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-Guardsmen open up the first scene (Barnardo and Francisco),
protecting the castle (time period).
-King is highly respected (time period). “Long live the king” (I, I)
-Barnardo relates that the dead king, King Hamlet, is in heaven
(Shakespeare believed in heaven).
-Horatio (the scholar) comes in and tries to approach the ghost
(that looks like King Hamlet who has died) and he says “Before
my Gd” (I, I). (This shows Shakespeare’s belief in Gd and his
religious influences)
-King Hamlet is dressed in armor/war combat apparel and killed
Norway’s King Fortinbras (Shakespeare’s time period influences).
-“This bodes some strange eruption to our state” (I, I).
-“A little ere the mightiest Julius fell…did squeak and gibber in the
Roman streets…” (I, I) (Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar—
-“god of day…no fairy takes…” (I, I) (Shakespeare’s audiences’
knowledge of Greek mythology and folklore on fairies).
-Opening of scene is Claudius revealing his new king status and
the fact that his wedding to Gertrude quickly followed the funeral
of his brother (Shakespeare’s structure: revealing background,
including the Denmark vs. Norway conflict—events that preceded
the play--in a soliloquy).
-“I am too much in the sun” (I, II). (Pun/double entendre=Hamlet
does this to show that he’s now the son of Claudius and in his royal
favor, sarcastically).
-“Tis unmanly grief. It shows a will most incorrect to Heaven…”
(I, II). (Shakespeare’s misogynistic reference of “unmanly” and
reference to Hamlet not acting toward G-d’s will).
-“Frailty, thy name is woman” (I, II) (Shakespeare’s misogyny)
-“O most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous
sheet!” (I, II) (Hamlet’s obsession with his mother’s sexual
activities=Oedipal Complex)
-“The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage
tables” (I, II) (Hamlet’s obsession with the fact that his mother’s
marriage quickly followed his father’s funeral=imagery)
-“If it assume my noble father’s person, I’ll speak to it, though Hell
itself should gape and bid me hold my peace” (I, II). (Hamlet will
speak to his father’s ghost, unless Hell prevents him;
Shakespeare’s time period/religious influences).
-“My father’s spirit in arms. All is not well. I doubt some foul
play” (I, II). (Hamlet believes his father’s ghost has something
important to share and he believes that there’s been something
fishy; figurative language=foreshadowing).
-“Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and
thorny way to Heaven…” (I, III). (Ophelia tells her brother Laertes
to not be a hypocrite in his advice giving to her regarding being
pure/chaste in her dealings with Hamlet. Meanwhile, Laertes is not
pure/chaste. This is also revealing Shakespeare’s interest in
chastity vs. promiscuity and religious influences, as well as the
identity theme).
-“Give every man thy ear and few thy voice…neither a borrower
nor a lender be…to thine own self be true” (I, III). (Identity
theme=Polonius tells Laertes some important advice in developing
his character).
-King Claudius is described as a drunk (It’s believed that
Shakespeare’s father, John, was also a drunk and involved in
illegal financial dealings)
-Hamlet’s trying to understand if the ghost (appearing as his dead
father) is “from Heaven or blasts from Hell” (I, IV). Hamlet will
talk to this ghost because he’s feeling very low about himself and
doesn’t care if he risks his own life. “I do not set my life at a pin’s
fee” (I, IV). (Shakespeare’s religious invocations and melancholic
spirits are revealed here).
-“Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark” (I, IV).
-“I am thy father’s spirit, doomed for a certain term to walk the
night…” (I, V). (King Hamlet’s ghost is in purgatory; religious
-“A serpent stung me…the serpent that did sting thy father’s life
now wears his crown” (I, V). (King Hamlet’s ghost reveals that
Claudius—metaphorically the serpent—murdered him).
-“Ay that incestuous that adulterate beast…” (I, V, 40). (King
Hamlet’s ghost is remarking on the so-called ‘incestuous’
relationship between his wife and his brother=Oedipal Complex).
-“Let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for luxury and
damned incest” (I, V, 83). (King Hamlet’s ghost again remarks on
the ‘incest’ of his wife’s relationship).
-Hamlet recognizes that his dead father’s ghost is a “host from
Heaven” (I, V, 90).
-“In this distracted Globe” (I, V, 97). Hamlet says that he’s in a
disordered world and also connecting to the Globe Theater where
the play is being performed (metatheatricality—theater talking
about theater!).
-Hamlet asks Horatio and the guards to swear (on their swords
because they make a cross) that they never will talk about what
they’ve seen or else Hamlet will appear insane (I, V, 150).
(Religious influences)
-“The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to
set it right” (I, V, 188-189). (Hamlet feels he has a clear purpose in
life now, a mission to complete his identity).
-“Lord Hamlet…as if he had been loosed out of Hell…” (II, I, 7480). Ophelia describes Hamlet’s wild and disheveled appearance.
(Shakespeare’s religious influences)
-“By Heaven, it is as proper to our age to cast beyond ourselves in
our opinions as it is common for the younger sort to lack
discretion” (II, I, 111-113). Polonius comments on the stereotypes
about age (old vs. youth). (Identities of old=misinterpreting things
and young=lack discretion/distinguishing right from wrong)
-Claudius and Gertrude ask Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
childhood friends of Hamlet, if they’ll spy on Hamlet and see
what’s wrong with him. “To lay our service freely at your feet to
be commanded” (II, II, 31-32). (A sign of the times=do anything
for the king!)
-“Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star” (II, II, 138). (Polonius
says that Hamlet is in a higher social ranking than Ophelia. A sign
of the times=social rank/status/hierarchy).
-Hamlet belittles Polonius and using puns. When Polonius asks
Hamlet what he’s reading, Hamlet says “Words, words, words” (II,
II, 188). This shows that Hamlet has no interest in revealing
anything of his personal pursuits. (Shakespeare’s use of repetition
is emphasizing Hamlet’s disinterest in conversation/truth-telling).
-“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” (II, II, 201202). Polonius tells the audience in an aside that he believes
Hamlet’s deceiving in his fake madness. (Aside=revealing to the
audience his innermost thoughts, like a mini-soliloquy).
-Prophetic words of Hamlet’s: “Into my grave” (II, II, 203) and
“except my life, except my life, except my life” (II, II, 210-211).
-Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern talking suggestively/sexual
talk (II, II, 220-230). (PUNS!)
-“What a piece of work is a man” (II, II, 267). Hamlet is cynical
about all human beings because of the treatment he has received.
His identity has changed to be a misanthropist.
-“For my uncle is King of Denmark, and those that would make
mouths at him while my father lived give twenty, forty, fifty, a
hundred ducats apiece for his picture in little” (II, II, 297-300).
Hamlet’s misanthropy revealed again as he mocks how people
used to ridicule Claudius and now they pay big money for his
-Hamlet’s soliloquy to end Act II reveals his evil plotting against
Claudius to orchestrate a play that will reveal Claudius’ guilt. The
play will mimic the murder of his father, the dead King Hamlet.
Hamlet will then observe Claudius’ reaction. Hamlet is still unsure
of his father’s ghost is from Heaven or Hell. “The play’s the thing
wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” (II, II, 530-531)
-“The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plast’ring art, is not more
ugly to the thing that helps it than is my deed to my most
painted word. O heavy burden!” (III, I, 50-53). Claudius reveals
in an aside that he is burdened by guilt and deception, like
makeup covers up a prostitute’s face.
-Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy reveals his internal
struggle, as he is burdened with so much weight of carrying out
a mission for his dead father’s ghost. He decides not to commit
suicide because he doesn’t know what afterlife is like.
-“Get thee to a nunnery” (III, I, 120). “Go thy ways to a
nunnery” (III, I, 128-129). “Get thee to a nunnery” (III, I, 136).
“To a nunnery go, and quickly too” (III, I, 139). “To a nunnery,
go” (III, I, 148). Hamlet does not want Ophelia to be with any
other man. Shakespeare repeats “nunnery” 5x to emphasize
Hamlet’s misogyny and overall cynicism about women, and all
human beings, being trustworthy.
-“Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!” (III, I, 148).
Ophelia states that Hamlet has lost his mind and his nobility
has lost its status.
-“It shall be so. Madness in great ones must not unwatched go”
(III, I, 187-188). Claudius believes that there’s method to his
madness. He doesn’t trust Hamlet, and that’s why he’s sending
him to England, away from Denmark. Claudius’ identity is weak
and distrusting of himself and others.
“I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i’ th’ Capitol. Brutus
killed me” (III, II, 97-98). The actor who is playing Polonius
reveals that he played Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s other
play. Shakespeare is advertising his other plays
-“Come hither, my dear Hamlet; sit by me” (III, II, 102).
Gertrude is showing she has a close relationship, perhaps too
close, with her son, Hamlet (Oedipal). This is right before the
performance which Hamlet wants to observe his uncle’s
-“Give me some light, away” (III, II, 253). Claudius reveals his
discomfort during the reenactment of the murder of his
brother, King Hamlet. Shakespeare’s religious influences—
Claudius desires to enter heaven where there’s light, but he
can’t since he belongs in hell.
-“You would play upon me…call me what instrument you will,
though you fret me, you cannot play upon me” (III, II, 345-352).
Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he doesn’t
trust them (Shakespeare uses the instrument as a metaphor for
Hamlet’s distrust of them) when they tell him to go see his
mother, Queen Gertrude, since she requests him in her
-“I will speak daggers to her but use none” (III, II, 374).
Hamlet’s metaphor of daggers (harsh words) to his mother, but
he won’t harm her, as his dead father’s ghost said not to.
-“Oh my offence is rank…a brother’s murder…my stronger
guilt…what if this cursed hand were thicker than itself with
brother’s blood…O wretched state! O bosom black as death…”
(III, III, 36-72). Claudius’ soliloquy reveals his guilt to the
audience (empowering the audience with knowledge).
Repetition of “O” as moaning from the grave.
-“Now might I do it, but now ‘a is a-praying. And now I’ll do ‘t,
and so ‘a goes to Heaven, and so am I revenged…” (III, III, 7396). Hamlet shares his soliloquy, as he overhears Claudius’
repentant soliloquy and decides not to kill him, but it would be
a perfect time to do so. This is the religious connection that
Shakespeare reveals. Hamlet repeats Heaven 4x during this
soliloquy, as he does not want to allow Claudius to go to
Heaven since he’s repentant.
-“Oh, I am slain…A bloody deed? Almost as bad, good mother,
as kill a king and marry with his brother” (III, IV, 24-28).
Polonius is killed by Hamlet, though Hamlet thinks he killed
Claudius who was spying on him and his mother. Hamlet feels
no remorse since he has become a misanthropist (identity
-“An eye like Mars to threaten and command, a station like the
herald Mercury…” (III, IV, 57-58). Hamlet glorifies his dead
father (simile/like Mars and like Mercury). Often, in death, we
elevate a person’s ranking.
-“Nay, but to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, stewed
in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sty—“
(III, IV, 92-95). Hamlet’s Oedipal/ imagery-rich references to
his mother in bed with his uncle.
-“My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time and makes as
healthful music. It is not madness that I have
uttered…madness…madness…(III, IV, 140-146). Hamlet
explains to his mother that he is sane (though she has just seen
him talk to a ghost, though she can’t see the ghost). He repeats
“madness” which makes the audience question his sanity and
even believe he’s sane.
-“Good night—but go not to my uncle’s bed, assume a virtue if
you have it not…refrain tonight, and that shall lend a kind of
easiness to the next abstinence, the next more easy” (III, IV,
159-167). Hamlet’s Oedipal obsession with his mother’s sexual
-“Be thou assured, if words be made of breath and breath of
life, I have no life to breathe what thou hast said to me” (III, IV,
197-199). Gertrude’s portentous words.
-“Mad as the sea and wind when both contend which is the
mightier” (IV, I, 7-8). Gertrude describes her son Hamlet’s mad
identity in a simile/imagery-rich language. Claudius and
Gertrude decide to send him away to England because of his
so-called madness.
-Hamlet calls Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sponges and
repeats “sponge” and “soak” multiple times, as they will absorb
anything that Claudius tells them.
-“The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body.
The King is a thing” (IV, II, 23-24). Hamlet uses puns here as he
declares that the body of the government is with King Claudius,
but King Hamlet is not with his body. The rightful king is dead
and just a thing, not living. Or he could be referring to Polonius’
body not being with King Hamlet, because Polonius is in hell,
not heaven with King Hamlet. Hamlet is not being
straightforward to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, when asked
about Polonius’ body, because he doesn’t trust them.
-“Not where he eats, but where ‘a is eaten. A certain
convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your worm is
your only emperor for diet” (IV, III, 19-22). Hamlet tells
Claudius where Polonius’ body is located, but he uses the
repetition and metaphor of the ‘worm’ to represent Polonius as
a worm and Claudius as a worm. Hamlet has method to his