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Introduction

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by


William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601. The play,
set in Denmark, reo!nts how prine "amlet plans to revenge his #ather, the king o#
Denmark, m!rdered by his !nle, $la!di!s, who has taken the throne and married
"amlet%s mother, &!een 'ertr!de. The play vividly harts the o!rse o# real and #eigned
madness ( #rom overwhelming grie# to seething rage ( and e)plores the themes o#
treahery, revenge, m!rder and moral orr!ption.
Despite m!h literary detetive work, the e)at year o# writing remains in
disp!te. Three di##erent versions o# the play have s!rvived* these are known as the First
Quarto, the Second Quarto, and the First Folio. +ah has lines and even senes that are
missing #rom the others. Shakespeare probably based "amlet on the legend o# Amleth,
preserved by the 1,
th
-ent!ry hroniler Sa)o 'rammati!s and s!bse.!ently retold by
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th
-ent!ry sholar /ran0ois 1elle#orest, and a s!pposedly +li2abethan play known as
the Ur-Hamlet.
Hamlet is Shakespeare%s longest play and among the most power#!l and
in#l!ential tragedies in the +nglish lang!age. 3t provides a storyline apable o#
4seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others5. D!ring Shakespeare%s li#etime,
the play was one o# his most pop!lar works, and still ranks high among his most-
per#ormed, topping the 6oyal Shakespeare $ompany%s list sine 1789. 3t has inspired
writers #rom 'oethe and Dikens to 9oye and :!rdoh and has been desribed as the
4the world%s5 most #ilmed story a#ter $inderella.
The opening o# the play has a sinister atmosphere reated by the s!pernat!ral
appearane o# the ;ing "amlet%s ghost, who had ome to seek #or revenge #rom his son
behal#. +ven #rom the beginning, the readers are #amiliari2ed with #eelings s!h as
disg!st, !nertainty and danger that an be traed down thro!gho!t the whole play. There
is not even a sign to predit that the things will get better, and there#ore the reader is
#ored to aept the negative emotions that the !n#ort!nate events transmit.
3n addition to all the bad signs, one o# the liegemen%s pres!mption that*
something is rotten in the state of Denmark! s!ggests pessimism and hopelessness
bea!se it is lear that a series o# sad events will take plae in this 4rotten5 state. /irst,
"amlet%s deision to #ollow a ghost, whih he himsel# doesn%t know i# it is real, and
whih told him that he m!st revenge his #ather%s death, then his determination to #!l#ill
this mission will lead to disastro!s deaths in the $astle o# +lsinore* the death o# <phelia,
his lover, o# =oloni!s, <phelia%s #ather and in the end o# all the ma>or haraters,
inl!ding the main target ( $la!di!s. "amlet%s revenge, regarded as a private one, t!rns
o!t to be sol!tion #or the Danish kingdom, meaning p!bli >!stie and the removal o#
everything that was 4rotten5.
Shakespeare b!ilt his masterpiee !pon irony, satyr, a small amo!nt o# blak
h!mor and allegory, all overed in p!re tragedy. Hamlet an be onsidered a lassial
revenge-tragedy, with #ew e)eptions* instead o# prod!ing pity and #ear, the two
emotions ?ristotle assigned to a revenge tragedy, Hamlet p!rges disgust for life in
general.
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Denmark kingdom of death
Death is a #re.!ent topi in Hamlet. 3n #at, death is the very reason that all the
ations in the play happen. /or e)ample, $la!di!s% m!rder o# his brother determines the
ation o# the play. The simple #at o# his #ather% death, witho!t knowing that it was a
m!rder, grieves "amlet. "is mo!rn#!l attit!de made his mother reply* All that lives
must die!, a statement whih proves to be the only tr!th thro!gho!t the play. &!een
'ertr!de re#erred to it as a nat!ral o!rse o# li#e b!t, at a deeper level, the verb to live
stands #or the verb to suffer or to revenge. ?ll those with s!h a stat!s m!st, indeed, die.
Thro!gho!t the play, death has been presented as a mystery ( an @!ndisovered
o!ntry% ( not as a gateway to bliss. "eaven is re#erred to onstantly, b!t only as the seat
o# 9!stie ( the >!stie that demands "amlet%s death. "amlet knows his #ate #rom the
beginning when he is hosen as the onventional avenger* Prompted to my revenge y
heaven and hell, whih implies a ertain on#!sion o# whose ommission is that.
"eaven demanded the death o# the m!rderer, $la!di!s, b!t not by man%s will and ation,
while hell p!shed "amlet towards the #!l#illment o# the revenge, making himsel# g!ilty
o# attempting to !s!rp the divine prerogative.
The theme o# death in Hamlet is emphasi2ed by the fatal delay. 3n playing the
malontent rather than the avenger, "amlet #ailed to kill $la!di!s when he #inds him
!ng!arded and at prayer. "owever, he tells !s why he postpones the killing, and the
reason he gives does not pertain to a morbid inativity or sensitivity. "e delays the killing
in order to e)e!te a more per#et revenge, in a manner whih wo!ld be taken #or granted
at that time. 3n the ne)t sene, when he stabs =oloni!s behind the arras in mistake #or
$la!di!s, the delay t!rned to be a #atal one. 3# "amlet had killed $la!di!s earlier,
=oloni!s% li#e wo!ld have been spared. "amlet wo!ld have to pay #or this !nintentional
m!rder, bea!se he #ailed to ommit himsel# to the at o# revenge.
3n all the play there is one mysterio!s death* !phelia"s death. The mystery lays
both in the #at that we annot know whether it was an aident or a s!iide and in terms
o# whih was the a!se o# s!h a deed. <phelia, the only innoent vitim o# the play,
doesn%t #it in this revenge plot. She is ino##ensive and obedient, she doesn%t h!rt anyone
b!t she is h!rt by everyone aro!nd her. There#ore, her death is the most tragi o# all the
deaths in the play.
3n Hamlet, death is prod!ed by two ategories o# persons* murderers and
avengers. There is a small di##erene between them, b!t they are in lose onnetion one
with another* a m!rder needs revenge and a m!rderer needs to be p!nished by an
avenger. $la!di!s, the only m!rderer to be blamed in this play, is very pro#o!nd and
meditative and even attempts penitene. 1!t his prayer, ompared to $ain%s o##ering to
'od, annot and will not be aepted bea!se he has ommitted not only a simple m!rder
b!t a #ratriide. 3n some senes when he is alone, we an witness his inner str!ggle whih
torments his so!l* 4:y so!l is #!ll o# disord and dismay5. ?s it wo!ldn%t have been
eno!gh, instead o# admitting his maliio!s #a!lt, he planned to sent "amlet to +ngland
and there have him killed. /ort!nately, "amlet #o!nd o!t and hanged the o!rse o# the
events ondemning the two aomplies, "amlet%s so-alled #riends, 6osenrant2 and
'!ildenstern, to death in his plae.
4Death is waiting #or everybody on the stage. /earing it is as pointless as wishing
#or it.5
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3n Hamlet, death is tragic, killing, aording to the play%s onte)t, everyone who
lives.
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#ye for an eye$ tooth for a tooth
%evenge in "amlet resembles is some aspets the anient law o# the >!ngle* @eye
#or an eye and tooth #or a tooth%, bea!se the revenger is not looking #or &ustice, whih is
an impersonal motive. "e seeks a personal satisfaction, based on passion. /or e)ample,
$la!di!s does not enlist the help to Baertes by telling him that >!stie, the general wel#are
or the will o# heaven, re.!ires "amlet%s death. "e reminds him o# his love #or his #ather
and appla!ds the riminal !nsr!p!lo!sness whih, in his passion, Baertes boasts o#. The
revenger beomes a monomaniac, dares damnation, and sinks to the moral level o# his
intended vitim. ?t the time when he m!rdered =oloni!s, "amlet had worked himsel#
into >!st s!h a #ranti state, in p!rs!it o# his revenge !pon $la!di!s.
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The tragedy has as a main plot "amlet%s revenge and the Baertes and /ortinbras
su-plots. These three yo!ng men have in ommon the death o# a #ather, b!t eah hose a
di##erent way to solve their problem. /ortinbras, the prine o# Corway, tri!mphs by being
obedient to the law. "e listened to the advie o# his !nle and waited #or the proper
moment, when he o!ld at and still be sheltered by the law. The #at that this does not
make him the hero o# the play is the prie he has to pay #or appearing in a tragedy.
3n the onventional revenge plot the starting point is a rime whih has esaped
p!nishment bea!se it is seret and also bea!se the wrongdoer is eyond the reach of
the la'. 3n the ase o# the Baertes s!b-plot "amlet has m!rdered the revenger%s #ather,
b!t is beyond the reah o# the law, in the same way $la!di!s is in relation with "amlet.
"amlet and Baertes hose to take the law into their own hands and were
themselves killed in the res!lting ation. Baertes, blinded by hatred, resorts to treahery*
he wo!ld invite "amlet to a #ight in whih he o!ld easily kill him with his poisoned
rapier%s end. "amlet is indeed wo!nded with the poisoned rapier, b!t so is Baertes, and
!n#ort!nately #or him with the same rapier and he dies, killed by his own weapon, as
>!stie re.!ires.
The ase o# "amlet is more ompliated bea!se he #ights to beome a revenger
b!t, inidentally beomes a murderer by killing =oloni!s. 1!t the most interesting is
"amlet in the role o# a revenger. The development o# his revenge is governed not by
#ators whih are already present in the initial sit!ation b!t by e)traneo!s ir!mstanes*
the arrival o# the players, the voyage and the pirates who somehow res!ed him #rom the
death his !nle arranged #or him in +ngland. The idea that the arrival o# the players gave
to "amlet was to present a play, the #amo!s (play 'ithin the play" sene, in whih the
ators an interpret a similar sit!ation to the one o# his own #ather%s death, aording to
what the ghost had told him. "amlet%s aim was to #ollow his !nle%s reation to the play
and then draw the onl!sion* was he or was he not the assassin. "is #ather%s ghost%s
words t!rned o!t to be tr!e and "amlet began to plan his revenge. 3n the end, he kills
$la!di!s b!t his at is rather ambig!o!s* we annot know #or s!re i# he killed him #or the
previo!s reason or bea!se he sees his mother dying, a##eted by the poison $la!di!s
po!red in the wine he had seretly prepared #or "amlet. The main thing is that he
ompleted his mission and sealed it with his li#e. The #at that he ignores the premonition
and aepts his doom witho!t #linhing makes him a tragic hero.
3n onl!sion the revenger s!eeds. "e kills his vitim b!t his s!ess is not his
to en>oy. 3t has only been permitted bea!se it serves the ends o# divine >!stie. The same
>!stie re.!ires the revenger%s own death too, bea!se the he has !s!rped the right to
ondemn to death, whih heaven dep!tes only to its earthly representatives, namely the
governments. The irony whih remains hidden in the revenge tragedy is that when the
government itsel# is riminal, divine >!stie employs the riminal as its instrument.
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)adness the mask o# revenge

?mong the ma>or themes o# the play, madness is a very representative one. 3n
Hamlet there are two #orms o# madness* real and feigned.
6eal madness an be #o!nd in the ase o# <phelia. ?ording to #eminist ritis,
<phelia%s li#e deisions were taken by three power#!l men* her #ather ( =oloni!s, Baertes
( her brother and "amlet - her lover. Baertes leaves to /rane, =oloni!s is killed and
"amlet beomes so introvert that she annot 4penetrate his armo!r o# deep tho!ghts5
,
.
When she #inds hersel# alone, with all three men #ar away #rom her, <phelia goes mad
and event!ally dies.
/eigned madness is representative #or "amlet and is absol!tely neessary #or him
to s!eed in his plan to kill $la!di!s. "amlet pretends to be mad only to hide his real
intentions. The #eigning o# madness to esape s!spiion is a conventional tactic o# the
revenger, b!t in the ase o# "amlet it takes an !n!s!al #orm. "amlet does not play the
madmanD he plays the #ool, !sing his #olly to e)pose the tr!th bea!se nobody takes the
tr!th serio!sly when a #ool speaks it
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. The tr!th-telling #ool is one o# Shakespeare%s
#avo!rite theatrial #ig!res. Fnder the mask o# #eigned madness Shakespeare e)poses
irony and satyr. This way "amlet dares to a!se 6osenrant2 diretly that he is b!t a
4sponge5 in the king%s hand* a sponge 4that soaks !p the king%s o!ntenane, his rewards,
his a!thorities5 and to tell him that the king an easily dispose o# him* 4when he needs
what yo! have gleaned, it is b!t s.!ee2ing yo!, and, sponge, yo! shall be dry again.5
?#ter he kills =oloni!s, "amlet !ses madness in order to make #!n o# the entire
o!rt%s desperation. +verybody was asking him where =oloni!s is, and he simply replied
that he is 4at s!pper5. Co one took his words #or serio!s b!t he proved to be telling the
tr!th, only ironial* 4Cot where he eats, b!t where he is eaten5. =oloni!s was indeed dead
and the worms were having him #or 4s!pper5, b!t this real meaning o# "amlet%s words
was taken as madness.
The tr!th abo!t "amlet%s real nat!re is that he was a philosopher, the prod!t o#
the Fniversity o# Wittenberg. "is personality was rather holeri than melanholi. The
holeri man is also soiable, and a #aith#!l #riend. So was "amlet be#ore his noble mind,
as <phelia laments, was @o%erthrown%. What overthrew it was the passion o# grie#. Sir
Thomas :ore divided those who s!##er grie# into two ategories* those willing to aept
om#ort and those who re#!se it. <# the last there are two kinds, one o# whih beomes
wildly ative while the other beomes lethargi. This latter kind is that to whih "amlet
belongs*
4Gso drowned in sorrow that they #all into a areless deaddelye d!lnesse, regarding
nothing, thinking almost o# nothing, no more than i# they lay in a letarge, with whihe it may so
#alle, that wit and remembrane will weare awaye, and #alle even #ayre #rom them. ?nd this
om#ortless kind o# heavinesse in trib!laion, is the highest kind o# the deadly sinne o# slo!th.5
HSir Thomas :ore, Dyalogue of Comforte Against Tribulacyon.I
The philosophy in whih "amlet sometimes sinks in his solilo.!ies is mainly
based on e)istential .!estions, many o# them having no answer* the e)istene o# a god,
(to e or not to e".
<ne o# the e)istential problems in Hamlet is action and inactionD there is a
permanent indeision whether to at or not. "amlet is in ontin!o!s ation, tho!gh. "e
does not merely solilo.!i2e, nor is his s!##ering merely general. What he generali2es is
the ang!ish o# his parti!lar sit!ation. When he ats, it is not "amlet%s imp!lse to start his
revengeD he is #ored to do it. This leads to the tragi end o# most o# the haraters.
,
&!ik ?pproah to Shakespeare%s =lays, :ihai $oJovean!
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*oratio"s report of the play
"oratio, a harater that seems to have nothing to do with the ation o# the play is
the per#et on#idant, the one who tr!ly ares abo!t "amlet, b!t he has not the makings
o# a tragi hero. "e is not noble, he is @good%.
1eing among the #ort!nate haraters that remain alive, he is able to give a
s!mmary o# events to /ortinbras at the end o# the play*
4So shall you hear
f carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,
f accidental !udgements, casual slaughters,
f deaths "ut on by cunning and forced cause,
And, in this u"shot, "ur"oses mistook
Fallen on th#inventors# heads$%
The original rime o# $la!di!s was arnal in its ad!ltery, bloody in its violene,
and !nnat!ral on the three o!nts* regiide, #ratriide and inest. 3t there#ore preipitated
a revolt in Cat!re whih the villain o!ld not ontrol. What appeared to be random events
were in #at p!nishments ( &accidental !udgements#. Death was meted o!t
!nintentionatelly ( &casual slaughters#. &Cunning and forced cause# insist that Cat!re
annot, in the long r!n, be manip!lated to break her own laws. 3n the end the wrongdoers
are a!ght in their own trap* @G"ur"oses mistook, K Fallen on th#inventors# heads#$
"is report seems to remind !s that (all the 'orld"s a stage", a statement that was
an +li2abethan ommonplae, and that we are all alled !pon a part o# li#e, and so we are
all ators in o!r own way. The part is something that has to be arried, and i# we #ail,
Cat!re annot #orgive !s.


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+onclusions
Hamlet is a typical ,hakespearean tragedy* a remote setting, several main
haraters die, the protagonist m!st be o# a high rank and birth, there are some
s!pernat!ral elements, and there is a lose onnetion to history.
? general onl!sion o# the play wo!ld be that nobody is who they seem to be,
and uncertainty might be the key 'ord.
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