Hamlet Scholarly Essays

Hamlet Resources

Please see the main Hamlet page for the complete play with explanatory notes and study questions for each scene.

 Introduction to Hamlet
 Hamlet: Problem Play and Revenge Tragedy
 The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot
 The Norway Subplot in Hamlet
 Introduction to the Characters in Hamlet

 Hamlet Plot Summary
 The Purpose of The Murder of Gonzago
 The Dumb-Show: Why Hamlet Reveals his Knowledge to Claudius
 The Elder Hamlet: The Kingship of Hamlet's Father
 Hamlet's Relationship with the Ghost

 Philological Examination Questions on Hamlet
 Quotations from Hamlet (with commentary)
 Hamlet Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
 Analysis of I am sick at heart (1.1)
 Hamlet: Q & A

 Soliloquy Analysis: O this too too... (1.2)
 Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!... (2.2)
 Soliloquy Analysis: To be, or not to be... (3.1)
 Soliloquy Analysis: Tis now the very witching time of night... (3.2)
 Soliloquy Analysis: Now might I do it pat... (3.3)
 Soliloquy Analysis: How all occasions do inform against me... (4.4)

 Ophelia's Burial and Christian Rituals
 The Baker's Daughter: Ophelia's Nursery Rhymes
 Hamlet as National Hero
 Claudius and the Condition of Denmark

 In Secret Conference: The Meeting Between Claudius and Laertes
 O Jephthah - Toying with Polonius
 The Death of Polonius and its Impact on Hamlet's Character
 Blank Verse and Diction in Shakespeare's Hamlet

 Hamlet Essay Topics
 Hamlet's Silence
 An Excuse for Doing Nothing: Hamlet's Delay
 Foul Deeds Will Rise: Hamlet and Divine Justice
 Defending Claudius - The Charges Against the King
 Shakespeare's Fools: The Grave-Diggers in Hamlet

 Hamlet's Humor: The Wit of Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark
 All About Yorick
 Hamlet's Melancholy: The Transformation of the Prince
 Hamlet's Antic Disposition: Is Hamlet's Madness Real?

 The Significance of the Ghost in Armor
 The Significance of Ophelia's Flowers
 Ophelia and Laertes
 Mistrusted Love: Ophelia and Polonius

 Divine Providence in Hamlet
 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Shakespeare's Sources for Hamlet

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers

In the Spotlight


Quote in Context

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
For Hecuba!
                                                           Hamlet (2.2), Hamlet

In addition to revealing Hamlet's plot to catch the king in his guilt, Hamlet's second soliloquy uncovers the very essence of Hamlet's true conflict. For he is undeniably committed to seeking revenge for his father, yet he cannot act on behalf of his father due to his revulsion toward extracting that cold and calculating revenge. Read on...

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Hamlet History

King Claudius. Our son shall win.
Queen Gertrude. He's fat, and scant of breath.
                                                     Hamlet (5.2)

Gertrude's startling description of her son is not quite what we modern readers have in mind when envisioning the brooding young Prince Hamlet. But how can we explain the Queen's frank words? There is evidence to believe that Shakespeare had to work around the rotund stature of his good friend Richard Burbage, the first actor to play Hamlet. "As he was a portly man of large physique, it was natural that the strenuous exertion bring out the fact that he was fat or out of training, as well as scant of breath....He was the first and the last fat Hamlet" (Blackmore, Riddles of Hamlet). An elegy written upon Burbage's death in 1619 convincingly ties "King Dick", as he was affectionately called by his fellow actors, to the line in question:
No more young Hamlet, though but scant of breath, Shall cry Revenge! for his dear father's death.
                                            (A Funeral Elegy)
It is natural to wonder why the death of Burbage was a national tragedy, while the passing of Shakespeare himself just three years earlier received such little attention. There seems, however, to be a simple answer. Read on...
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Online Literary Criticism Collection

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Sites about Hamlet

by William Shakespeare

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, needs to avenge his father's murder; this is complicated by the fact that the murderer is his own uncle, who has married Hamlet's mother (Gertrude). Hamlet eventually gets his revenge, but not before just about everyone dies.

Characters: Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude, Polonius, ghost of Hamlet's father
Keywords: Denmark, play within a play, Oedipus complex

Critical sites about Hamlet

Certain Speculations on Hamlet, the Calendar, and Martin Luther
http://extra.shu.ac.uk/emls/02-1/sohmshak.html
"This essay takes the view that Shakespeare linked the principal events in Hamletto particular holy days, and that the play's first audiences could identify these holy days from cues in the text." Special attention is paid to the possible relationship between Hamlet and the life and theology of Martin Luther.
Contains: Content Analysis, Historical Context, Character Analysis
Author: Steve Sohmer
From:Early Modern Literary Studies 2.1 (1996): 5.1-51
Keywords:
 
Hamlet and His Problems
http://www.bartleby.com/200/sw9.html
"T.S. Eliot�s essay on Shakespeare�s greatest tragic character in which he coined the famous doctrine of the 'objective correlative.'"
Contains: Character Analysis
Author: T.S. Eliot
From:The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism 1922
Keywords:
 
Hamlet Haven
http://www.hamlethaven.com/
An online, annotated bibliography, featuring character studies and different interperative approaches.
Contains: Plot Summary, Character Analysis, Historical Context, Content Analysis, Bibliography,
Author: Harmonie Blankenship
Keywords:
Access Restrictions:
 
Hamlet's Thoughts and Antics
http://eserver.org/emc/1-2/degrazia.html
Essay draft which includes a response by Juliet Fleming.
Author: Margreta de Grazia
From:Early Modern Culture. Issue 2 (2001)
Keywords:
 
Leading the Gaze: From Showing to Telling in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V and Hamlet
http://chass.utoronto.ca/emls/06-1/hatchbra.htm
"Film studies have reached the conclusion that cinema merges the acts of showing and telling. This essay applies these theories to two of Kenneth Branagh's screen adaptations Henry V (1989) and Hamlet (1996). Cinematic editing can shape space at will, create different levels of realities, and reorganize the succession of events in time. The moves and effects of the camera, by progressively revealing the people, the set or the action, add a time dimension to space. Cinematic narration defines an itinerary of the gaze, imposing a trajectory inside Shakespeare's plays, until the plots seem to prevail over discourse."
Contains: Content Analysis,
Author: Sarah Hatchuel
From:Early Modern Literary Studies 6.1 (May, 2000): 3.1-22
Keywords:
 
Making Mother Matter: Repression, Revision, and the Stakes of 'Reading Psychoanalysis Into' Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet
http://chass.utoronto.ca/emls/06-1/lehmhaml.htm
"Hamlet's peculiar bond with his mother has been the focus of numerous productions of Shakespeare's play on stage and screen. Influenced by psychoanalysis, filmed versions of Hamlet in particular have emphasized the desire between sons and mothers and, in so doing, have uncannily reproduced the play's own Oedipalized attachment to the maternal. Following Franco Zeffirelli's mother-centered film (1990), Kenneth Branagh attempts to break with this tradition in his self-proclaimed 'non-Oedipal' Hamlet (1996). Actively positioned against psychoanalysis, Branagh's Hamlet avoids any representations of non-normative sexual desire, repressing the sexualized maternal body with a vengeance and displacing Hamlet's desire onto his surrogate father, who offers 'metal more attractive' for this Hamlet and, as we shall see, for Branagh himself. In so doing, Branagh's adaptation actually becomes the most 'symptomatic' Hamlet film ever made, for it uses this performance as a screen both for projecting -- and for curing--what's the matter with Branagh, namely, his Irish motherland, and his compromised Shakespearean credentials as a postcolonial subject."
Author: Lehmann, Courtney, and Lisa S. Starks.
From:Early Modern Literary Studies 6.1 (May, 2000): 2.1-24
Keywords:
 
Multiplicity of Meaning in the Last Moments of Hamlet
http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/uni/nec/BROWN21.HTM
An analysis of Shakespeare's handling of the final moments of Hamlet's life. Also provided are links to responses to this paper that were written by other Shakespeare scholars, and published in later issues of Connotations.
Author: John Russell Brown
From:Connotations: A Journal for Critical Debate 2.1 (1992): 16-33
Keywords:
 
'Too Much in the (Black) Sun': Hamlet's First Soliloquy, A Kristevan View
http://www.hull.ac.uk/renforum/v2no2/crunelle.htm
"It may appear to be sheer provocation to attempt a psychoanalytic reading of Shakespeare, be it Kristevan or other, in a decade placed under the rule of the New Historicism."
Contains: Content Analysis
Author: Anny Crunelle-Vanrigh
From:Renaissance Forum: An Electronic Journal of Early-Modern Literary and Historical Studies Autumn 1997; vol. 2 no. 2
Keywords: psychoanalysis
 

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Last Updated Mar 25, 2014
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