Hamlet
The Prince of Denmark
Pre-reading guide
Things to remember:
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Published in 1603 at the
close of Queen Elizabeth’s
reign
Most famous play ever
written in English Language
Hamlet is loosely based off
of Shakespeare’s young
son, Hamnet, who died
when he was a boy.
Praised for its aesthetic,
moral, political,
psychological, historical,
allegorical, religious, logical
and philosophical aspects.
Plot overview…(in a nutshell)
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Hamlet is depressed:
father died, mother
remarried her
brother-in-law, and
Norway is “up in
Denmark’s grill”.
Sees a ghost of his
dead father and
thinks himself crazy
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Ghost wants Hamlet to
avenge his death.
Hamlet begins acting
like a crazy person.
Why is Hamlet so appealing?
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He is concerned with
the profound truths
of human nature
Revenge and the
struggle between
thought and action
Active vs. passive
nature is his tragic
flaw.
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The fine line
between sanity and
madness
Nature of political
power
Well-being of state
vs. moral condition of
leaders.
Why does Hamlet want to
commit Suicide?
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Hamlet’s ghostly
father is in agony in
Purgatory having
died with sins on his
shoulders
Hamlet wants to die,
but fears wrath in the
afterlife.
Ophelia, his love, is
confused and wants
to die herself.
Themes:
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The impossibility of certainty: the audience
anticipates what Hamlet will do to his uncle,
but he can’t make up his mind.
The complexity of action: how possible is it to
take Purposeful action
The Mystery of Death: physical, spiritual and
psychological
The nation as a diseased body: The transfer of
power
Motifs…
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Incest and
incestuous desire
Misogyny
Ears and Hearing
(used for
communication, but
can distort truth)
Symbols:
Yorick’s skull: serves
as one of the only
objects that
symbolizes the
constant fascination
Hamlet has on
death. Hamlet
believes everyone
will be food for the
worms.
Rhetorical Devices:
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This is a morality play (in a way)
Ethos and Pathos are heavily used to
examine the human psyche
Shakespeare’s use of tone and allusion
also help reinforce these elements
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Hamlet The Prince of Denmark - Murrieta Valley Unified