Hamlet characters

Hamlet the hero of William Shakespeare’s tragedy who hoped to avenge the murder of his father
Claudius The King of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle, and the play’s 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 feeling—his love for Gertrude, for instance, seems sincere.
Queen Gertrude Widow of King Hamlet, now married to Claudius,accidentally drinks potion. Shallow, weak, woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth
Polonius The Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, a pompous, conniving old man. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia. He is killed by Hamlet.
Horatio Hamlet’s best friend, After Hamlet’s death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlet’s story.
Ophelia hamlets girlfriend, daughter of Polonius, and she loses her mind. 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. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. She drowns in a river
Laertes Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s brother, a young man who spends much of the play in France. Passionate and quick to action
Fortinbras The young Prince of Norway, whose father the king (also named Fortinbras) was killed by Hamlet’s father (also named Hamlet). Now Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s honor
The ghost The specter of Hamlet’s recently deceased father. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, calls upon Hamlet to avenge him. However, 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 definitively resolved.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Two slightly bumbling courtiers, former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg, who are summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior.
Osric The foolish courtier who summons Hamlet to his duel with Laertes.
Voltimand and Cornelius Courtiers whom Claudius sends to Norway to persuade the king to prevent Fortinbras from attacking.
Marcellus and Bernardo The officers who first see the ghost walking the ramparts of Elsinore and who summon Horatio to witness it. Marcellus is present when Hamlet first encounters the ghost.
Francisco A soldier and guardsman at Elsinore.
Reynaldo Polonius’s servant, who is sent to France by Polonius to check up on and spy on Laertes.
Protagonist Hamlet
Major conflict Hamlet feels a responsibility to avenge his father’s murder by his uncle Claudius, but Claudius is now the king and thus well protected. Moreover, Hamlet struggles with his doubts about whether he can trust the ghost and whether killing Claudius is the appropriate thing to do.
Rising action The ghost appears to Hamlet and tells Hamlet to revenge his murder; Hamlet feigns madness to his intentions; Hamlet stages the mousetrap play; Hamlet passes up the opportunity to kill Claudius while he is praying.
Climax When Hamlet is about to stab Claudius while he is praying but doesn’t because he wants him to go to hell so he’ll kill him later
Falling action Hamlet is sent to England to be killed; Hamlet returns to Denmark and confronts Laertes at Ophelia’s funeral; the fencing match; the deaths of the royal family
Setting (time) The late medieval period, though the play’s chronological setting is notoriously imprecise
Setting (place) Denmark
Foreshadowing The ghost, which is taken to foreshadow an ominous future for Denmark
Tone Dark, ironic, melancholy, passionate, contemplative, desperate, violent
Themes The impossibility of certainty; the complexity of action; the mystery of death; the nation as a diseased body
Motifs Incest and incestuous desire; ears and hearing; death and suicide; darkness and the supernatural; misogyny
Symbols The ghost (the spiritual consequences of death); Yorick’s skull (the physical consequences of death)

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