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 classification: Hamlet is regarded as one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
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.