The History About Shakespeare Hamlet English Literature Essay

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Hamlet, perhaps Shakespeare's most well know play, which is responsible for several immortalized lines that will forever be engrained in the mind of every English student, begins in Denmark during a time of high alert due to news about the death of King Hamlet. They must begin preparing for a possible war with young Fortinbras of Norway. The new King Claudius, now in charge of all Denmark, has taken Queen Gertrude, King Hamlet's wife, as his new queen. Claudius fears Young Fortinbras may invade and sends ambassadors towards Norway to attempt to persuade the king to cease Fortinbras' offensive., Hamlet distrusts King Claudius and mourns the death of his father from over two months before. Hamlet expresses his dislike with his mother marrying King Claudius within a month of his father's death. Soon after, Laertes, warns his sister Ophelia against falling for Hamlet, for fear of her being hurt. Polonius fears Hamlet's affections and thinks he's only using his daughter. Hamlet meets his father's ghost and is told how the death of the King truly came about. The ghost wants vengeance for his death but not for Gertrude to be hurt in the process.

Polonius instructs Reynaldo to observe Laertes in Paris. Polonius, who tells Claudius, finds out that a horribly dressed Hamlet has met Ophelia and believes his odd behavior is due to his rejection. Claudius tells his spies to figure out exactly where the cause of Hamlet's melancholy is stemming from; the most basic explanation is that it is due to his father's death and the lack of love given back to him from Ophelia. Hamlet orchestrates a play in which he believes the truth about whether or not Claudius murdered his father is fact. Hamlet eagerly awaits as Claudius and his mother to watch the play which Hamlet has added his own lines to. The play entitled "The Murder of Gonzago" is performed and the actions of Claudius serve to betray him as the murderer of King Hamlet just as the Ghost had told him. King Claudius admits fear of Hamlet and sends him to England, having Guildenstern and Rosencrantz tag along to sooth his conscience. Queen Gertrude tries to scold Hamlet but in turn he scolds her for her "incest." Polonius echoes Gertrude's cries and is sliced open through the curtains behind which he was listening. The Ghost reappears reminding Hamlet to not harm the queen during the extraction of his revenge.

King Claudius learns from Queen Gertrude about Polonius' murder, now scared of Hamlet, Claudius makes the decision to send Hamlet away straightaway. Along with sending Hamlet away from his kingdom, Claudius decides it is in his best interest to hire spies to trail Hamlet in order to uncover the location of Polonius's body. Hamlet denies the requests of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as to the location of the body and is taken before the King. The King ominously tells Hamlet for his own safety to leave for England, freeing King Claudius of further worry. Ophelia soon becomes unstable following her father's death. Hamlet arrives in Denmark just as Ophelia is being buried which prompts him to contemplate his own life. The friar reveals his belief that she committed suicide further angering Laertes. Meanwhile, Fortinbras is marching his armies towards the Polish, which will lead the people into pointless fighting. Laertes wants justice from King Claudius for his father's death and for Ophelia. Claudius plots with Laertes to make Hamlet's death appear accidental and encourages him to anoint his sword with poison, setting aside a cup of poison in case the sword is unsuccessful.

Hamlet explains how he managed to escape his own death and instead having Guildenstern and Rosencrantz put to death. Unfortunately, the queen drinks a poisoned drink that was supposed to be for Hamlet. As she is dying, she informs everyone of the poison in the drink. Summoned by Osric, Hamlet arrives to fight, but after winning the first rounds, Hamlet is poisoned during the third. Near death, Hamlet fulfills his quest for revenge by stabbing Claudius with the same poisoned sword. As Hamlet dies, he tells Horatio the story and pleads with him to not commit suicide as well. Hamlet recommends Fortinbras to be the King of Denmark. Fortinbras arrives cleaning up this massacre. Horatio lives on, forever telling the story of Hamlet and the horrible King Claudius.

Hamlet Quotations:

Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,

Or that the Everlasting had not fixed

His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God, God!

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

--Hamlet(1.2.129-134)- As this play starts Hamlet is afflicted. Hamlet desires for his flesh to "thaw" or "melt" into "dew" is example of the anguish over his mother's remarriage to his uncle and father's death. When Hamlet says "His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God, God" his thought are suicidal and show mental and emotional instability. After earlier convening with Gertrude and Claudius making his mood all the more melancholy. (Ryan Gash)

Oh, horrible, oh, horrible, most horrible!

If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not.

Let not the royal bed of Denmark be

A couch for luxury and damned incest.

But howsoever thou pursuest this act,

Taint not thy mind, not let thy soul contrive

Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven

And those thorns that in her bosom lodge

To prick and sting her. Fare the well at once.

-Ghost(1.4.80-88) Though the Ghost is concerned with Gertrude's "damned incest" he reminds Hamlet to remove Gertrude from the revenge plot and "leave her to heaven." Even though Hamlet agrees to keep his word to the Ghost, he is uncapable. Throughout the entire play he obsesses over his mother's "incestual" sexual relationship with Claudius, when he should be taking action against Claudius. The Ghost returns in Act 3,Scene 4,Verse 111 simply to remind him of this "Do not forget. / This visitation / Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose."

Hamlet Connections:

Hamlet Terms:


 When a word that is less offensive takes the place of another inappropriate term

 Example: When Hamlet is speaking to Ophelia after his "To be or not to be speech," he tells Ophelia to go to a "nunnery." This is an euphemism for "brothel" or "whorehouse." This can be seen in Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1: "Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of / sinners?"

Iambic Pentameter

 A style of rhyming in which there are 10 syllables per line. Generally, higher class characters, such as Hamlet, spoke in this rhyming scheme, as opposed to regular "prose."

 Example: Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew, / Or that the Everlasting had not fixed / His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God, God! -Hamlet (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2)


 An omission of one or more words, which are assumed by the listener or reader.

 Example: "And he to England shall along with you."- Claudius (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 3)


  A figure of speech that makes a reference to, or representation of, people, places, events, literary work, myths, or works of art, either directly or by implication.

Example: "So excellent a king, that was to this / Hyperion to a satyr. So loving to my mother " Hamlet (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2)