Please see the bottom of this page for helpful Hamlet resources.
Please see each scene for detailed explanatory notes and study questions.
More to Explore
Analysis of the Characters in Hamlet
Introduction to Hamlet
The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot
The Norway (Fortinbras) Subplot
Deception in Hamlet
Imagery of Disease and Corruption in Hamlet
Quotations from Hamlet (with commentary)
Philological Examination Questions on Hamlet
Hamlet Study Quiz (with answers)
Hamlet: Q & A
Plot Summary of Hamlet
Soliloquy Analysis: O this too too... (1.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!... (2.2)
Analysis: To be, or not to be... (3.1)
Soliloquy Analysis: Tis now the very witching time of night... (3.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: Now might I do it pat... (3.3)
Soliloquy Analysis: How all occasions do inform against me... (4.4)
Claudius and the Condition of Denmark
The Purpose of the Dumb-Show
Claudius and the Mousetrap
In Secret Conference: The Meeting Between Claudius and Laertes
Defending Claudius - The Charges Against the King
Hamlet's Antic Disposition: Is Hamlet's Madness Real?
Five Classic Solutions of the Hamlet Problem
O Jephthah - Toying with Polonius
The Death of Polonius and its Impact on Hamlet's Character
Blank Verse and Diction in Shakespeare's Hamlet
Hamlet: Problem Play and Revenge Tragedy
Analysis of I am sick at heart (1.1)
The Elder Hamlet: The Kingship of Hamlet's Father
Hamlet's Relationship with the Ghost
The Significance of the Ghost in Armor
Ophelia's Burial and Christian Rituals
The Baker's Daughter: Ophelia's Nursery Rhymes
The Significance of Ophelia's Flowers
Ophelia and Laertes
Mistrusted Love: Ophelia and Polonius
An Excuse for Doing Nothing: Hamlet's Delay
Foul Deeds Will Rise: Hamlet and Divine Justice
Shakespeare's Fools: The Grave-Diggers in Hamlet
Shakespeare's View of the Child Actors
Hamlet's Humor: The Wit of Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark
Hamlet as National Hero
All About Yorick
Hamlet's Melancholy: The Transformation of the Prince
Divine Providence in Hamlet
What is Tragic Irony?
Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
Shakespeare's Sources for Hamlet
Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
Why Shakespeare is so Important
Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers
Quote in Context
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.
Hamlet (1.2), Hamlet
Hamlet's passionate first soliloquy provides a striking contrast to the controlled and artificial dialogue that he must exchange with Claudius and his Court. The primary function of the soliloquy is to reveal to the audience Hamlet's profound melancholia and the reasons for his despair. In a disjointed outpouring of disgust, anger, sorrow, and grief, Hamlet explains that, without exception, everything in his world is either futile or contemptible. His speech is saturated with suggestions of rot and corruption, as seen in the basic usage of words like "rank" (138) and "gross" (138), and in the metaphor associating the world with "an unweeded garden" (137). Read on...
Points to Ponder
Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart
As I do thee.-- Something too much of this. --
There is a play to-night before the king;
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father's death.
Hamlet (3.2), Hamlet to Horatio
"Shakespeare has introduced these traveling players with a double purpose. The person who recites the death of Priam with such feeling, in
the first place, makes a deep impression on the prince himself; he sharpens the conscience of the wavering youth: and, accordingly, this scene becomes a prelude to that other, where, in the second place, the little play produces such effect upon the King. Hamlet sees himself reproved and put to shame by the player, who feels so deep a sympathy in foreign and fictitious woes; and the thought of making an experiment upon the conscience of his stepfather is in consequence suggested to him." [Goethe. Wilhelm Meister's Critique of Hamlet]
The following entry appears in the Stationers' Register (1602):
"A Booke called 'the Revenge of HAMLETT Prince [of] Denmarke' as yt was latelie Acted by the Lord Chamberleyne his servants......vjd."
Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that Shakespeare completed the play in 1601. According to contemporary references, Hamlet became an instant hit, and the great Shakespearean actor, Richard Burbage, received much acclaim in the lead role. Hamlet's popularity grew steadily until the closing of the theatres by the puritanical government (1642-1660). During that time it was performed as an abridged playlet at taverns and inns, along with all the other great dramas that suffered at the hands of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England. After the theatres re-opened, Hamlet was brought back to the stage by author and entrepreneur, William Davenant, and the play's popularity has been constant ever since.