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APIB English Literature and Composition
Major Works Data Sheet Title: __Hamlet, Prince of Denmark_ Author: __William Shakespeare_____ Date of Publication: __1600_________ Genre: __Drama__________________ Historical information about the period of publication: Hamlet was written around the Elizabethan time- around the reign of Henry VIII and when his wife Anne Boleyn had who would become Elizabeth I. This was also in the time of unsanitary living conditions, so the Bubonic Plague did course through Europe some time before. This play was one that came later in Shakespeare‟s life, after his children were born and “the Lost Years” with Anne Hathaway, so it was probably most of his experiences as well.
Biographical information about the author: William Shakespeare is almost an elusive person in history. Because he lived so long and there was so little documentation of his life from that time period, historians have only guessed at where he grew up, went to school, and obtained his inspiration for his works. It is recorded that he married Anne Hathaway and had several children, one of which was a son named Hamnet. Shakespeare emphatically rebuked the idea that Hamlet was named after his son or vice versa.
Characteristics of the genre: Shakespeare‟s tragedies all include some type of romance fused with suspenseful obstacles that block the main character from completing whatever task he or she must complete. Another important aspect of his tragedies, and tragedies in general, is the death of the characters that would keep the play or work from resolving peacefully.
Plot summary: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is well into his adulthood, and Claudius, Hamlet‟s uncle, has usurped his crown. Along with the late King Hamlet‟s throne, Claudius has also taken his wife, Hamlet the Prince‟s mother. Obviously, this chain of events causes unrest in Young Hamlet, so he prolongs his father‟s mourning time out of spite for the new King and Queen. One night, Horatio, Hamlet‟s friend, and two guards of Elsinore witness the coming of a spirit that holds resemblance to the Late Hamlet. They bring Hamlet to see this vision, and he follows after the ghost. Meanwhile, Laertes obtains permission from the king to return to Paris, so he says his goodbyes to his father and his sister while warning his sister to stay away from Hamlet. Following his son, Polonius also warns Ophelia telling her to no longer acknowledge Hamlet. Hamlet‟s encounter with the ghost leaves him yearning for revenge as he finds out that Claudius not only took his mother and crown, but also his father‟s life. Later that night, the distraught Hamlet visits Ophelia in her room and, completely disheveled, scares her into telling her father about the strange encounter. Polonius takes Hamlet‟s odd acts as a show of love towards Ophelia, so with the King‟s help, he arranges a meeting between the two lovers. The King and Queen ask that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, old school friends of Hamlet‟s, keep an eye on him and his seeming madness. In Hamlet‟s, Rosencrantz‟s, and Guildenstern‟s reunion, a troupe of Players come to Elsinore and Hamlet has them play “The Murder of Gonzago,” a play very similar to Old Hamlet‟s murder. Hamlet and Ophelia meet and Ophelia returns his letters and tokens of love. He spurns her, telling her to get herself “to a nunnery.” The King realizes it is not love making Hamlet act the way he does, and he begins to become suspicious. Soon after is the play, and the dumb show is so much like Claudius‟ crime that he ends the festivities, scaring the players out of Elsinore and affirming Hamlet‟s knowledge that Claudius is guilty. Gertrude calls Hamlet to her chamber where Polonius was keeping guard, and thinking Claudius was behind a curtain, Hamlet kills Polonius. He then shows Gertrude the wrong she‟s committed. Claudius, being scared for his life, sends Hamlet to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern so the King of England may finish him. On the way, Hamlet meets a captain of Fortinbras‟ who informs Hamlet of a coming invasion by the forces of Norway. Hamlet returns to Denmark after his ship is attacked by pirates, where he finds that Ophelia has committed suicide and Laertes is in cohorts with the king. Laertes challenges Hamlet to a duel, which is actually a plan for the murder of Hamlet with a poisoned, uncovered sword or a poisoned cup. While celebrating Hamlet‟s victory of two rounds, Gertrude drinks from the poisoned cup and dies. Hamlet mocks Laertes, which causes Laertes to wound Hamlet with the poisoned sword. Hamlet and Laertes switch swords, and Hamlet wounds Laertes. The sight of his dying mother stirs Hamlet to his revenge as he stabs and poisons Claudius. Horatio offers to kill himself as well, but Hamlet begs Horatio to stay and clear Hamlet‟s name. He also says in his dying moments that Fortinbras should be ki ng of Denmark, so as Fortinbras‟ forces invade Elsinore, all of the royalty have perished, and Horatio is left to give Fortinbras Hamlet‟s graces. An English ambassador bears news that the King‟s orders (really Hamlet‟s fake orders) have been performed, and that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Thus ends another of Shakespeare‟s tragedies.
Major Works Data Sheet
Describe the author‟s style, include narrator/point of view, metaphors/similes: Shakespeare writes his plays in mostly iambic pentameter and fits the dialogue in that rhythm. Because his plays are poetry, the language is floral and filled with comparisons and modifiers. The dialect is Old English, which sometimes makes the reading difficult to understand in addition to the occasionally convoluted diction. The narratology of the play is given through dialogue of the characters, and each character presents its own bias to the situation.
Examples that demonstrate the style (you need more than one example): Act IV Scene VII Lines 164-168 Queen: There is a willow grows askant the brook, That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream; There with fantastic garlands did she make Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples That liberal shepherds give a grosser name… Act III Scene III Lines 346-350 Hamlet: … „Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood, And do such bitter business to as this day Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother .
Memorable Quotes Quote Act I Scene III Lines 75-78 Polonius: Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulleth edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine own self be true… Act I Scene V 189-190 Hamlet: The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right! Act II Scene II Lines 238-239 Hamlet: Why, then, „tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison. Act II Scene II Lines 554-557 Hamlet: … As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses me to damn me: I‟ll have grounds More relative than this: the play‟s the thing Wherein I‟ll catch the conscience of the king. Act III Scene I Line 56 Hamlet: To be, or not to be: that is this question…
Significance Many of Shakespeare‟s quotes became adages for the English language, and this is one of them. As Polonius tells Laertes how to keep friends, this is how a parent might speak to his or her child today.
This couplet ends Act I after Hamlet has met the Ghost of his father. Hamlet has made his mind that he will seek revenge for his father.
While talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet calls Denmark a prison, and thus this famous quote was born. Hamlet claims that it is thinking that instills judgment on a thing or person.
These lines end Act II. Hamlet has convinced himself he will seek revenge and come up with a plan to affirm his suspicions that Claudius did in fact kill his father.
This line is the opening to one of the most famous of Shakespeare soliloquies. Hamlet contemplates whether he would be better off dead or alive, and he entertains the thought of suicide.
Major Works Data Sheet Name
Role in the story
Page 3 Characters Significance
King of Denmark, late Hamlet‟s murderer and brother
He kills Hamlet the King, steals his crown, and takes his wife. He is the reason Hamlet the Prince undergoes all his sorrow.
Power-hungry, deceitful, manipulative
Late Hamlet‟s son, Prince of Denmark, and nephew to King
He seeks revenge on Claudius for his crimes while battling insanity and everyone who has turned against him.
Clever, indecisive, conflicted
Lord Chamberlain, Father to Ophelia
He is the first that Hamlet the Prince kills in Hamlet‟s journey for revenge.
Hamlet‟s best friend
He serves as Hamlet‟s confidante.
Ophelia‟s brother, Polonius‟ son
He wants to avenge his father and take the King‟s crown.
Vigilant, protective, unrelenting
Messengers of the King
They disclose and send messages from and to Norway.
Friends of Hamlet‟s, pawns of the King
They act as the King‟s thugs, completing whatever tasks he asks of them.
Idiotic, untrustworthy, indistinguishable
Osric announces Laertes challenge to Hamlet.
Naïve, pretentious, eager
Marcellus Bernardo Francisco
Officers and guards of Elsinore
They are the first to see the Ghost of Hamlet‟s father.
Alert, superstitious, cautious
Polonius‟ servant and messenger
He keeps watch over Laertes while Laertes is in France.
Acting troupe that entertains at Elsinore
They play the piece that affirms Hamlet of Claudius‟ guilt.
Subservient, talented, experienced
They dig Ophelia‟s grave and jest with Hamlet while he reminisces.
Crude, disrespectful, menial
Prince of Norway
He invades Denmark to revenge against the late Hamlet.
Greedy, vindictive, controlling
Messengers for the English King
They bring the news that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
Queen, Wife to the Late King, wife to the current King, Hamlet‟s mother
She marries Claudius but wants the best for her son. She is poisoned, evoking Hamlet‟s revenge.
Fickle, remorseful, defiant
Polonius‟ daughter, Hamlet‟s lover
She goes insane out of grief for her father‟s death and kills herself.
Amorous, spurned, controlled
Spirit of Late Hamlet
It reveals the crimes of Claudius to Hamlet, instilling the want of revenge in him.
Elsinore Palace in Denmark is the setting for this work. Most scenes transpire in the Grand Hall. Some happen in the characters‟ bedrooms, and some happen outside the walls of the palace. Because Elsinore is more of a fortress, it is referred to, mainly by Hamlet, as a prison that one cannot escape. That is ironic considering many characters in the play died in or around it.
The play opens with two guards from Elsinore quarreling over the switch of shift. There is an obvious tension coming from the two as they exchange information about whether it was a “silent watch.” Once one of the guards leaves, another officer steps forth with Horatio, and as they converse, the Ghost appears and scares the three of them. They decide to take the information to Hamlet the Prince so he may meet the Ghost. From this, the audience knows the Ghost is real and that troubled times disrupt the palace of Elsinore.
Symbols The Spirit visiting the guards of Elsinore: The opening scene of the Spirit visiting the guards is important because it is a show of the growing unrest in Elsinore for whatever reason. Ophelia‟s madness and suicide: One of Hamlet‟s ideas he must cope with throughout the play is the generalization that women are weak and the cause of corruption in men. This is ironic because Hamlet is the one who corrupts and maddens Ophelia by killing her father, which drives her to her suicide. Hamlet‟s vision of the Ghost in his mother‟s chamber: Because Hamlet is the only one who can see his father‟s Ghost in this scene, it is evident that Hamlet is truly alone in his quest for truth and justice.
Significance of the ending/closing scene So often in this play, Elsinore is referred to as a prison, a trap. In the closing scene, every scrap of Danish royalty perishes, and those who were truly Danes never escaped that prison of Elsinore. The final scene also represented a Shakespearean tragedy as every major character that had been reluctant to act finally did and received their deaths for it. Against the laws of nature, the characters were to commit revenge for lives taken out of greed, yet all who killed or sinned drastically met their fateful end.
Works Cited Meyer, Michael. Bedford Introduction to Literature, The. 7th ed. ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. Print. "WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE BIOGRAPHY." WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2011.
Possible Themes: Use 3 text examples for support. Document correctly. What justifies revenge and how far must one go to seek it? Within the play, Hamlet battles constantly with himself as to when and how he may successfully instill revenge against his uncle. In one scene, he has the opportunity to kill Claudius while he is praying, but Hamlet retreats under the impression that Claudius‟ thoughts were heavenly and that would not be a suitable revenge for his father. Do women truly embody frailty and weakness? As mentioned, one of Hamlet‟s most famous quotes accuses women of being “frail” as his mother married within two months of his father‟s murder and Ophelia was made to rebuke him. In contrast, Ophelia dies as a solely independent character, her thoughts free among her sorrows, and Gertrude is killed because of her obvious defiance to Claudius‟ wishes for her to not drink from the cup. Therefore, when the women became their own people, that is when Shakespeare disposed of them.