The life of William Shakespeare and The Hamlet
Shakespeare's Life and Times
By 1597, 15 of the 37 plays written by William Shakespeare were published, but his talent as an actor seems to have been modest, since he is not known for starring roles. His early works are mainly histories and Comedies, including Richard II, Henry VI, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night. However, his focus shifts to tragedies and tragicomedies in his later years, which includes Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Cymbeline, and The Tempest.
Died on April 23, 1616 and buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, Shakespeare left his property to the male heirs of his eldest daughter, Susanna. He also bequeathed his 'second-best bed' to his wife.
Shakespeare's Fun Facts
- Since there was nearly no record of Shakespeare's education, there has been questions raised about the authorship of his work and even whether Shakespeare has ever existed.
- When Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18, the twenty-six-year-old woman was pregnant with their first child, Susanna
- Between 1585-1592, the seven years of William Shakespeare's life did not exist on record. Scholars call this period the "lost years," and there is wide speculation on what he was doing during this period, including hiding from poaching game and working as assistant headmaster in Lancashire.
Q&A - Shakespeare's Works
- Why are William Shakespeare’s (WS) works still read and studies in present day? Why is WS popular?
- Shakespeare is the greatest dramatist, the greatest poet and the greatest prose writer in the history of the language. The language of his works is rich, the characters are complex and many of his basic themes – love, treachery, honor, bravery and political intrigue – still resonate today.
- To whom were WS’s sonnets directed? What is the controversy regarding WS’s literary works?
- The sonnet addressed to a young and handsome man and a "dark" lady, who has dark hair, dark feature, and dark personalities. The controversy was that whether the sonnets are autobiography.
- When was the Renaissance period? What were the three core values of the Renaissance period? Connect them to Shakespeare. How did the renaissance influence Shakespeare’s writing?
- The renaissance period follows immediately after the Medieval period from 1350-1550. The core values were . Shakespeare was born towards the end of the renaissance period and was one of the first to bring the renaissance’s core values to the theater. He utilizes Greek and Roman classics to create the human characters with emotional complexities.
- Who were WS’s audience members? What kinds of messages did WS relay to his audience?
- Shakespeare's audience would have been composed of lower and middle working class, including tanners, butchers, iron-workers, millers, servant, etc. He dramatize the destructive results of weak or corrupt rulers, and depicts scenes of moral failure. However, the central message that Shakespeare conveys is hope.
- How are women positively and negatively represented in WS’s plays? Give an example from Hamlet.
- Many of Shakespeare’s female characters exercise a rather great deal of subtle forms of power and influence, and often do so in unusual and even subversive ways that challenge traditional gender roles. Gertrude, the Queen of Denmark, challenges the gender role by exerting authority and influence subtly and subversively.
- Shakespeare will be some of the most challenging reading you will attempt. What are some reading tips to ensure or success?
- Read ahead; Take notes in the margin; Highlight important quotations; Utilize dictionaries well; Ask questions and participate in discussions.
Facts of The Hamlet
- The real Elsinore is located in Helsingør, Denmark. The castle that Shakespeare referred to in Hamlet is Kronborg, which is a Renaissance castle.
- Hamlet is a revenge tragedy, which is a form of drama that the main motive is to revenge for a real or imaginary injury.
- Shakespeare obtains his idea from several sources:
- Amleth - A norse legend by Saxo Grammaticus
- Current events and reference to the current date
- Greek and Roman classics
Hamlet the Plot
Hamlet the Ghost
The former king and father of Hamlet. He was murdered by Claudius, his own brother. He informs Hamlet about his death and misfortune in the beginning of the play, which leads to the revenge of Hamlet.
Hamlet the Prince
Hamlet is the prince of Denmark and a man of contradictions. He is reckless yet cautious, courteous yet uncivil, tender yet ferocious. He is the protagonist and his distinct characteristics infuse dynamics into the play.
The king of Denmark and the villain of the play. He is a corrupt politician who is driven by greed and incessant pursuit of power. Under the crude facade, his tenderness and love towards Gertrude adds depth to the character.
Hamlet the Ghost
Hamlet the Prince
The queen of Denmark and wife of Claudius. She is the antithesis and mother of Hamlet. Weak and shallow, she yearns for power and external pleasures. For Gertrude is a extremely sexual being, Hamlet turns violently against her.
The daughter of Polonius and sister of Laertes. Hamlet falls deeply in love with her, but she obeys her father and follows his scheme to spy on Hamlet.
Hamlet's one true confidant and the outside observer to the madness. Fortitude, self-possession, and strong equanimity are the traits of Horatio. He loves Hamlet with all his heart, but he feels nothing to the extent that will overrule him.
The father of Laertes and Ophelia and the Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court. He is confident in his knowledge, eloquence, and skills in business.
The son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia. The young Danish lord is pursuing education in France. He possessed the opposite characteristics as Hamlet.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Fellow-students of hamlet from Wittenberg and much beloved by Hamlet. They were summoned by Claudius and Gertrude. They have good inclinations, but they lack the power and will to follow the positive intentions.
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