William Shakespeare Hamlet Play T-Shirt
W. Keene. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601. The play, set in Denmark, recounts how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father, the King, and then taken the throne and married Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. The play vividly charts the course of real and feigned madness—from overwhelming grief to seething rage—and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption. Despite much literary detective work, the exact year of writing remains in dispute. Three different early versions of the play have survived: these are known as the First Quarto (Q1), the Second Quarto (Q2) and the First Folio (F1). Each has lines, and even scenes, that are missing from the others. Shakespeare probably based Hamlet on the legend of Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum and subsequently retold by 16th-century scholar François de Belleforest, and a supposedly lost Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet. Given the play's dramatic structure and depth of characterization, Hamlet can be analyzed, interpreted and argued about from many perspectives. For example, scholars have debated for centuries about Hamlet's hesitation in killing his uncle. Some see it as a plot device to prolong the action, and others see it as the result of pressure exerted by the complex philosophical and ethical issues that surround cold-blooded murder, calculated revenge and thwarted desire. More recently, psychoanalytic critics have examined Hamlet's unconscious desires, and feminist critics have re-evaluated and rehabilitated the often maligned characters of Ophelia and Gertrude. Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language. It provides a storyline capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others". During Shakespeare's lifetime, the play was one of his most popular works, and it still ranks high among his most-performed, topping, for example, the Royal Shakespeare Company's list since 1879. It has inspired writers from Goethe and Dickens to Joyce and Murdoch and has been described as "the world's most filmed story after Cinderella". The title role was almost certainly created for Richard Burbage, the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's time. In the four hundred years since, it has been played by highly acclaimed actors, and sometimes actresses, of each successive age. The protagonist of Hamlet is Prince Hamlet of Denmark, son of the recently deceased King Hamlet and his wife, Queen Gertrude. While the young Hamlet is away at school the recently deceased King's brother, Claudius, is elected king and hastily marries Gertrude. A minor subplot involves Denmark's long-standing feud with neighbouring Norway, and the threat of invasion led by the Norwegian prince Fortinbras. The play opens on a cold night at Elsinore, the Danish royal castle. Francisco, one of the sentinels, is relieved of his watch by Bernardo, another sentinel, and exits while Bernardo remains. A third sentinel, Marcellus, enters with Horatio, Hamlet's best friend. The sentinels inform Horatio that they have seen a ghost that looks like the dead King Hamlet. After hearing from Horatio of the Ghost's appearance, Hamlet resolves to see the Ghost himself. That night, the Ghost appears again. It leads Hamlet to seclusion and reveals that it is the actual spirit of his father and discloses that he, the elder Hamlet, was murdered by Claudius pouring poison in his ear. The Ghost demands that Hamlet avenge him; Hamlet agrees, swears his companions to secrecy, and tells them he intends to "put on an antic disposition" (presumably to avert suspicion). Hamlet initially attests to the ghost's reliability, calling him both an "honest ghost" and "truepenny". He later raises doubts about the ghost's nature and intent and claims these as reasons for his inaction. Polonius is Claudius' trusted chief counselor; his son, Laertes, is returning to France, and his daughter, Ophelia, is courted by Hamlet. Neither Polonius nor Laertes thinks Hamlet is serious about Ophelia, and they both warn her off. Shortly afterwards, Ophelia is alarmed by Hamlet's strange behaviour and reports to her father that Hamlet rushed into her room, stared at her and said nothing. Polonius assumes that the "ecstasy of love" is responsible for Hamlet's madness, and he informs Claudius and Gertrude. Busy with affairs of state, Claudius receives the ambassador of Norway who gives assurances of peace between Norway and Denmark. Perturbed by Hamlet's continuing deep mourning for his father and his increasingly erratic behavior, Claudius sends for two of Hamlet's acquaintances —Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—to discover the cause of Hamlet's changed behavior. Hamlet greets his friends warmly but quickly discerns that they have been sent to spy on him. Together, Claudius and Polonius convince Ophelia to speak with Hamlet while they secretly listen to the conversation. When Hamlet enters, she offers to return his remembrances, upon which Hamlet questions her honesty and furiously rants at her, insisting she go "to a nunnery". Hamlet remains uncertain if the Ghost has told him the truth, but the arrival of a troupe of actors at Elsinore presents him with a solution. He will stage a play, re-enacting his father's murder, and determine Claudius's guilt or innocence by studying his reaction. The court assembles to watch the play; Hamlet provides an agitated running commentary throughout. When the murder scene is presented, Claudius abruptly rises and leaves the room, which Hamlet sees as proof of his uncle's guilt. Gertrude summons Hamlet to her closet to demand an explanation. On his way, Hamlet passes Claudius in prayer but hesitates to kill him, reasoning that death in prayer would send him to heaven. However it is revealed that the King is not truly praying, remarking that "words" never made it to heaven without "thoughts." Upon reaching the queen, an argument erupts between Hamlet and Gertrude. Polonius, who is spying on the scene from behind an arras, convinced that the prince's madness is indeed real, panics when it seems as if Hamlet is about to murder the Queen and cries out for help. Hamlet, believing it is Claudius hiding behind the arras, stabs wildly through the cloth, killing Polonius. When he realizes that he has killed Ophelia's father, he is not remorseful, but calls Polonius "Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool". The Ghost appears, urging Hamlet to treat Gertrude gently but reminding him to kill Claudius. Unable to see or hear the Ghost herself, Gertrude takes Hamlet's conversation with it as further evidence of madness. Claudius, fearing for his life, and finally holding a legitimate excuse to get rid of the prince, makes plans to send Hamlet to England on a diplomatic pretext, closely watched by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Alone, Claudius discloses that he is sending Hamlet to his death. Prior to embarking for England, Hamlet hides Polonius's body, ultimately revealing its location to the King. Upon leaving Elsinore, Hamlet encounters the army of Prince Fortinbras en route to do battle in Poland. Upon witnessing so many men going to their death for the brash whim of an impulsive prince, Hamlet decides that he will no longer plot and scheme, but rather finish his plan and kill Claudius. At Elsinore, further demented by grief at Polonius's death, Ophelia wanders the castle acting erratically and singing bawdy songs. Her brother, Laertes, arrives back from France, enraged by his father's death and his sister's madness. She appears briefly to give out herbs and flowers. Claudius convinces Laertes that Hamlet is solely responsible; then news arrives that Hamlet is still at large— a story is spread that his ship was attacked by pirates on the way to England, and he has returned to Denmark. Claudius swiftly concocts a plot. His plan is to allow Hamlet's death to appear to be an accident, taking all of the blame off of his shoulders. He proposes a fencing match between Laertes and Hamlet, as Hamlet was jealous of Laertes prowess with a sword. Laertes, enraged at the murder of his father informs the king that he will further poison the tip of his sword so as a mere scratch would mean certain death. Claudius, unsure that capable Hamlet could receive even a scratch, plans to offer Hamlet poisoned wine if that fails. Gertrude enters to report that Ophelia has drowned. In the Elsinore churchyard, two "clowns", typically represented as "gravediggers", enter to prepare Ophelia's grave, and although the coroner has ruled her death accidental, so that she receives Christian burial, they argue over it being a case of suicide. Hamlet arrives with Horatio and banters with one of them, who unearths the skull of a jester whom Hamlet once knew, Yorick. Ophelia's funeral procession approaches, led by her mournful brother Laertes. Upset at the lack of ceremony due to the deemed suicide and overcome by emotion, Laertes leaps into the grave, cursing Hamlet as the cause of her death. Hamlet interrupts and professes his own love and grief for Ophelia. He and Laertes grapple, but the fight is broken up by Claudius and Gertrude. Claudius makes sure to remind Laertes of the planned fencing match. Later that day, Hamlet tells Horatio how he escaped, and that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been sent to their deaths. A courtier, Osric, interrupts to invite Hamlet to fence with Laertes. Despite warnings from Horatio, Hamlet accepts and the match begins. After several rounds, Gertrude toasts Hamlet against the urgent warning of Claudius, accidentally drinking the wine he poisoned. Between bouts, Laertes attacks and pierces Hamlet with his poisoned blade; in the ensuing scuffle, Hamlet is able to use Laertes's own poisoned sword against him, fatally wounding Laertes. Gertrude falls and in her dying breath announces that she has been poisoned. In his dying moments, Laertes is reconciled with Hamlet and reveals Claudius's murderous plot. In his own final moments, Hamlet, at last, forces Claudius to drink from his own poisoned cup, and names Prince Fortinbras of Norway as his heir. Horatio attempts to kill himself with the same poisoned wine, but is stopped by Hamlet, who commands him to tell his story, as he will be the only one left alive that could give a full account. When Fortinbras arrives to greet King Claudius, he encounters the deathly scene: Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, and Hamlet are all dead. Horatio asks to be allowed to recount the tale to "the yet unknowing world", and Fortinbras orders Hamlet's body borne off in honour. William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616)[a] was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's preeminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who bore him three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others. Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the sixteenth century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the nineteenth century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare's genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called "bardolatry". In the twentieth century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.