WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE - The works - Hamlet

(Born April 23, 1564. Died in 1616.) He is the English poet and playwright, one of the most important figures in the literature of every age and every country. It lacks a comprehensive and authoritative biography of Shakespeare; few facts correspond to many conjectures. He is one of the leading exponents of the English Renaissance and one of the greatest writers in the history of Western theatre. Born in Stratford-on-Avon, on April the 23, 1592. He moved to London where he worked as a writer and, marginally, as an actor with the company “Chamberlain's Men” (which later became the “King's Men” because of the ascent to the throne of James I) . From this moment on, his career was meteoric and caused him considerable gains that allowed him to be a co-owner of the two most important theatres of London: the “Globe Theatre” and the “Blackfriars”. Difficult to frame his remarkable artistic production, which includes dramas, comedies and tragedies, also because of the subsequent re-reading of his works by the Romantic writers who saw their profound similarities between the aesthetic and the works of Shakespeare. For a long time, in fact, this reading has influenced both the criticism that the preparations of his works, exacerbating the poetic affinities with romance. Undoubtedly there are, especially in big tragedies, themes and characters that precede romantic experience, but the originality of the great English artist to be found in most large capacity for synthesis of the different forms of theatre of his time in works of great breadth and balance where the tragic, the comic, the bitter, the taste for intense dialogue and wit, are often present in a unique blend of highly effective. Being able to select some jobs more important than others, I'll just mention a few in no particular order. As for the tragedies the most famous is certainly “Hamlet” (1599-1600), along with “Romeo and Juliet” (1594-95), “Henry IV” (1597-98) and “Macbeth” (1605-06) , for the comedies we mention “The Taming of the Shrew” (1593-94), “Much Ado About Nothing” (1598-99) and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (1600-01). Special mention two works “fantastic” in which dreams and reality mingle in a manner so as to be suggestive of the real founders of the “Fantastic”: it is “A Midsummer Night's Dream” (1595-96) and “The Tempest” (1611-12).


All's Well That Ends Well As You Like It The Comedy of Errors Cymbeline Love's Labours Lost Measure for Measure The Merry Wives of Windsor The Merchant of Venice A Midsummer Night's Dream Much Ado About Nothing Pericles, Prince of Tyre Taming of the Shrew The Tempest Troilus and Cressida Twelfth Night Two Gentlemen of Verona Winter's Tale


Henry IV, part 1 Henry IV, part 2 Henry V Henry VI, part 1 Henry VI, part 2 Henry VI, part 3 Henry VIII King John Richard II Richard III


Antony and Cleopatra Coriolanus Hamlet Julius Caesar King Lear Macbeth Othello Romeo and Juliet Timon of Athens Titus Andronicus​


The Sonnets A Lover's Complaint The Rape of Lucrece Venus and Adonis Funeral Elegy by W.S.

Historical Background

The advent to the throne of Elizabeth in 1558 was not easy. During the brief reign of the half-sister Mary, who had preceded it, there was a bloody attempt at restoration of Catholicism against the Protestant Reformation. Assured the throne, Elizabeth had pursued a foreign policy of commercial and territorial expansion and inside she had aimed for an accelerated economic development. The nation supported her, especially after his fleet was able to destroy the Spanish Armada, making England the major power on the seas. But this extraordinary development implied the profound transformations within the country: the merchant class had the upper hand on the traditional landed aristocracy, the Anglican Church now had to deal not only with Catholics, but with minorities that prevailed in the Calvinist and Puritan middle class too . In addition, the Queen had no heirs and aristocrats came into conflict with each other to ensure privileged positions at the time of succession. A significant example of these manoeuvres was the failed rebellion led by the Earl of Essex in 1601, in which he was also involved in the theatre company Shakespeare (the company of Chamberlain's Men had been invited to represent the day set for the uprising on “Richard II” drama that was thought to incite the minds action).

Hamlet - The plot

The opera is set in feudal Denmark and almost all the scenes take place inside the castle of Elsinore, with the exception of a few scenes set respectively in the space surrounding the castle (act one, scene one and four), in the house Polonius (act one, scene three and act two, scene one), on the plains of Denmark (act four, scene four) and within a cemetery (act five, scene one). The first act begins with two men (Bernard and Francis) guarding the castle, later joined by Horatio and Marcellus. Which looked like a ghost of Hamlet's father appears to men, but, suddenly, and before he could speak, vanishes into thin air. The next night, after being duly warned, the young Hamlet joins the castle guard. Hamlet's father ghost reappears and manages to talk to him, after having followed him, before it disappears again. The ghost will reveal the true events that preceded his death, revealing the murder by his brother Claudius and asking him to avenge him. From now on Hamlet will pretend to be crazy to confuse anyone and so making an easy revenge. After the death of the king, Claudius has married the queen, Gertrude. Both mother Gertrude and his uncle Claudius are concerned about the alleged madness of Hamlet and ask two of his school friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to find the cause of the problem. A company of actors, the “stable company in the city,” was invited to the castle with the intention of reviving the spirit of Hamlet. Hamlet asks the actors to interpret “The Murder of Gonzago” (later called it “The Mousetrap”) by adding some of his lines to the text. The interpretation, reaching the target set by Hamlet, it is the rage of the king, who stops the play. This seems to prove in Hamlet and Horatio's eyes the guilty of Claudius. Hamlet joined his mother in her room to talk to her. While they talk animatedly, they hear Polonius shout from behind the curtains. Hamlet, believing it was the king, kills him. Claudius thinking Hamlet is too dangerous to be let loose in Denmark, decided to transfer him to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who delivered a letter with orders to kill Hamlet as soon as it reached England. On the ship, due to the attack of a pirate ship, Hamlet discovers the letter and replaces it with another one. The new order of killing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to journey completed. Hamlet heads back to England. As soon returned to Denmark, Hamlet discovers that Ophelia went crazy after the death of his father, she was drowned. Seeing Hamlet, Laertes accuses him of the death of Ophelia and Polonius. To put an end to the dispute, the king prepares a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, finding a trick to kill “accidentally” Hamlet. Claudius poisoned wine that will provide to Hamlet at the end of the first meeting, and Laertes poisons in turn the tip of his foil. During the fight Gertrude, who was unaware of the machinations of the king, drinking from the cup to Hamlet reserved. Laertes wounds Hamlet, sentencing him to death, and Hamlet discovering that the foil is whit the tip not covered, attacks Laertes furiously. In the clash that follows the two exchange the foils and Hamlet wounds Laertes. Almost at the same instant, Gertrude falls to the ground, saying that the cup is poisoned. Laertes then confesses that the death of Gertrude is the work of the king, and that the point from which hamlet was wounded is poisoned. Hamlet, crying treason, pierces the king. Before dying Hamlet asks Horatio to make sure that history is not lost, and publicly tell the events of which he was the victim. A few moments later Fortinbras enters with his soldiers in the castle and, unprepared for such a situation of death, claim his rights over Denmark. It is ordered to expose the body of Hamlet on stage, and to announce his death with fanfare.

Hamlet - Analysis

When William Shakespeare completed the first draft of Hamlet (1600) had already been behind many successful years as a screenwriter. He proved his mastery in comedies (As You Like It), works with historical background (Richard II) and tragedies (Julius Caesar) by demonstrating his considerable skills as a poet in his many sonnets. The tragedy of Hamlet, the longest among the works of Shakespeare, is a breakthrough in the development of spiritual and artistic author mainly through the dialogues that reach into the work intensity of meaning hardly repeated in the past. Intensity mainly due to the play of Hamlet's words, always having multiple meanings, making it probably one of the characters that deserve more attention in the theatre scene. The origins of the story are shrouded in the mists of the past. It is assumed that the name of Hamlet, of Danish origin, comes from a text (“Belleforest 'Histoires Tragiques” from “Saxo Grammaticus' Historia Danica”) published in 1582. This thesis is supported by the presence in this text of elements such as incest, fratricide and characters such as Ophelia, Polonius, Horatio, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, without considering also the trip to England. However, the story of the revenge of Hamlet was already known at the court of Queen Elizabeth through an alleged lost work of Thomas Kyd, a tragedy inspired by Seneca in which the realistic elements of the work were combined with contemporary elements of supernatural character, as the appearance of the ghost or the characteristic poisoning where the old King Hamlet is the victim. The historical antecedents and conceptual similarities, however, should not obscure the uniqueness of Shakespeare. First of all it should be noted the conflicting nature of man, perfectly represented in this work. As soon as the performance begins, Hamlet has just completed his studies, he is the son of a great king and his direct descendant to the throne, and everything seems to exalt human nature itself, as evidenced by one of his first monologues, in the presence of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It does not make contradictory representation of the young man ascending to the throne of Denmark, son of an important king? Indeed, the entire work revolves around this point of view. You will see the young Hamlet take a deep introspection, so much to him doubt the whole world, than previously thought and the alleged excellence of its very nature. What kind of world was he witness to be forced to make so divided his thoughts by his actions? Hamlet was forced to “endure the insults, the slings and arrows of the iniquitous fortune.” The death of a king and a father, the late King Hamlet. Discovering that his mother Gertrude is a woman of easy virtue, so as to arrive incest just two months after his father's death (revelation made even more puzzling by the intimacy that binds Hamlet and Gertrude). He realised that his old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are no different from all the other servants, opportunists with the sole intention to “absorb by the king, assignments favours and rewards.” Topic, this friendship (which is unlikely to stand the pressures of time, as shown here by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) should not be underestimated as the applicant in the works of Shakespeare, such as in “The Merchant of Venice” and in a high percentage of his sonnets. Finally, the last element responsible for the disruption of Hamlet, for his change in seeing the world, is his faithfulness in love. Initially we observe Polonius denying to Ophelia the right to see Hamlet, in fact not too shocking if it were not related to the act of Ophelia to take part in an experiment prepared by the King and Polonius to test the actual insanity of Hamlet. This complete loss of confidence in the world of women, which seems to confirm what was previously thought of Gertrude, is decisive as crucial to push some playwrights to revisit the character of Hamlet in key Freudian, emphasising relationships with Ophelia and his mother Gertrude. In addition, to generate and then to sharpen his plans for revenge, a ghost detector (the spirit of his father) appears in front of him on two occasions, he will set him knowledge of his murder by his brother Claudius, urging him to revenge, and return later to prevent his purposes can be attenuated. Hamlet turns out to live in a world of appearances. The new King Claudius, usurping the throne with the methodology and vile intentions, can never represent the authorities and the law as it did in the past, the King Hamlet. For Hamlet is, in fact, “a murderess, a coward, a scoundrel who is not worth the twentieth part of a thousandth of the first king, a parody of the king, a pickpocket of power and the kingdom which has a drawer burglarised stretch of stealing the rich diadem of the law, and it is thrown in the pocket. ” Another item of note is “The Mousetrap”. This theatrical performance in the play, and especially the scene where the king abruptly interrupts the play, seem to eliminate the feeling of just being present at work. This effect is given by the impression that actually the only work to which you are seeing is “The Murder of Gonzagues,” and that the interruption of the latter is a real fact. Also do not forget that is the story of Priam and Gonzagues to really convince Hamlet of the Crime of Claudius, to rekindle his desire for revenge, and even turn off the vain assumption that he had spoken with an evil spirit. But it is only during the trip to England, being aware of the betrayal of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that Hamlet decides to give the final blow to Denmark, allowing it to overcome all scruples which had been held earlier. It is also interesting to analyse two contrasting points of view of Hamlet and Claudius: where the ghost of old Hamlet represented courage, honesty, and honour, Claudio is cowardice, dishonesty and vice. Where the young Hamlet is a philosopher and poet, politician and Claudio is rhetorical. It opposes philosophical imagination of Hamlet to an attitude practicality oriented and materialism. It is this duality of the present king, a symbol of authority of the country and, at the same time, individual addicted to falsehood and vulgarity, to bring Hamlet to clash with the false authority that is Claudio. This element, which is also fundamental in the work, reaches its climax in the final scene, when Hamlet (mortally wounded) pierces the king, by poisoning him. The only character that seems to maintain its clarity without suffering significant psychological upheaval, perhaps because of his wisdom (often shown in dialogues with Hamlet, which in fact is his only confidant), is Horace. He gain more and more importance within the work, eventually becoming the only fixed pin in the tragic scene of the death of the final scene, where he represents the means for transmitting the incident to posterity; probably Horace can be also considered the only one man truly worthy of respect within the court of Elsinore. In conclusion, this work provides ethical or moral truth, but shows life from a much broader perspective than has ever been done before, a perspective in which man questions, analyses himself, thinks and suffers under a constant emotional pressure. A man who wonders, even before the events current on the mysteries of his own nature. Such a view of life moves away from the simple concept of tragedy, even before becoming a work of art, a pattern on the human condition.

QR Code
QR Code william_shakespeare_-_the_works_-_hamlet (generated for current page)