HAMLET 101

Introduction to William Shakespeare's Hamlet

“To be, or not to be, that is the question”

This line is one of the most famous lines adapted from William Shakespeare's Hamlet. William Shakespeare was an actor, a poet, and a playwright. He was born on April 1564 during the Renaissance - age of humanism and individualism movements - and had died on 23 April 1616 at the age of 52. He was married to Anne Hathaway who was already pregnant before the marriage. He had 3 children, Susanna, and the twins, Hamnet and Judith. He made his way to London without his family and started working in the theater. He gained recognition as an actor and playwright. His earlier plays were mainly histories and comedies such as 'Henry VI' and 'Titus Andronicus'. His greatest tragedies were 'Hamlet', 'Othello', 'King Lear' and 'Macbeth'. By the last years of Elizabeth I's reign Shakespeare was well established as a famous poet and playwright and was called upon to perform several of his plays before the Queen at court.
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Shakespearian FACTS !!

  • Nobody knows the right spelling for William Shakespeare's last name, as sources from his lifetime spell his last name in more than 80 different ways, ranging from “Shappere” to “Shaxberd”.
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  • Many of the common expressions now thought to be clichés were Shakespeare's creations. If you've ever said "It's Greek to me", then you are quoting Shakespeare!!


  • Shakespeare’s plays began to be printed in 1594, probably with his tragedy Titus Andronicus. This appeared as a small, cheap pamphlet called a quarto because of the way it was printed.

Why bother read Shakespeare??

1. GREAT STORIES. Shakespeare's stories transcend time and culture. Modern storytellers continue to adapt Shakespeare’s tales to suit our modern world, whether it be Romeo and Juliet on the mean streets of New York City, or Macbeth in feudal Japan.


2. COMPELLING CHARACTERS. Shakespeare is deeply admired by actors, and many consider playing a Shakespearean character to be the most difficult and most rewarding role possible.


3. HIS ABILITY TO TURN A PHRASE. Many of the common expressions now thought to be clichés were Shakespeare's creations. WHY not learn more about him?


4. ILLUMINATION OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE. Shakespeare summarizes a range of human emotions in simple yet profoundly eloquent verse.

How to conquer Shakespeare??

1. READ A GREAT PLOT SYNOPSIS. Look for a synopsis that incorporates passages from the play directly into the discussion.


2. FIND AN ANNOTATED COPY OF THE WORK YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ. Look for a copy that has detailed annotations at the bottom of each page or on the page opposite Shakespeare's text.


3. GET COMFORTABLE AND READ ONCE THROUGH THE PLAY. In this quick preliminary reading you should focus on learning the meanings of difficult words, and, as you read, you should start to become familiar with the personalities of the characters.


4. WATCH A MOVIE OR A VIDEO OF THE PLAY. Rent, buy, or borrow from your local library the BBC production of the play. The BBC Shakespeare series is an amazing resource which includes the complete text of each drama.


5. READ THE PLAY AGAIN. By now you should have a solid understanding of the key passages, and hence you can concentrate on larger themes represented in the play.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

ORIGIN of HAMLET

Shakespeare based Hamlet on a Norse legend composed by Saxo Grammaticus in Latin around 1200 AD. The sixteen books that comprise Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum, or History of the Danes, tell of the rise and fall of the great rulers of Denmark, and the tale of Amleth, Saxo's Hamlet, is recounted in books three and four.

In Saxo's version, King Rorik of the Danes places his trust in two brothers, Orvendil and Fengi. The brothers are appointed to rule over Jutland, and Orvendil weds the king's beautiful daughter, Geruth. They have a son, Amleth. But Fengi, lusting after Orvendil's new bride and longing to become the sole ruler of Jutland, kills his brother, marries Geruth, and declares himself king over the land. Amleth is desperately afraid, and feigns madness to keep from getting murdered. He plans revenge against his uncle and becomes the new and rightful king of Jutland.
Ghosts, Murder, and More Murder - Hamlet Part I: Crash Course Literature 203
Ophelia, Gertrude, and Regicide - Hamlet II: Crash Course Literature 204

TRACE the characters!

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THEMES to keep in mind!

NOW, you are ready to read HAMLET!


Done by: Fatema Alkhanaizi