Shakespeare sets his Hamlet play in the cold, dark isolation of Elsinor a bleak, snow-covered region of Denmark. It’s the royal court of the King of Denmark. The atmosphere is established on the cold, windy battlements of the castle. Most of the action takes place in the interior rooms and corridors of the castle and one scene is set in a nearby cemetery. Read more detail on the settings in Hamlet.

Date written: 1601

Genre classificationHamlet is regarded as one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Read Shakespeare’s original Hamlet text

Read Hamlet in simple, modern English

Main characters in Hamlet: Hamlet, the son of the recently murdered King is the heir to the throne. He has had the crown stolen from him by his father’s villainous brother, Claudius whom the late king’s widow, Gertrude – Hamlet’s mother – has married. Hamlet’s father’s ghost tells him on the battlements that Claudius murdered him. Hamlet is continuously spied on by Polonius, the garrulous Lord Chamberlain of Denmark. His eavesdropping results in his being accidentally killed by Hamlet. Ophelia is Polonius’ daughter. Led on to a possible relationship by Hamlet, then rejected, she commits suicide by drowning. Her brother, Laertes seeks revenge by plotting with Claudius to kill Hamlet.

Other characters are Hamlet’s friend, Horatio, in whom he confides, Rosencranz and Guidenstern, Hamlet’s fellow university students who spy on Hamlet for Claudius, Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway and a troupe of strolling actors and a pair of gravediggers. See a full list of characters in Hamlet.

Hamlet Themes: The play falls into the genre of the Revenge Tragedy, which was very popular in the Jacobean era with its taste for violence and intrigue. Revenge is the most obvious, and one of the main, themes of the play. Although explorations of the idea of appearance and reality are present in all Shakespeare’s plays, it’s more fully developed in Hamlet, with all it’s plotting, intrigues, deceit and hypocrisy.

Other themes are the question of what a human being is; death and mortality and suicide. In common with several other Shakespeare plays, there is a clear Christian parallel.

Hamlet Play Resources:

Hamlet characters
Hamlet Settings
Modern English Hamlet ebook
Read Hamlet in modern English
Hamlet plot summary
Original Hamlet text

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4 replies
  1. Saurabh
    Saurabh says:

    A case can be made that Hamlet is a virtuous young man at the beginning of the play, his sense of morality deeply rooted in his religious beliefs, but that he changes dramatically in the play and succumbs to evil himself by its conclusion. Hamlet’s actions in avenging his father’s death are perfectly justified within the context of Hamlet as a revenge play, but when examined within the greater morality that had framed Hamlet’s life and that is referenced often in the play, his actions seem consistent with the evil of those that surround him.

    Hamlet is truly a dynamic character. Upon first returning to court, the idea of committing murder under any circumstances shakes him profoundly. He fears for his immortal soul; even the idea of taking his own life fills him with fear of God’s judgment. However, after Hamlet kills Polonius while Hamlet is in a state of unbearable emotional suffering, Hamlet immediately spirals downward from his previous standards of moral behavior. He plots and accomplishes the deaths of Rosencrantz and Gildenstern with cold calculation; his actions are deliberate and absent any moral inhibition or sense of guilt. This marks a profound change in Hamlet, suggesting that even he, as morally sound as he had once been, is also capable of evil acts.

  2. Robin
    Robin says:

    Your facts are wrong. I have not read Hamlet, so i don’t know what shakespeare have written in the play, but i can guarantee you, Elsinor does not lie in Jutland, but instead on the island Zealand. You write, “Shakespeare sets his Hamlet play in the cold, dark isolation of Elsinor in Jutland, ableak, snow-covered region of Denmark.” The Castle Kronborg where the play takes place, lies in Elsinor and that is on Zealand and not Jutland.

    • devil14
      devil14 says:

      i have and it is how it was written in the renassinac when shakespeare was around they didnt have the resources we have now sooo they coundnt detrimian the right facts things were different back then


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