Hamlet and Shakespeare

Important Study Guide Before Reading Hamlet

Brief Summary of Hamlet

It is a story of vengeance. In the land of Elsinore, Denmark, Claudius is the new king, recently taken over his brother’s throne after he passed away and married to queen Gertrude. One day, Hamlet, son of the deceased king and the queen, saw a spirit. The spirit proves himself to be Hamlet’s dad and tells him to take revenge against Claudius who poisoned him. Hamlet tries to take upon revenge, while Claudius plans to “take care” of Hamlet to remain on the throne. The end is a bloodbath and like every vengeful story, the result is never a happy ending.

Facts About Shakespeare

  • Based on a record from Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, on April 26, 1564, he was baptized. He was the third child of a local merchant and a local landed heiress. He also had two older sisters, Joan and Judith, and three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard and Edmund. WS married Anne Hathaway and they had a twin named Hamlet and Judith.

    April 23, 1564 is the date we acknowledge as William Shakespeare's birthday even though there isn’t any birth record of him. There is also no record of his education but scholars suspect that Williams attended King’s New School for reading, writing, and the classics.

    In the early 1590s, except for Romeo and Juliet, his works were mostly dramas and comedies to criticize the corruption and the weak. By 1597, 15 of the 37 plays were published. After 1600s, he focused on tragedies and tragicomedies. Hamlet was written during this period.

    By 1599, William Shakespeare and his business partners built a theatre called The Globe.

    William Shakespeare died on his birthday, April 23, 1616. (how convenient). He was buried at the Holy Trinity Church in his hometown Stratford.

Shakespeare's Works

1. William Shakespeare’s works still read and studies in present day because the characters present real human beings emotions complexity and show conflicts that surpass the tradition of Elizabethan England.

2. WS’s sonnets were directed to a W. H., whose identity remains a mystery, although William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, is frequently suggested because Shakespeare's First Folio was also dedicated to him. However, it is also not certain if these sonnets are directed to him.

3. Renaissance period was during the 14th- 17th century. The three core values of Renaissance period are the growing of technology, the flourish of art, and the concept of humanism/ individualism was emphasized. Only during the Renaissance period, WS was able to include Greek and Roman classics in his writings. Before, the stories are very two-dimensional with little to non-development to the characters. WS focused the human characteristics with emotional complexity in each character.

4. WS’s audiences were basically everyone from every social class. WS tried to convey that everyone in all social class could enjoy his plays since his moral stories can be understood and aim at anyone in the community.

5. Women are negatively represented in Hamlet through the women in Elizabethan England. The women in Elizabethan England did not have much to do other than stay home and bare child. However, women are positively presented in Hamlet by transcend the limit of women.

6. To read Shakespeare’s works, you will need to understand the basic words and phrases in Shakespearean. Also, reading Sparknotes or Shmoop would before reading the book really helps.

Characters in Hamlet

1. Hamlet the ghost: the soul of Hamlet the King comes at the beginning of the book and tells Hamlet to take revenge.

2. Hamlet the prince: the protagonist, son of Queen Gertrude and the King Hamlet, and the nephew of King Claudius.

3. Claudius: the antagonist, King of Denmark and Hamlet’s uncle.

4. Gertrude: Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s mother.

5. Ophelia: Polonius’ daughter, whom Hamlet has been in love.

6. Horatio: Hamlet’s close friend.

7. Polonius: The Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, a pompous, conniving old man. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia.

8. Laertes: Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s brother

9. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: former friends of Hamlet.