st century, with Ophelia being seen as a negative model of a self-destructive teenager in contemporary society, in the psychology book Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Souls of adolescent girls by Mary Pipher in 1994Ophelia’s role in the performance of Hamlet has changed in congruence with society’s attitudes towards women.This is particularly evident in the stark contrast between the censorship of Ophelia’s suicide in the 18th century with “the violent possibilities of the mad scene nearly eliminated, and any images of female sexuality subdued.” With Mrs Siddons in 1785 played the mad scene with what was seen as stately and classical dignity” in line with the sentimentalisation of the role.Ophelia was later however, considered in feminist terms, with at first her role being explored as one of a victim to sexual intimidation, and had progressed profoundly to heroine by 1979 when Melissa Murray’s play Ophelia showed her running off with a woman servant to join a feminist guerrilla commune. The 21st century has had even greater political implications for Ophelia as a response to our increasingly turbulent political landscape, with the adaption The Al-Hamlet Summit in 2002 imagining Ophelia as a suicide bomber in an unnamed Arab kingdom.
Hamlet Act 1 Valiant King Hamlet has died. His brother has succeeded him as King of Denmark and as husband of Queen Gertrude. The new King is fully in control of the court, despite his hasty and incestuous marriage. Prince Hamlet alone is still in mourning for the late King. In a soliloquy, he expresses his revulsion at the state of affairs. A ghost closely resembling the late King appears at the castle. He reveals that his brother seduced the Queen and poisoned him. He commands Hamlet to avenge his murder. Hamlet vows to undertake the task.Meanwhile, Ophelia, daughter of the King’s advisor, Polonius, and with whom Hamlet is in love, is told by her father and by her brother, Laertes, to end the relationship.
Hamlet Act 2 Plot and Counter Plot Some weeks have passed and Hamlet continues to behave oddly. Anxious, the King asks the Prince’s fellow students, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to spy on him. Polonius tells the King about Ophelia’s rejection of Hamlet’s advances, and suggests that this is the cause of the Prince’s ‘lunacy’ (II.2.49). The men decide to contrive a meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia, so they can eavesdrop on their conversation.Rosencrantz and Guildenstern admit to Hamlet that they were ‘sent for’ (II.2.277). When a theatre company arrives, Hamlet requests ‘a passionate speech’ (II.2.393). The recitation deeply moves Hamlet. He asks the actors to perform a play ‘something like the murder of [his] father’ (II.2.548). He wants it performed in front of his uncle so he can observe the King’s reactions.
Hamlet Act 3 Surveillance and ConfessionJust before Polonius’s plan is put into action, Claudius reveals to the audience that he carries a ‘heavy burden’ (III.1.54) of guilt. Ophelia pretends to read, whilst Polonius and Claudius hide to listen to her conversation with Hamlet.Hamlet delivers the ‘To be, or not to be’ (III.1.56) soliloquy, then encounters Ophelia. He soon realises she is part of a conspiracy, and directs his outrage at both her and the two men he guesses are listening. Whilst Ophelia is saddened by the apparently mad Hamlet, the King is convinced his nephew is sane and dangerous. Polonius proposes to spy on them in the Queen’s room, after the play.Hamlet asks his loyal friend, Horatio, to observe the King during the performance. Hamlet sits beside Ophelia to watch the King. The play is preceded by a mime re-enacting the Ghost’s account of the murder, which elicits no reaction from Claudius or Gertrude.In the first scene of The Mousetrap, the Player Queen vows to be forever faithful to her husband. In the interval, Hamlet asks his mother’s opinion of the play. She replies, ‘The lady doth protest too much methinks’ (III.2.211). The second scene represents the murder. When the King rises, displeased, and the performance breaks up in confusion, it is unclear what has upset the King. Hamlet, intoxicated by the experience, gives a soliloquy in which he imagines taking revenge. However, it is not the King he pursues, but his mother.Hastily, the King makes plans to send Hamlet away. Alone, Claudius struggles to pray, racked with the guilt of his ‘foul murder’ (III.3, 52). Hamlet passes him on his way to Gertrude’s room. He has the perfect opportunity to send the King ‘to heaven’ (III.3.74), but he pauses: he cannot kill the King at prayer and so proceeds to his mother’s chamber.Polonius hides and listens as the Queen reproaches Hamlet for his behaviour. Hamlet condemns her actions towards his father. Terrified, Gertrude calls for help. Hearing a noise, Hamlet stabs the man in hiding, believing him to be Claudius. Gertrude accuses Hamlet of committing a ‘rash and bloody deed’ (III. 4.27); Hamlet replies that it is not as bad as killing a king and marrying his brother. The Queen’s shocked response establishes her innocence of the murder. Hamlet’s criticism of her sins forces her to acknowledge them. Hamlet is visited a second time by the Ghost who comes to ‘whet [his] almost blunted purpose’ (III.4.110).
Hamlet Act 4 Madness and RevengeWe see Claudius and Gertrude drawing apart. Neither confides in the other. In a soliloquy, the King reveals he is sending Hamlet to his death. As Hamlet is about to leave Denmark for England, he encounters the army of Young Fortinbras, en route to fight, simply for glory. Hamlet’s initial response is contempt, but upon reflection, he seems to find Young Fortinbras’s behaviour glorious and a rebuke of his own lack of action.With Hamlet off-stage, the focus moves to Ophelia, now mad as a result of her father’s death, and then to Laertes. Laertes returns from Paris, seeking revenge for his father’s death. The King exploits Laetes’s distress and the reappearance of Ophelia refuels Laertes’s passion.Meanwhile, Horatio receives a letter from Hamlet, who has escaped from the ship that was taking him to his execution. A second, similar letter reaches Claudius. He and Laertes unite and plot Hamlet’s death. Gertrude enters and reports Ophelia’s death by drowning.
Hamlet Act 5 The tragic denoument In the graveyard, two sextons (gravediggers) discuss Ophelia’s suicide. Hamlet has returned, a different man. He is unaware of his uncle’s plot against him.Handling the skulls in the graveyard, Hamlet reflects on how death is the great leveller. Ophelia’s funeral procession interrupts him. Hamlet mocks Laertes’s theatrical display of grief and the two fight by her grave.Hamlet gives Horatio details of his escape. He now feels it would be ‘perfect conscience’ (V.2.67) to kill the King and damnable to let him live. The Prince is challenged to a fencing match with Laertes. Although he senses underhand tactics, Hamlet is ready to face death.The play ends with an exciting and cleverly contrived fencing match. It results in the deaths of all the principal protagonists, followed by brief, powerful tributes to young Hamlet.Horatio is left to tell the Prince’s story. Young Fortinbras assumes power in Denmark.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 1 Scene 1 Francisco is on sentry duty on the gun platform of Elisnore. It is midnight and freezing cold. Barnardo comes to relieve Francisco. Horatio and Marcellus arrive to join Barnardo.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 1 scene 2 Claudius announces to the court that, although he grieves for his dead brother, he has, with joy, married Gertrude. He turns his attention to the political situation: young Fortinbras is threatening Denmark.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 1 Scene 3 Laertes warns Ophelia against Hamlet’s love, saying it is merely youthful infatuation. As a prince, Hamlet is not free to choose his own wife; he must marry in the interest of the state.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 1 scene 4 Just after midnight. Trumpets and gun salutes are heard. Hamlet condemns the drunkenness of the Danes and reflects that some men have a particular character fault that overwhelms reasion and dignity.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 1 scene 5 The Ghost says it must shortly return to its suffering but is forbidden to tell mortals of the horrors it endures. Otherwise it would speak of appalling torments. The Ghost commands Hamlet to revenge.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 2 scene 1 Polonius gives Reynaldo money for Laertes in Paris. He orders Reynaldo to spy on Laertes behaviour using devious, indirect methods. Even lies may be used to discover what Laertes is doing.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 2 scene 2 Claudius has sent for Hamlet’s fellow students. They are to find out the cause of Hamlet’s strange behaviour. Gertrude promises Rosencratz and Guildenstern they will be royally rewarded if they stay.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 3 scene 1 Rosencratz and Guildenstern report Hamlet’s unwillingness to talk about the reasons for his madness, and his joy at news of players. Claudius asks them to encourage Hamlet’s theatrical interests.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 3 scene 2 Polonius agrees with Claudius plan to send Hamlet to England. He proposes to spy on Gertrude’s meeting with Hamlet. Hamlet instructs the players on acting style.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 3 scene 3 Hamlet threatens bloody revenge. He decides to visit Gertrude to upbraid but not harm her. Claudius, fearing Hamlet’s growing dangerousness, briefs Rosencratz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet to England.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 3 scene 4 Polonius advises Gertrude to speak sharply to her son, and then hides. Hamlet is vehemently critical of Gertrude, making her fear for her life. Her alarm makes Polonius call for help-with fatal results.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 4 scene 1 Gertrude tells Claudius that Hamlet has killed Polonius. Claudius fears that he himself might have been the victim and that he will be blamed for Polonis death. He lies about his love for Hamlet.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 4 scene 2 Claudius decides to send Hamlet away from Denmark. He orders Rosencratz an Guildenstern to join with others to find Polonius’ body and take it to the chapel. He hopes he can avoid slanderous actions.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 4 scene 3 Hamlet’s replies bewilder Rosencratz and Guildenstern. He does not reveal where Polonius body is hidden. Claudius feels he cannot punish Hamlet severely because the prince is popular in Denmark.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 4 scene 4 Fortinbras sends a captain to ask Claudius for permission to pass through Danish territory. The captain tells Hamlet the army will fight for a tiny, unprofitable part of Poland. Hamlet reflects on a sick society.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 4 scene 5 Gertrude refuses to see Ophelia, but is told that Ophelia is mad and needs pity. Gertrude agrees to admit Ophelia, but expresses guilt and misgivings about the future.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 4 scene 6 Hamlet’s letter reveals that he has been captured in a sea battle. By doing a deal with the pirates, he has returned to Denmark. He has sent lertters to the King and urgently wishes to meet Horatio.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 4 scene 7 Claudius claims that Hamlet not only killed Polonius, but was intent on killing him too. he explains that he did not punish Hamlet for two reasons: love of Gertrude, and Hamlet’s popularity with people.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 5 scene 1 Two gravediggers discuss Ophelia’s death. They think she has commited suicide, but is being allowed a Christian burial because of her high rank.
Hamlet scene summariesAct 5 scene 2 Hamlet tells Horatio how he could not sleep on the ship. he searched in Rosencratz and Guildenstern’s cabin for the letter from Claudius. It ordered that he should be executed immediately on arrival in England.Horatio asks for the bodies to be placed on view, and says he will tell how the carnage came about. Fortinbras claims the throne of Denmark. He commands that Hamlet be carried with due ceremony to the platform.

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