Setting • Elsinore, Denmark • In and around the palace • Late middle ages – (1300-1499) Madness • Both real and feigned. • Hamlet's mental state and erratic behavior speaks to the play's overall atmosphere of uncertainty and doubt. • Ophelia cracks under the strain of Hamlet's abuse and the weight of patriarchal forces. – Has important implications for the play's portrayal of "Gender" and "Sex." Revenge • The play doesn’t deal with Hamlet’s successful vengeance on his father's murderer, but with Hamlet's inner struggle to take action. • It weaves together three revenge plots, all of which involve sons seeking vengeance for their fathers' murders. • Calls into question the validity and usefulness of revenge. Lies and Deceit • Hamlet hates deception and craves honesty. • It’s ironic that Hamlet in his quest for truth, is trapped in a political world where deception is a necessary part of life. • Deception is necessary for and used by every character in Hamlet, for every purpose ranging from love to parenting to regicide. Family • Dwells on the issue of incest between Gertrude and her brother-in-law • Hamlet's fixation on his mother. • Laertes's obsession with Ophelia's sexuality • Concerned with the way politics impact the dynamics of family relationships – when domestic harmony is sacrificed for political gain. • three revenge plots that all hinge on sons avenging the deaths of their fathers. Michael External Promises revenge on Claudius for the murder of King Hamlet -- "So uncle, there you are. Now to my word. It is 'adieu, adieu, remember me.' I have sworn 't." Arranges for a play to be held in an attempt to provoke a reaction in Claudius -- "I'll have these players play something like the murder of my father before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks; I'll tent him to the quick. If he do blench, I know my course." Goes mad, refuses to see Ophelia -- "Get thee to a nunnery." "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!" (Ophelia) Mistakenly kills Polonius Internal Goes mad Struggles to follow through with avenging his father -- "Yet I, a dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak like John-a-dreams, un pregnant of my cause, and can say nothing" Cannot kill Claudius while he prays -- "And so he goes to heaven, and so am I revenged. That would be scanned: a villain kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do send this same villain to heaven." The army of Fortinbras encourages Hamlet to fulfill his plot of revenge -- "How all occasions do inform against me and spur my dull revenge." External He and Gertrude send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet to discover the source of his madness -- "And I beseech you instantly to visit my too changèd son." (Gertrude) Decides to send Hamlet away to England upon witnessing his insanity -"There's something in his soul o'erthrown which his melancholy sits on brood, and I do doubt the hatch and the disclose will be some danger; for which to prevent, I have in quick determination thus set it down: he shall with speed to England for the demand of our neglected tribute." Tries to send Hamlet to his death -- "Do it, England, for like the hectic in my blood he rages, and thou must cure me." Internal Has difficulty coping with what he has done -- "[The King] is in his retirement marvelous distempered" (Guildenstern) Finds himself unable to pray for retribution -- "My words rise up, my thoughts remain below; words without thoughts never to heaven go." External Possibly too involved with his children's lives sends Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in Paris -- "You shall do marvelous wisely, good Reynaldo, before you visit him, to make inquire of his behavior." "observe his inclination in yourself" Commands Ophelia to reject Hamlet's advances -- "but as you did command I did repel his letters and denied his access to me." (Ophelia) He and Claudius observe the interaction of Hamlet and and Ophelia, and when Claudius decides to send Hamlet to England, Polonius convinces him to delay until after the play. "My lord, do as you please, but, if you hold it fit, after the play let his queenmother all alone entreat him to show his grief." He hides behind a curtain to listen to the conversation between Hamlet and Gertrude. External Very protective of Ophelia, and therefore very wary of Hamlet -- "For Hamlet and the trifling of his favor, hold it a fashion and a toy in blood, a violet in the youth of primy nature, forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, the perfume and suppliance of a minute, no more." "Perhaps he loves you now, and now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch the virtue of his will; but you must fear, his greatness weighed, his will not his own," Vows to avenge Polonius and Ophelia, challenges Hamlet to a duel. External It is his goal to lay siege to Elsinore to win back land that King Hamlet took from his father. Hamlet: Crown Prince of Denmark and protagonist of play Debates with himself about action and inaction, revenge or cowardice (how he views it). King Claudius: Late King Hamlet’s father, Hamlet’s uncle, Gertrude’s second husband, king of Denmark during the duration of the play, and the antagonist Personifies avarice and the power of greed Gertrude: Prince Hamlet’s mother, Queen of Denmark Considered a weak woman who is more interested in attention from others than remaining loyal to her late husband • Polonius: Father of Ophelia and Laertes, the advisor to the king Pompous man overly concerned with image • Horatio: best friend and college peer to Hamlet Signifies loyalty • Ophelia: Hamlet’s love interest, daughter of Polonius Represents innocence • Laertes: son of Polonius, is often in France, but comes back to seek revenge on Hamlet Vengeful, is a parallel character in some ways and a foil in others to Hamlet Fortinbras: Rebel, warrior prince of Norway (his father is killed by the late Hamlet), ends up the ruler of Denmark in the end Foil to Hamlet The Ghost: of Hamlet’s recently killed father, wants Hamlet to take revenge on Claudius Marcellus and Bernardo: guards, first who sight the Ghost Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Hamlet’s college peers who are manipulated by Claudius “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world” “The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape”“Poor Ophelia Divided from herself and her fair judgment, Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts” “Revenge his foul and unnatural murder” “The chariest maid is prodigal enough, if she unmask her beauty to the moon:”-Hamlet “Get thee to a nunnery!”-Hamlet “For Hecuba, What’s Hecuba to him, and he to Hecuba?” Hamlet “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”-Hamlet “To cut his throat I’ the church”-Laertes “Is’t to be damn’d to let this canker of our nature come in further evil?”-Hamlet “Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,”-Gertrude “To be, or not to be,”- Hamlet “’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d”- Hamlet “Makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of”-Hamlet “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;”-Hamlet “to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggars”-Hamlet “A ministering angel shall my sister be, when thou liest howling.”-Laertes “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”- Gertrude “This above all else: to thine ownself be true”-Polonius “Brevity is the soul of wit”-Polonius “So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd, will sate itself in a celestial bed, and prey on garbage”-Hamlet “I am justly killed with mine own treachery”-Laertes Hamlet is characterized by subtle and persistent humor. In some of the most tragic moments of his career he has the sanity to play with his tormentors and with the sad conditions of his life. "In Hamlet, the firmament of tragedy is made blacker by the jewels of humor with which it is bestarred. The first words Hamlet sighs forth are in the nature of a pun: "A little more than kin, and less than kind." The king proceeds: 'How is it that the clouds still hang on you?' 'Not so, my lord; I am too much in the sun,' says Hamlet, toying with grief. Again, after the ghost leaves, Hamlet in a tornado of passionate verbiage, gives way to humor. Then he proceeds to think too precisely on the event. But for his humor Hamlet would have killed the king in the first act." In most of his references to the state of affairs in Denmark Hamlet uses satire: Hamlet. But what is your affair in Elsinore? ... Horatio. My lord, I came to see your father's funeral. Hamlet. I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student; I think it was to see my mother's wedding. Horatio. Indeed, my lord, it follow'd hard upon. Hamlet. Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked-meats Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables. When Polonius comes to summon him to the queen's presence, Hamlet pokes fun at the old fellow, making him say that "yonder cloud," first, is "like a camel," then, "like a weasel," and, finally, "like a whale." "He has given Hamlet nearly all varieties of humor, from the playful to the sardonic. Speaking of the king, Hamlet's humor is caustic and satirical. To Polonius and the other spies he is playful and contemptuous. In the graveyard over the skulls he is sardonic and pathetic, and over Yorick's he is melancholy. In all alike he is sane and thoughtful. This unfailing humor that toys with life's comedies and tragedies alike does not come from madness, but from sanity and selfpossession. This should make certain the real soundness as well as the great fertility of Hamlet's mind. Humor and madness do not travel the same road." Motif (n.) Recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes Poison – The use of poison as a murder weapon is common in Hamlet, as well as the idea of a “poisoned” mind" “Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole/ With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial/ And in the porches of my ears did pour” “Oh, this is the poison of deep grief. It springs/ All from her father’s death, and now behold” “I’ll have prepared him/ A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,/ If he by chance escape your venemoned struck” “O my dear Hamlet! /The drink, the drink! I am poisoned” Ears/Hearing – Shakespeare uses this motif to show that some truths cannot be derived from simply observing- that you must hear in order to understand. "And you’ll be obliged to take revenge, once you’ve heard it“ "And in the porches of my ears did pour / The leperous distilment“ "The ears are senseless that should give us hearing" Misogyny – Hamlet’s discontent with his mother’s decision in the beginning spurs a motif of sexism throughout the play: “Frailty, thy name is woman” “Get thee to a nunnery” Yorick’s Skull – This famous symbol is used to physically represent death and its imminence. “Alas, poor Yorick!” “Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth” Disease /Rot– Hamlet uses imagery of disease and rot to describe the state of Denmark and compare political corruption to a disease rotting the state, as well as convey his internal struggle rotting away at his inner self: "There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.“ “It will but skin and film the ulcerous place / Whiles rank corruption, mining all within, infects unseen.” “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew…” Act I, Scene V: In this scene, Hamlet first meets his father’s ghost. He is informed that his suspicions regarding his uncle are correct, that he did indeed kill King Hamlet for his thrown and his wife. The ghost (whether real or not is up for interpretation) makes Hamlet promise to avenge his death, while still abstaining from harming his mother. Act III, Scene II: This scene consists of the play Hamlet has concocted to try and guilt a confession out of Claudius. He has a group of traveling players act out the exact murder of King Hamlet and seduction of Queen Gertrude that Claudius is guilty of. Before the play has finished, Claudius stands up, exclaims for light, and leaves the theater, creating chaos in the audience. Hamlet is incredibly pleased with this telling reaction. Act III, Scene III: In this scene, Claudius sits at confessional and spills his guilt over the murder of his brother, spurred by the play Hamlet arranged. Nearby, Hamlet, in his own world, tries to work up the courage to take this perfect opportunity to avenge his father’s death. He talks himself out of it, however, by stating that if he killed Claudius now, while in confession, his soul would go to Heaven. It is debated whether this was a true concern of Hamlet’s, or if he was merely trying to delay the act. Act III, Scene IV: Hamlet confronts his mother, Queen Gertrude, in her bed chamber during this scene. Midway through lecturing her about her hasty marriage to her first husband’s brother, a scene that many directors play out in a fairly aggressive manner, Hamlet sees the ghost of his father, warning him against harming his mother (this will later turn out to be his downfall, as Gertrude deems him insane and allows Claudius to ship him off to England). Hamlet gets unusually in-depth with his mother’s sexual life during this argument, in a way that many literary scholars believe to have an Oedipal root.