Cast of Characters

Hamlet—The tragic hero of the drama, Hamlet is a troubled, conflicted, reflective, and extremely witty young man. He has been schooled in the Protestant village of Wittenberg and thus has something of a new and unstable foundation upon which to gauge and understand the world and his place in it. When the ghost urges him to revenge, Hamlet struggles to discern the spirit compelling him to action and realizes that he is motivated both by Heaven and Hell. As he descends into a kind of dark night of the soul, he becomes rash and extreme, causes the death of Polonius, and degenerates into self-loathing, baseness, Puritanism, and outright nihilism. His meditation upon death—one of the four last things of Christian eschatology—helps restore him to his senses. His nobility, sensitivity, goodness and sense of justice return to him. His delay in deposing Claudius, however, results in the deaths of more. He himself dies after Laertes wounds him with a poisoned foil. On his deathbed, he urges Horatio to live and tell his story in order to prevent more mischief from spreading.

Claudius—The new king of Denmark, Claudius is a master politician, one who smiles on all yet plots and intrigues behind the scenes. He is responsible for the death of King Hamlet, although no one knows it except those who are privy to the ghost’s revelation. He tries to secure his newly acquired power by keeping a close watch on Hamlet. Claudius is certainly a treacherous character but is also a complex one: He shows some depth of character midway through the drama when he attempts to pray and draw himself out of the depths of sin into which he has descended. He fails, however, to do so: He dies when stabbed with the poisoned foil and forced to drink the poisoned wine.

Gertrude—She is Hamlet’s mother, newly married to Hamlet’s uncle, her late husband’s brother Claudius. Because of her “frailty” and seeming fickleness, Hamlet mistrusts womankind. She is apparently guiltless in the murder...

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Essays About Hamlet