Hamlet Personal Reading Guide

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Title: Hamlet
Author: William Shakespeare
Genre: Tragedy
Setting: Denmark, 1500’s
Main Characters:
Hamlet: He is a philosophical university student whose studies are interrupted after his father dies. When he returns home he is confronted by his father’s ghost and receives evidence that his father was murdered by his uncle, Claudius. He then becomes obsessed with revenge for his father and tries to convince everyone of the murder and to kill the king. He constantly contemplates the uncertainty of death, the afterlife, suicide, and what happens to the bodies when they die. He acts irrationally and impulsively to enhance his show of an “antic disposition.” He is often sad because of his father’s death and seems disappointed in the world in general. He also is upset with his mother for marrying so quickly and confused with his situation with Ophelia.

Claudius: Claudius is a malicious conniving man who selfishly kills his brother so that he can be king and marry his wife, Gertrude. Claudius contrasts greatly with the other male roles in the book who are generally concerned with justice and revenge while he is worrying about his own power and wealth. He is able to maintain this position through his manipulation of others by his use of language. When Hamlet acts insane after discovering that Claudius is a murderer, Claudius becomes fearful and becomes more so as the story progresses. He proves to be a coward by first sending Hamlet away to England and when he returns he gets Laertes to do his dirty work and devises a plan to have him kill Hamlet. In the end after Gertrude drinks the poison Hamlet is able to kill him and he is killed by his own creation.

Gertrude: Gertrude is a very mysterious and uncertain character. She is a character that can be understood in many different ways depending on how you read it. What is clear about her is that she has a desire for her royal station as queen and her dependence on men in her life. She...
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