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Hamlet
Lit Chart
Title of Play: Hamlet
Author: William Shakespeare Synopsis, by Act:

Act I: The act begins with Bernardo, Horatio, and Marcellus who witness the wandering of an apparition that resembles King Hamlet in armor. The three guards are shocked and decide to inform the young Prince Hamlet, considering the spirit to be an omen for Denmark. Meanwhile, the new King Claudius (Hamlet's uncle) and Queen Gertrude (Hamlet's mother) are trying to comfort Hamlet, and attempt to persuade him into not being so anguished over his father's death. According to Claudius, death is a part of life and must be accepted. The couple are successful in convincing Hamlet to remain home and not go back to his school in Wittenberg. After everyone besides Hamlet leaves the room, Horatio, Bernardo, and Marcellus come rushing in, and inform Hamlet about his father's wandering spirit. Hamlet is eager to meet the ghost and agrees to meet with it at midnight, that very night. Some hours later, Laertes is preparing to leave for France and warns his sister, Ophelia, to stay away from Hamlet, even if the prince claims to lover her. Polonius, Ophelia's father, givers her the same speech. For the time being, Ophelia vows to remain away from Hamlet. Eventually, Hamlet is able to speak with the ghost. The apparition reveals that Claudius is the actual killer, so that Hamlet can plan his revenge.

Act II: Claudius and Gertrude ask Hamlet's long-time school friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to ask Hamlet the cause for his madness. The two are unsuccessful in doing so. At the same time, Ophelia, informs her father Polonius that she has just witnessed Hamlet wandering around in an unkempt manner. Polonius then forms a theory in which he believes that Hamlet's insanity is due to the latter deep and passionate love for Ophelia. As Claudius and Polonius attempt to prove this "theory", a troupe of actors come to Elsinore to play for the royal family. Hamlet wishes for the actors to add lines and actions that will resemble the murder of his father. This way Hamlet will be able to "catch of the conscience of the king" if Claudius reacts in shock during the murder the scene.

Act III: Hamlet enters and delivers the most famous speech in literature, beginning, “To be or not to be.” After this long meditation on the nature of being and death, Hamlet catches sight of Ophelia. After a short conversation she attempts to return some of the remembrances that Hamlet gave when courting her. Hamlet replies caustically, questioning Ophelia’s honesty. He then berates Ophelia, telling her off sarcastically and venomously, with the refrain, “Get thee to a nunnery,” or in other words, “Go become a nun to control your lust.” After this tirade, Hamlet exists, leaving Ophelia in shambles.

Act IV: Hamlet exists, leaving Ophelia in shambles. He then prepares for a play within a play, in which one of the actor will play the part of the murdered King Hamlet. He wants to catch the conscience of the king. Gertrude reports to Claudius that Hamlet is crazy since the prince stabs and kills Polonius, thinking it is Claudius all along. He then chides his mother for her hasty remarriage. Claudius says he will get Hamlet out of the country and defend his crime. However, he actually sends a letter to the king of England to kill Hamlet, as soon as the latter reaches England. The scene ends with Laertes returning to Denmark from France and discovering his father's death. The young man is outraged. Few moments pass, and Gertrude enters the room, informing both Claudius and Laertes that Ophelia is dead, as well.

Act V: Two gravediggers argue over how Ophelia died (whether it was suicide or not). In the meantime, Hamlet enters the scene with Horatio. He soon sees that his mother, Claudius, and Laertes are approaching a particular gravesite. He then realizes that the funeral procession is for Ophelia, and is shocked to learn this. As Laertes accuses Hamlet of breaking Ophelia's heart, Hamlet states that he loved her more than 40,000 brothers. Laertes then jumps into Ophelia's open grave to mourn her death. The next day, Laertes and Claudius plan to kill Hamlet in a dual. Claudius asks Laertes to take an "unbated" sword and rub its tip with poison. If Hamlet wins the dual, then Claudius will give him a cup of wine filled poison. Eventually, Laertes manages to scratch Hamlet with the poisoned sword. In the process, the men's swords are switched, and Hamlet has the poisoned sword, with which he kills Laertes. Before dying, Laertes reveals to Hamlet that Claudius planned Hamlet's murder. Soon, Hamlet finds out that his mother, Gertrude is dead after drinking the poisoned wine. Discovering that this is a part of Claudius's murder plot, he stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and forces the poisoned wine down the evil king's throat. Hamlet then realizes that he, himself, will die from the poison that was on Laertes' sword and asks his good friend Horatio to tell his story to others, and give the throne to Fortinbras (prince of Norway). Hamlet then dies, and Fortinbras enters the scene, only to witness the corpses of the royal family.

Main Characters (List 6-10):

1. Hamlet - Hamlet is the prince of Denmark and the son of the dead King Hamlet. He is malignant and abhors his uncle for killing his father and detest his mother for marrying his uncle in such a hast manner. Hamlet is also very indecisive, philosophical, and dramatic in nature 2. Claudius - The new King of Denmark and Hamlet’s uncle and nemesis. He is the villain that murders the former King Hamlet. He is malevolent and evil in the sense that he marries his brother's wife, hardly two months after the funeral.

3. Gertrude - The Queen of Denmark; she hastily marries Claudius. Gertrude truly loves Hamlet, but she is a weak woman who does not like to face the truth, and cannot bear the burdens of the world.

4. Polonius - Lord of king's court; Polonius can never say anything directly since he is devious. He is the father of Laertes and Ophelia.

5. Horatio - Hamlet’s close friend, who studied with him at Wittenberg. Horatio consistently dutiful towards Hamlet. After Hamlet’s death, Horatio vows to tell the prince's tale.

6. Ophelia - Polonius's daughter, who is in love with Hamlet. When the latter separates himself from her, she is in deep depression, and ultimately forces herself into a life of seclusion. Eventually, she dies in an accident, in which she falls into a stream, and drowns. She is a melancholic character throughout.

7. Laertes - Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s brother; he goes to France, to return to his studies. When he returns to Denmark, he discovers that his father is dead and seeks revenge for this. As a result, he duals Hamlet, and kills him with a poison sword.

8. The Ghost - An apparition that resembles Hamlet's father in armor. The ghost reveals the truth of King Hamlet's murder to Hamlet, informing him that Claudius is the actual killer. The ghost is never explicitly described as good or evil. However, it does ensure that Hamlet plans to take revenge from his uncle very soon.

Themes (3 major themes explained):

1. Indecisiveness
Hamlet's indecisiveness, certainly instigates most of the problems throughout the play. The prince is unable to act properly and take his revenge. His failure result in hisown death, since Claudius eventually discovers that Hamlet is aware of the truth of his father's murder. As a result Claudius eventually plots Hamlet's murder, only to die himself, but is successful in killing Hamlet. Hence, the ambiguity with which Hamlet deals with life and death, is certainly a major them in this play.
2. Death
Throughout the play, death acts as motive and a form of relief for Hamlet, especially. At times, the young prince considers that it is better to die than live. Moreover, the entire play seems to revolve around a cycle of life, in which towards the end of the story, everyone begins to die. Hamlet's questions are partially answered in which he encounters the face of death in the last scene, and realizes that the weight of the burdens have been lifted from his life. Hence, death acts as a form of escape and light for many of the characters in the play, and is a prevalent them, as well.

3. Insanity
Madness (both real and manipulated) is central to the play. The complexity and ambiguity of Hamlet's mental state and questionable behavior is compelling and it creates an enigmatic and ominous atmosphere. Moreover, there are others such as Ophelia who actually undergo insanity. After Hamlet leaves her, she encounters deep depression. Eventually, when she accidentally fall in the stream, she "allows" herself to sink in the water, thinking perhaps that it is best to allow what fate has in store for her. This is certainly considered an act of lunacy, and makes insanity a major theme in the play.

Important Quotes With Explanation:

1. "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (Marcellus)
The rottenness goes beyond King Hamlet's murder. It also reflects upon the queen's hasty remarriage to the evil King Claudius. It also affects Prince Hamlet who has gone insane at father's death and his mother's remarriage. Hamlet's indecisiveness makes matters worse. Thus, the nation needs a strong leader, such as Prince Fortinbras.

2. " O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!"

Hamlet is overwhelmed and perturbed from the beginning. Here, his desire for his "flesh" to "melt" and dissolve into "dew" is a result of his grief over his father's death and his mother's remarriage King Claudius. Hamlet's thoughts are those of a lunatic. However, at the same time he faces depression and melancholy, in which he is unable to do anything about his situation.

3. Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.
Hamlet's initial reaction to the Ghost's news that Old Hamlet is revenge. Here, he seems willing to "sweep" to revenge what the Ghost calls his "foul, strange, and unnatural murder." Hamlet is willing to kill his own family members, because he loved his father with great immensity. He wants his Uncle to die and repent for his evil crimes, and the only way to do so is by murdering the latter.

Hamlet as character. Provide an analysis of the character of Hamlet. Be sure to identify Hamlet’s challenges and changes through the play.

Hamlet is the most dramatic and philosophical character in the play. He is a vengeful young man who loves his family dearly, and will do anything avenge his father's death. At first, the young prince appears overly sentimental, with his sorrows and pitiful nature, which makes him appear to be a coward. However, gradually it can be observed that Hamlet is nothing but a calculating and manipulative character, in which he appears one way (insane and a lunatic) but is actually another individual. His motives are planned out very carefully, as can be seen through his idea of including a play within a play and "catching the conscience of his uncle". Moreover, there is an enigmatic twist to his nature, in which he speaks ambiguously in each one of his soliloquies. For instance, in his famous "To be or not to be" he implies but does not clearly state that death is better than living in this world. Not even the audience is able to understand whether or not he is a mad man, at some points of his speech. Yet, as the play progresses, the prince of Denmark becomes progressive hot-headed and vindictive towards all those around him. He mourns his father's death, yet is eager to murder his uncle, who happens to be the old King Hamlet's killer. Hence. Hamlet character varies gradually throughout the play, as he becomes more scheming and more duplicitous in his actions, motives, and thoughts.

Hamlet (the play) as a tragedy. Identify the characteristics of a Shakespearean tragedy and show how Hamlet fits the individual characteristic.

In Shakespeare's tragedies, there is always the concept of a tragic hero and his tragic downfall. In the case of Hamlet, the prince's downfall is his inability to take revenge earlier in the play, as well as his indecisiveness. His faltering thoughts can easily be observed in his soliloquies and actions. As he tries to battle the problems and burdens that he is compelled encounter after his father's death, he loses touch with reality. This aspect causes him to deviate from his main purpose and end goal, in which he has to murder his evil uncle Claudius, Hamlet's father's killer. Moreover, Hamlet's tragic situation causes the entire play to be a tragedy, in which there are characters in the play that thwart his actions and his motives (e.g. Claudius in his repentance for his crime). Hence, through the ambiguity and burdens that Hamlet creates for himself, the young prince of Denmark fits the ideal Shakespearean tragic hero.

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