William Shakespeare and Hamlet

by: Charlie Ill

Shakespeare’s Life and Times

  • Born on Henley Street, Statford-upon-Avon, England
  • Unknown birthdate, but baptized on April 26, 1564
  • Married Anne Hathaway on Nov 28, 1582
  • children: Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith
  • 1592 - earned a living as an actor and a playwright in London; produced many plays
  • although the theater culture wasn't highly admired by people of high social class, Shakespeare's works were
  • 1599 - built a theater on the south bank of the Thames River called the Globe
  • wrote plays in the conventional style of the day; used elaborate metaphors and rhetorical phrases that didn't always align naturally with the story's plot or characters
  • innovative plays that adapted the traditional style to his own purposes and created a freer flow of words
  • used blank verse and unrhymed iambic pentameter
  • Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, which was his supposed birthday

Shakespeare's Work

  • His ability to summarize the range of human emotions in a simple and eloquent verse are partially why he is so popular today.
  • Shakespeare was a great story teller that transcended time and culture; his characters are compelling and complex; he had the ability to turn a phrase and create clichés and common expressions in his plays.
  • He wrote his sonnets about the famous "dark lady" and "the young man"
  • He was influenced by the Renaissance Era (1350 - 1550) and incorporated the three core values of this time period in his works: rebirth of commerce, interests of the classical cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome, and confidence in human potential
  • Shakespeare had audience members from every social class
  • his female characters had more freedom to explore their sexuality, but were still owned by their husbands, fathers, or employers

Tips When Reading Shakespeare's Plays

  1. Read a plot summary online, before reading the original text.
  2. Read his plays using an annotated copy so that it is easier to point out themes and important scenes.
  3. Ask yourself questions about the characters, main events, relationships, and how the play relates to life and destiny.


Video SparkNotes: Shakespeare's Hamlet Summary
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Important Facts

  • Elsinore is located on the northeast coast of the island of Zealand in eastern Denmark
  • Revenge Tragedy: a tragedy where a murder victim is avenged, often by a younger kinsmen, and usually results in the death of both the murderer and the avenger.
  • There are theories that Shakespeare may have used ideas from an older writer to create Hamlet; it is also believed that the story is based on Byzantine, Roman, and Greek myths.