Shakespeare and Hamlet

By Alex Natale

About Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, in Stratford- on –Avon. He is the son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. Shakespeare attended the King Edward IV Grammar School in Stratford where he learned Latin and Greek. He was married at 18 to Anne Hathaway and had two daughters, Susanna and Judith. They also had a son but he died at a young age. In the years between 1585 and 1592, little is known about Shakespeare’s life, but he is thought to have been an actor in many plays and may have been a teacher. During this period is it likely that he had began to write plays and because of the plague he was most likely supported by his patron, Henry Wriothesley, the earl of Southampton. After this undocumented period, Shakespeare joined the Lord Chamberlain’s company of actors in 1594. In 1599 Shakespeare’s company started to build a new playhouse, the Globe. This is when he made his move and bought a home in Stratford.


The play “Hamlet”, by William Shakespeare, follows the journey of Prince Hamlet of Denmark as he seeks revenge on his family for the death of his father. The play begins with the death of Old Hamlet, Prince Hamlets father. After this, Old Hamlets brother Claudius is now king and married Queen Gertrude, Prince Hamlets mother. Young Hamlet is outraged by his mother and uncles actions and is now seeking revenge. Not long after the ghost of Old Hamlet tells Hamlet that he was poisoned in the ear by King Claudius, but was believed to have died from a snakebite. Hamlet acts as though he is going mad in order to get revenge and put on a play the reenacts the death of Old Hamlet. He does this to see if King Claudius will react, thus proving his guilt. The play concludes with Gertrude accidentally drinking poison, Hamlet stabbing Claudius, and Hamlet being stabbed by a poisoned blade.

Video SparkNotes: Shakespeare's Hamlet Summary

Main Characters

Hamlet the ghost- Former king, Hamlets father who was killed by Claudius

Hamlet the prince- Son of old hamlet and Gertrude, protagonist

Claudius- Old Hamlets brother and hamlets uncle and new king that killed Old Hamlet

Gertrude- Hamlets mother and claudius’ new wife that dies from drinking poison

Ophelia- Hamlets girlfriend and Polonius' daughter who goes crazy

What is a Revenge Tragedy? Is Hamlet A Revenge Tragedy?

Revenge tragedy is a drama in which the prominent theme and motive is revenge for an imaginary or real injury. Hamlet seeks revenge but it ends in the death and madness of all the characters.

Tips For Understanding Shakespeare

If you do not understand, read the spark notes and try to annotate the scenes as you read the play. If you do not understand some of the verbiage use your dictionary as a reference for examples.