59 Facts About Hamlet


Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, often shortened to Hamlet, is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1601.

FactSnippet No. 552,293

Hamlet is considered among the "most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language", with a story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others".

FactSnippet No. 552,294

Story of Shakespeare's Hamlet was derived from the legend of Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum, as subsequently retold by the 16th-century scholar Francois de Belleforest.

FactSnippet No. 552,295

Claudius questions Hamlet regarding his continuing to grieve for his father, and forbids him to return to his school in Wittenberg.

FactSnippet No. 552,296

That night on the rampart, the ghost appears to Hamlet, tells the prince that he was murdered by Claudius, and demands that Hamlet avenge the murder.

FactSnippet No. 552,297

Ophelia rushes to her father, telling him that Hamlet arrived at her door the prior night half-undressed and behaving erratically.

FactSnippet No. 552,298

When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive, Hamlet greets his "friends" warmly but quickly discerns that they are there to spy on him for Claudius.

FactSnippet No. 552,299

Hamlet admits that he is upset at his situation but refuses to give the true reason, instead commenting on "What a piece of work is a man".

FactSnippet No. 552,300

Hamlet then asks the actors to stage The Murder of Gonzago, a play featuring a death in the style of his father's murder.

FactSnippet No. 552,301

Hamlet intends to study Claudius's reaction to the play, and thereby determine the truth of the ghost's story of Claudius's guilt.

FactSnippet No. 552,302

Hamlet is walking alone in the hall as the King and Polonius await Ophelia's entrance.

FactSnippet No. 552,303

When Ophelia enters and tries to return Hamlet's things, Hamlet accuses her of immodesty and cries "get thee to a nunnery", though it is unclear whether this, too, is a show of madness or genuine distress.

FactSnippet No. 552,304

Hamlet's reaction convinces Claudius that Hamlet is not mad for love.

FactSnippet No. 552,305

Hamlet, believing it is Claudius, stabs wildly, killing Polonius, but he pulls aside the curtain and sees his mistake.

FactSnippet No. 552,306

Claudius convinces Laertes that Hamlet is solely responsible, but a letter soon arrives indicating that Hamlet has returned to Denmark, foiling Claudius's plan.

FactSnippet No. 552,307

Horatio has received a letter from Hamlet, explaining that the prince escaped by negotiating with pirates who attempted to attack his England-bound ship, and the friends reunite offstage.

FactSnippet No. 552,308

Hamlet arrives with Horatio and banters with one of the gravediggers, who unearths the skull of a jester from Hamlet's childhood, Yorick.

FactSnippet No. 552,309

Laertes and Hamlet fight by Ophelia's graveside, but the brawl is broken up.

FactSnippet No. 552,310

Back at Elsinore, Hamlet explains to Horatio that he had discovered Claudius's letter with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's belongings and replaced it with a forged copy indicating that his former friends should be killed instead.

FactSnippet No. 552,311

Hamlet dies in Horatio's arms, proclaiming "the rest is silence".

FactSnippet No. 552,312

Possibly written by Thomas Kyd or even Shakespeare himself, the Ur-Hamlet would have existed by 1589, and would have incorporated a ghost.

FactSnippet No. 552,313

However, since no copy of the Ur-Hamlet has survived, it is impossible to compare its language and style with the known works of any of its putative authors.

FactSnippet No. 552,314

Conventional wisdom holds that Hamlet is too obviously connected to legend, and the name Hamnet was quite popular at the time.

FactSnippet No. 552,315

Hamlet is not among them, suggesting that it had not yet been written.

FactSnippet No. 552,316

None of the early texts of Hamlet, however, were arranged this way, and the play's division into acts and scenes derives from a 1676 quarto.

FactSnippet No. 552,317

Hamlet is presented with an image, and then interprets its deeper or darker meaning.

FactSnippet No. 552,318

The graveyard scene eases tension prior to the catastrophe, and, as Hamlet holds the skull, it is shown that Hamlet no longer fears damnation in the afterlife, and accepts that there is a "divinity that shapes our ends".

FactSnippet No. 552,319

Hamlet interrupts himself, vocalising either disgust or agreement with himself and embellishing his own words.

FactSnippet No. 552,320

Hamlet has difficulty expressing himself directly and instead blunts the thrust of his thought with wordplay.

FactSnippet No. 552,321

Hamlet is often perceived as a philosophical character, expounding ideas that are now described as relativist, existentialist, and sceptical.

FactSnippet No. 552,322

The clearest alleged instance of existentialism is in the "to be, or not to be" speech, where Hamlet is thought by some to use "being" to allude to life and action, and "not being" to death and inaction.

FactSnippet No. 552,323

Hamlet reflects the contemporary scepticism promoted by the French Renaissance humanist Michel de Montaigne.

FactSnippet No. 552,324

Hamlet's "What a piece of work is a man" seems to echo many of Montaigne's ideas, and many scholars have discussed whether Shakespeare drew directly from Montaigne or whether both men were simply reacting similarly to the spirit of the times.

FactSnippet No. 552,325

Sigmund Freud's thoughts regarding Hamlet were first published in his book The Interpretation of Dreams, as a footnote to a discussion of Sophocles' tragedy, Oedipus Rex, all of which is part of his consideration of the causes of neurosis.

FactSnippet No. 552,326

Productions of Hamlet have used Freud's ideas to support their own interpretations.

FactSnippet No. 552,327

Hamlet says that "in their amorous or hostile attitude toward their parents" neurotics reveal something that occurs with less intensity "in the minds of the majority of children".

FactSnippet No. 552,328

Hamlet is able to perform any kind of action except taking revenge on the man who murdered his father and has taken his father's place with his mother—Claudius has led Hamlet to realize the repressed desires of his own childhood.

FactSnippet No. 552,329

Freud points out that Hamlet is an exception in that psychopathic characters are usually ineffective in stage plays; they "become as useless for the stage as they are for life itself", because they do not inspire insight or empathy, unless the audience is familiar with the character's inner conflict.

FactSnippet No. 552,330

Hamlet had a "blunter intention" than presenting the genteel, sweet prince of 19th-century tradition, imbuing his character with virility and lust.

FactSnippet No. 552,331

Rothman suggests that "it was the other way around: Hamlet helped Freud understand, and perhaps even invent, psychoanalysis".

FactSnippet No. 552,332

In Lacan's analysis, Hamlet unconsciously assumes the role of phallus—the cause of his inaction—and is increasingly distanced from reality "by mourning, fantasy, narcissism and psychosis", which create holes in the real, imaginary, and symbolic aspects of his psyche.

FactSnippet No. 552,333

Carolyn Heilbrun's 1957 essay "The Character of Hamlet's Mother" defends Gertrude, arguing that the text never hints that Gertrude knew of Claudius poisoning King Hamlet.

FactSnippet No. 552,334

Hamlet is one of the most quoted works in the English language, and is often included on lists of the world's greatest literature.

FactSnippet No. 552,335

Hamlet is dethroned by the spectre of an actor, and we shall never be able to keep the usurper out of our dreams.

FactSnippet No. 552,336

Hamlet was the chief tragedian of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, with a capacious memory for lines and a wide emotional range.

FactSnippet No. 552,337

Judging by the number of reprints, Hamlet appears to have been Shakespeare's fourth most popular play during his lifetime—only Henry IV Part 1, Richard III and Pericles eclipsed it.

FactSnippet No. 552,338

Hamlet's performance was said to be 20 minutes longer than anyone else's, and his lengthy pauses provoked the suggestion by Richard Brinsley Sheridan that "music should be played between the words".

FactSnippet No. 552,339

In France, Charles Kemble initiated an enthusiasm for Shakespeare; and leading members of the Romantic movement such as Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas saw his 1827 Paris performance of Hamlet, particularly admiring the madness of Harriet Smithson's Ophelia.

FactSnippet No. 552,340

In Germany, Hamlet had become so assimilated by the mid-19th century that Ferdinand Freiligrath declared that "Germany is Hamlet".

FactSnippet No. 552,341

Tsubouchi Shoyo translated Hamlet and produced a performance in 1911 that blended Shingeki and Kabuki styles.

FactSnippet No. 552,342

In Poland, the number of productions of Hamlet has tended to increase at times of political unrest, since its political themes can be used to comment on a contemporary situation.

FactSnippet No. 552,343

In China, performances of Hamlet often have political significance: Gu Wuwei's 1916 The Usurper of State Power, an amalgam of Hamlet and Macbeth, was an attack on Yuan Shikai's attempt to overthrow the republic.

FactSnippet No. 552,344

In May 2009, Hamlet opened with Jude Law in the title role at the Donmar Warehouse West End season at Wyndham's Theatre.

FactSnippet No. 552,345

The Jude Law Hamlet then moved to Broadway, and ran for 12 weeks at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York.

FactSnippet No. 552,346

An early film version of Hamlet is Sarah Bernhardt's five-minute film of the fencing scene, which was produced in 1900.

FactSnippet No. 552,347

Laurence Olivier's 1948 moody black-and-white Hamlet won Best Picture and Best Actor Academy Awards, and is, as of 2020, the only Shakespeare film to have done so.

FactSnippet No. 552,348

Kenneth Branagh adapted, directed, and starred in a 1996 film version of Hamlet that contained material from the First Folio and the Second Quarto.

FactSnippet No. 552,349

In 2000, Michael Almereyda's Hamlet set the story in contemporary Manhattan, with Ethan Hawke playing Hamlet as a film student.

FactSnippet No. 552,350

David Davalos's Wittenberg is a "tragical-comical-historical" prequel to Hamlet that depicts the Danish prince as a student at Wittenberg University, where he is torn between the conflicting teachings of his mentors John Faustus and Martin Luther.

FactSnippet No. 552,351