Written in the early 1600’s, Hamlet is one of the older texts on the exam and one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. I have a feeling most of us have a fair bit of knowledge about Shakespeare so I will try to only mention things that are lesser known.
Shakespeare was coming up in a time when the law, and even people’s attitude towards things were largely influenced by religion. Keeping this in mind, many people saw going to watch a play as an act of idolatry. For this reason, people who went to plays were not likely to advertise doing so. It also follows that people who actually performed in theater were viewed even more harshly. Actors were often viewed as worthless puppets because people questioned why they would willingly be someone else. Not only that but they were seen as unintelligent because the people of that time felt the reason they use someone else’s words is because they have nothing important to say themselves. Shakespeare was subjected to much of these criticisms in the beginning of his career because he got his start as an actor, while working on his own plays on the side.
Shakespeare is looked at as such an influential person because his plays, in a way, changed the way people thought about the entire field of theater. Before, people were disgusted by theatrical performances, but Shakespeare’s plays had such a wide appeal that more and more people baces interested in seeing them. Once enough people decided Shakespeare’s plays were not deserving of such judgement, they became more open to giving other theatrical works a chance. Throughout his career, Shakespeare wrote plays that literally reshaped the theatrical world. Because of this, he is widely credited with the cultural shift of acting and writing plays being seen as acceptable. His transformation of not only what a play is but also how people feel about plays arguably paved the way for the plays we know today to be written.
As a boy, Shakespeare developed an interest in plays because he acted out ancient Greek plays in school (possibly even Antigone?). Maybe it is because I wrote my thesis on Antigone or because we are reading it this week, but I cannot help but notice the fact that Shakespearean plays share themes with Greek plays. This is an interesting detail to think about when reading any of Shakespeare’s plays, especially since our exam is largely testing out ability to make intertextual connections between texts. For example, Shakespeare’s plays tend to have tragic ends where fate plays twisted tricks on people and everyone dies. Greek tragedies essentially invented this trope. Seeing these ideas continue even after so much time has passed is a testament to the way ideas in literature are transmitted and are constantly in conversation with one another. Also, even the idea of a story about a royal family that must navigate the death of their king and the rise of a family heir is
House of Mirth was still fresh in my mind while reading Hamlet so I couldn’t help but think about the role of women and marriage. I notice in many of plays written during this time that whenever a king dies, the new king will claim the queen as his own. This objectification of women is especially strange when we consider that a queen is supposed to be a powerful and revered figure. In Hamlet, Gertrude is constantly the subject of Hamlet’s anger, despite not having much choice in her current situation. Even Ophelia is made into a prop to further drive Hamlet’s character. Another trope that Greek and Shakespearean plays have in common is their main characters seeking some form of justice. This vengeful archetype makes its way into every single literary period in one form or another because this character excites and intrigues an audience.
There is talk about Hamlet possible being crazy, specifically between Claudius and Gertrude. What evidence do we see that Hamlet either was or was not actually seeing his father’s ghost? In other words, is he actually crazy? I think there is an argument either way, which also has intertextual links to ideas of ambiguity. The fact that there are so many questions the audience is left to answer on their own is something else Hamlet has in common with many other works of literature.
**I didn’t finish the last sentence of the fourth paragraph for some reason… mood LOL. It’s supposed to be: “Also, even the idea of a story about a royal family that must navigate the death of their king and the rise of a family heir is one that reappears in works of literature that came before and after Shakespeare’s time.”
Hamlet is about the prince of Denmark who recently comes back from Wittenberg to find out that his dad is dead. However, Hamlet suspects that it wasn’t simply a death, but in actuality, he was *gasp* murdered. This is, like much Shakespeare, a family drama, so of course, it was his evil uncle Claudius who killed Hamlet’s dad and married his mom, Queen Gertrude, and slid into the family thrown just. like. that. Hamlet begins to see visions of his father’s ghost. Everyone thinks he’s going crazy, except, his dear friend Horatio (who initially breaks the news of said apparition sightings to him and stays by his side throughout most of the play.) Hamlet isn’t allowed to return to Wittenberg as per Claudius’ demands and is forced to stay in Elsinore. As he stays he begins to have multiple encounters with his father’s ghost, but is unsure of how reliable these sightings are. He is, however, not really sure if it’s King Hamlet. Believing Claudius to have been the one to kill him, he eventually takes a roundabout way of action in order to kill Claudius and extract revenge.
Laertes heads back to Denmark, the brother of Ophelia, and Ophelia tells her father, Polonius, that Hamlet has been behaving oddly. Polonius speaks with Claudius and Gertrude about this and Hamlet, still playing the game like an absolute champ, convinces everyone else he’s lost to grief while trying to get revenge. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive at the castle, however, Hamlet believes they aren’t there on friendly terms. Hamlet, then, in the most dramatic and convoluted style possible, decides to stage The Murder of Gonzago, a play running parallel to how he believes his father was murdered. Eventually, the play is staged and Claudius flees from the room. Hamlet, now truly convinced he’s guilty goes about actually trying to kill him. This once again gets interrupted a few times and Hamlet inadvertently kills Polonius instead of Claudius, mistaking the two. Eventually, Laertes returns and he challenges Hamlet to a dual after being enraged over the news of his father’s death. Hamlet is warned not to take the dual, but does so anyway. He’s struck by the poisoned lance of his opponent and eventually dies, not before urging Horatio to tell the story of all that occurred (and the subsequent deaths of Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, Ophelia etc.,) when Fortribras comes.
Hamlet was written between 1599 and 1602. It’s considered a tragedy. The conventions of tragedy that are used include the death of the protagonist at the end, along with the death of almost everyone else in the play. What further makes Hamlet a tragedy/some conventions; revenge, ghosts, trying to play with fate, poisoned swords, murder plots etc.,. How Hamlet expands upon this genre is that it asks readers what the tragedy is; is Hamlet right in trying to avenge his father? Was he waiting too long? Was he really just (see, still canontonically in Wittenberg and ranges anywhere from sixteen to thirty in most productions) a kid who got tangled in his families drama? Hamlet is historically important because Shakespeare wrote it. (Kidding. Don’t write that on the exam, please.) Hamlet is important for several reasons; first off, gender and feminism. Ophelia is a prisoner of her father’s wishes, caught between Hamlet’s emotional outbursts and his sternness. She is trapped by the oppression of the time and finds her only choice to be suicide, because it is the only route that gives her autonomy. (Some scholars debate that it’s a response of madness to grief, but much modern feminism theory equates it to the fact that this was written as the ladder.) Hamlet is also important due to philosophical questions about ethics; murder, revenge, and want of control in the context of a world where. Also, “madness”–is Hamlet “mad,” or is the depiction of madness i.e. mental illness and grief used against him through the manipulation of power hungry adults. Queer theory; relationship with Horatio (because if you die in someone’s arms and their last words to you are “Goodnight, my sweet prince” well, fellas … ) Perhaps, this nice Tragic Shakespeare could be paired with Boyer’s poems or Mrs. Dalloway, “A Recipe for Writing A Novel” (for how it calls out troupes in a satirical way,) Sedgwick if one goes the paranoid reading route, in terms of feminism and/or mental health. Also, I mention Ophelia a lot but equally one could write about Queen Gertrude and her oppression within the situation as well (recent widow, manipulated by Claudius, etc.,)
“When down her weedy trophies and herself.Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide, And, mermaid-like awhile they bore her up, Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds, As one incapable of her own distress Or like a creature native and endued Unto that element. But long it could not be Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay To muddy death.” (4.7.199-208)
–Queen Gertrude describes Ophelia’s drowning in a passive manner what can we imply from this? What does this mean in the larger social context of the play (Ophelia’s relations with Polonius, Laertes, and Hamlet and how each try to control/manipulate/abuse her) and of society at the time? Do you think Shakespeare purposefully had Gertrude inform readers of how she died and used such language, if so, why?
“To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or 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 end The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. There’s the respect That makes Calamity of so long life: For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time, The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely, The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,” (Act 3, scene 1).
–Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” monologue gives insight into his thought process at the time. How does this correlate with his mental health, the subsequent trauma of his father’s death, and the rest of the events in the play? Is Hamlet truly “mad” or is there more going on within this monologue?
Published in 1603, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is about Hamlet, the crown prince of Denmark returning home to discover his father (the king) has died. Amid his grief, his father returns to him in the form of a ghost to inform him that Hamlet’s uncle Claudius (the king’s brother) is responsible for his death. The entire play then revolves around Hamlet’s attempts to seek revenge on his uncle and reclaim the crown.
The play is Shakespeare’s longest play and viewed to be the most popular works of his career, being ranked as one of the most performed in his collection, topping the performance list of the Royal Shakespeare Company and its predecessors in Stratford-upon-Avon since 1879. It is also considered to be one of the most powerful and influential works of world literature, inspiring great writers from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Charles Dickens to James Joyce and Iris Murdoch.
The story of derives from the legend of Amleth- the medieval Scandinavian legend (13th century) whose story mirrors the events in Shakespeare’s play. However, it is thought that Shakespeare may also have been influenced by an earlier Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet, though some scholars believe Shakespeare wrote the Ur-Hamlet, revising it to create the current version of Hamlet.
The original title of the play is The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, which outlines the events of the play and the misfortunate that follows the titular character’s story. Within a Shakespearean tragedy, there are elements of the tragic hero, good vs. evil, and the reoccurring supernatural flare.
The ultimate ending within tragic plays leads to the death of the protagonist, the downfall of the hero having to do with their tragic flaw. With Hamlet, his tragic flaw is his inability to act. He is unable to come to terms with his father’s death and ultimately delays killing his uncle Claudius, to avenge his father.
The most famous line of the play is, “To be, or not to be: that is the question” (Act 3 scene 1). Spoken by Hamlet, this line of begins his soliloquy providing the audience with his private thoughts, and the internal struggle going on within him. This quote accurately depicts Hamlet’s characterization, in this constant loop of “should I or shouldn’t I” his downfall directly correlates with his incapacity to decide.
This notion of action and inaction strangely reminds me of “Bartleby.” Just as Bartleby chooses not to react in his workspace and “would prefer not to,” I think perhaps Hamlet could be examined under this lens to explore whether or not he actually wants revenge? Does looking at his passive attempts to investigate his uncle’s guilt (putting on the play to see his Claudius’ reaction) demonstrate his desire to not act upon the events in his life? Does his position as a son and the prince drive his the responsibility to avenge his father’s death and take the crown?
Hamlet by Shakespeare was was written around the years of 1604 to 1605.
Hamlet focuses on the title character, who is trying to figure out who killed his father. When the guards see a ghost who look like the king, they decide to have Hamlet come and decipher why the ghost of the king is there, and why he is haunting the castle. The ghost reveals that he has been killed by his brother, Claudius and Hamlet then decides that he must get justice for his father, the king. Claudius then marries Queen Gertrude, and the two become concerned with how the death of the king leads to Hamlet’s strange behavior. Hamlet and Ophelia have a romantic relationship, but since Hamlet is focused on finding his father’s killer, he cuts her off, leading her to believe that he has gone mad and no longer loves or cares about her. Hamlet creates a plan to have actors play out how his father was killed, to see if he can play on Caludius’ conscious, which would reveal his guilt. Upset, Cluadus does end up leaving the room which indicates to Hamlet that Claudius did have a part in the king’s murder. Claudius decides that Hamlet must leave, and after Hamlet unintentionally kills Polonius, he not only gets sent to England, but is sentenced to death. With Hamlet gone, and supposedly mad, and unable to cope with the death of her father, Ophelia drowns herself. Ophelia’s brother, Laertes then comes into the play, believing that Hamlet is the reason he has lost his loved ones. Playing upon his vulnerability Claudius uses Laertes emotions to create a plan on how Hamlet should be killed. Laertes then challenges Hamlet, and the two of them dual, and within this time Queen Gertrude dies. At this point Laertes dies from the poisoned sword. But before his death he reveals Claudius’ intentions, which leads Hamlet to kill Claudius, and then Hamlet himself dies from the wound he got from the sword as well.
You can clearly relate the idea of death between both Hamlet and Antigone. You could focus on the various deaths that occur throughout both plays. But you can also focus on how the title characters, lose their father, and how their deaths affect those characters. You may also discuss how the death of these father figures leads to an impact on various characters in the novel, especially the figure who takes on the role of a leader, who is often the one that is hungry for power.
You may relate Hamlet to Antigone or Citizen if you discuss the idea of protest. How an individual protests against the social norms, or expectations of others. You can also discuss how the group described in Citizen and how Hamlet, in a sense have a silent protest as their actions are slightly more calculated before they begin their action on fulfilling their goals.
The idea of madness in Citizen and Hamlet, how that is portrayed in the text. Citizen discusses Serena Williams and how her actions on the court caused her to be viewed as crazy and out of control. You could compare that part of Citizen to Hamlet’s character and the choices and decisions he makes in order to get his revenge.
Another idea that you can discuss between Citizen, Hamlet, and Antigone, is the restrictions that women face. How their actions are constantly being limited, whether they’re standing up for what they believe in (like Antigone), or if they are restricted in relationships ( like Ophelia), or even on their job or the media (like Serena), you could compare and contrast those differences and how they all still face similar restrictions.
Something you could question is Hamlet’s motive. Was he really interested in avenging his father’s death? Or was he simply not satisfied that his mother and uncle were not married? Or was Hamlet himself power hungry throughout the whole play? Was he really in it for himself all along?
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