Hamlet is a genre piece of the revenge variety. Revenge tragedies were very popular in late 16th and early 17th century London, when Shakespeare wrote his most famous work. Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy had appeared a decade before and was one of the finest examples of the genre. Therefore, it should be noted that when Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, he did not set out to write “high art” but merely to produce a genre piece that would appeal to a paying audience—something in the vein of Kyd’s popular tragedy. He succeeded overwhelmingly with Hamlet.

For a play largely concerned with identity, it would be remiss not to discuss the identity of the man credited with writing Hamlet. There is much evidence to support the notion that William Shakespeare is the author of arguably the greatest works ever produced upon the English-speaking stage. There are the numerous references to him from contemporaries like famed playwright Ben Johnson and the actors and friends who gathered his plays and poems for posterity’s sake. There is his grave and tombstone with its strange inscription. There is his home in Stratford, and there is the Globe in London. For Shakespeare to have been anyone but Shakespeare would have demanded a conspiracy greater than that seen in Julius Caesar. Yet popular imagination appears to enjoy giving credence to the idea that Shakespeare was not a native of Stratford, but someone else—someone from high society, from the educated classes, from the field of science; even Queen Elizabeth herself has been brought forward as a candidate.

It is quite possible and likely, however, that Shakespeare was indeed Shakespeare—that the eighth-grade education he received substantially prepared him for a career in the theater, whereupon inspiration took over and the rest is history. An eighth-grade education in Elizabethan England, it must be remembered, consisted of classes more commonly reserved today for those in attendance at the upper levels of university and academia. Shakespeare...

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Essays About Hamlet