Hamlet (Thug Notes)

FULL TITLE The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
AUTHOR William Shakespeare
TYPE OF WORK Play
GENRE Tragedy, revenge tragedy
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.
CLIMAX When Hamlet stabs Polonius through the arras in Act III, scene iv, he commits himself to overtly violent action and brings himself into unavoidable conflict with the king. Another possible climax comes at the end of Act IV, scene iv, when Hamlet resolves to commit himself fully to violent revenge.
SETTINGS (PLACE) Denmark
FORESHADOWING The ghost, which is meant 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)
Hamlet The Prince of Denmark, the title character, and the protagonist. About thirty years old at the start of the play, Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius. Hamlet is melancholy, bitter, and cynical, full of hatred for his uncle’s scheming and disgust for his mother’s sexuality. 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.
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.
Gertrude The Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s 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.
Polonius The Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, a pompous, conniving old man. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia.
Horatio Hamlet’s close friend, who studied with the prince at the university in Wittenberg. Horatio is loyal and helpful to Hamlet throughout the play. After Hamlet’s death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlet’s story.
Ophelia Polonius’s 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. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered.
Laertes Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s 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.
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, making him another foil for Prince Hamlet.
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.
Quote #1 about Hamlet’s Madness HAMLET”How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself,As I perchance hereafter shall think meetTo put an antic disposition on…”(Act 1 Scene 5)
Quote #2 about Hamlet’s Madness OPHELIA”My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced;No hat upon his head; his stockings foul’d,Ungarter’d, and down-gyved to his ancle;Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;And with a look so piteous in purportAs if he had been loosed out of hell…” (Act 2 Scene 1)
Quote #3 about Hamlet’s Madness QUEEN GERTRUDE”Mad as the sea and wind, when both contendWhich is the mightier: in his lawless fit,Behind the arras hearing something stir,Whips out his rapier, cries, ‘A rat, a rat!’And, in this brainish apprehension, killsThe unseen good old man.” (Act 4 Scene 1)
Quote #1 about Death/ Mortality HAMLET (First Soliloquy) “O, that this too too solid flesh would meltThaw and resolve itself into a dew!Or that the Everlasting had not fix’dHis canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,Seem to me all the uses of this world!Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,That grows to seed; things rank and gross in naturePossess it merely.” (Act 1 Scene 2)
Quote #2 about Death/ Mortality HAMLET”To be, or not to be: that is the question:Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous fortuneOr to take arms against a sea of troubles,And by opposing end them?—To die,—to sleep,— No more; and by a sleep to say we endThe heartache, and the thousand natural shocksThat flesh is heir to,—’tis a consummationDevoutly to be wish’d. To die,—to sleep;—”(Act 3 Scene 1 )
Quote #3 about Death/ Mortality HAMLET”Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certainconvocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Yourworm is your only emperor for diet: we fat allcreatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves formaggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is butvariable service, two dishes, but to one table:that’s the end.”(Act 4 Scene 3)
Quote #4 about Death/ Mortality QUEEN GERTRUDE”There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weedsClambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;When down her weedy trophies and herselfFell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;As one incapable of her own distress,Or like a creature native and induedUnto that element: but long it could not beTill that her garments, heavy with their drink,Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious layTo muddy death.”(Act 4 Scene 7)
Quote about Purgatory GHOST”I am thy father’s spirit,Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,And for the day confined to fast in fires,Till the foul crimes done in my days of natureAre burnt and purged away. But that I am forbidTo tell the secrets of my prison-house… ” (Act 1 Scene 5)

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