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AP English: Literature and Composition Aly Shanon

Major Works Data Sheet

Biographical information about the author:

Title: Hamlet William Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest writer in
the English language and praised throughout the
Author: William Shakespeare world, was an English poet and playwright. He
lived from 1564 to 1616. At first, Shakespeare
Date of Publication: 1603 wrote mainly comedies, but towards the later years
of his life shifted to works of tragedy. His plays
Genre: Tragedy have been translated into every language and are
performed more often than those of any other
Historical information about the period of publication: playwright. In Europe he is regarded as the “Bard
Hamlet was published in the early seventeenth of Avon," national poet. He lived in Stratford-
century, London England. This period sparked upon-Avon with his wife and three children, where
a growth of population, an increase in trade he partly owned a playing company called the Lord
and commerce, more respect for merchants, Chamberlain's Men.
the wealthy upper class began building grand
Characteristics of the genre:
homes and males attended grammar school.
Francis Bacon enforced that people should not Shakespeare’s most admired tragedies were written
accept that a theory is true just because a in a between 1601 and 1608. In order for a work to
Greek philosopher stated it. He argued that be a tragedy, the protagonist must be an admirable
careful observation and experiment was but flawed character, with the audience able to
essential to finding out how the natural world understand nothing and sympathize with the
works. character. All of Shakespeare's tragic protagonists
are capable of both good and evil.
Plot summary:
Hamlet, the son of the late King Hamlet of Denmark, is the protagonist of the play and is dealing with
both inner and outer conflicts due to the recent death of his father. After King Hamlet's death, his brother,
Claudius, is given the crown and weds King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude (Queen of Denmark and Hamlet’s
mother). Hamlet fears that Claudius murdered his own brother to become king of Denmark, and feels betrayed
and agitated. Two officers, Marcellus and Barnardo, gather Hamlet's friend Horatio, and Hamlet to see the late
King Hamlet's ghost appear at midnight. Hamlet claims the ghost informs him that Claudius has murdered
King Hamlet by poisoning him. Hamlet is left feeling more anger than he already felt and plans revenge for
his father’s murder.
In planning his revenge, Hamlet appears to be acting like a mad man. Hamlet persuades an acting
company to reenact the King's death before Claudius, in the hopes of causing Claudius to mentally collapse
and admit to murdering the King. Though Claudius grows angry, he does not admit to the murder. Hamlet's
mother tries to reason with Hamlet after the play, while Polonius spies on them from behind a curtain. Hamlet
hears Polonius, thinking it is Claudius, and kills him through the curtain. Hamlet regrets the murder when he
finds out it was not Claudius. Claudius then sends Hamlet to England, accompanied by Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern. Claudius instructs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that the English kill Hamlet when they arrive
in England.
While traveling to England, Hamlet finds Claudius’s orders and changes them so that Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern are instructed to be killed. After this occurs, Hamlet is taken by pirates who return Hamlet to
Claudius for a ransom. Claudius, who has already planned Hamlet’s death, arranges a sword duel between
Laertes and Hamlet. Claudius plans to again use poison in murdering Hamlet. Hamlet switches swords with
Laertes, and cuts and poisons Laertes undermining Claudius’s plan and Hamlet’s mother dies also being
poisoned mistakenly. As Laertes dies, he admits of Claudius' evil. Hamlet stabs Claudius and begins to reflect
on the many deaths which have just occurred. Hamlet instructs Horatio to share the true story of King Hamlet's
death along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's deaths to the people. Fortinbras, the prince of Norway,
arrives from a conquest of England, and Hamlet's last dying wish is for Fortinbras to be crowned the new King
of Denmark, and Hamlet dies after achieving his revenge and sharing his wishes.
Major Works Data Sheet Page 2
Describe the author’s style: An example that demonstrates the style:
At first, Shakespeare's plays were written in the Hamlet in Act III, scene i (58–90) speaks the
conventional style of the day. As he continued to infamous “To be or not to be” soliloquy. This
write, he used a stylized language which powerful speech truly demonstrates
differentiated him from that of typical poetry. Shakespeare’s ability to adequately express
the complex workings of Hamlet’s mind. The
The poetry depends on extended, metaphors and
soliloquy is written in iambic pentameter, but
conceits, and the language is often rhetorical— each line has eleven syllables rather than ten,
written for actors to declaim rather than speak. and the last of which is unstressed. This is a
His characters are very well developed and great example of a Shakespearian style
speak lines which have grown to be famous and which conveys intensity and reveals much
genius. His style has adapted the name about characters, by using a common meter
“Shakespearian.” of poetry, and altering it to add his own style.
Memorable Quotes
Quote Significance

“Give thy thoughts no tongue, This speech is spoken by Polonius to Laertes

Nor any unproportion’d thought shortly before Laertes leaves for France. Polonius, who
his act. Be thou familiar, but by is saying farewell to Laertes, gives him this list of
no means vulgar” (I, iii). instructions about how to behave before he sends him
on his way. His fatherly advice is a list of typical
sayings of advice. Keep your thoughts to yourself; do
not act rashly; treat people with familiarity but not
excessively so; hold on to old friends and be slow to
trust new friends; avoid fighting but fight boldly if it is
unavoidable; be a good listener; accept criticism but do
not be judgmental; maintain a proper appearance; do not
borrow or lend money; and be true to yourself. This
long list of quite normal fatherly advice emphasizes the
regularity of Laertes’ family life compared to Hamlet’s,
as well as demonstrating the stereotypical father-son
“To be, or not to be: that is the Perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquy,
question” (III, i). this speech is Hamlet’s reflection of the moral
legitimacy of suicide in a world full of pain. Hamlet
reveals his inner conflict of whether or not to commit
suicide as a logical question: “To be, or not to be,” or in
other words, to live or not to live. Hamlet then continues
to weigh the positives and negatives of life and death.
Hamlet eventually concludes that the uncertainty of the
afterlife is what prevents all of humanity from
committing suicide to end the pain of life. The speech
shows Hamlet’s deeply passionate nature, as well as his
logical intellect to find a solution to his misery. He has
turned to religion and found it inadequate to help him
either kill himself or resolve to kill Claudius. Hamlet’s
logical philosophical realization leaves him frustrated
just the same.
Major Works Data Sheet Page 3
Name Role in the story Significance Adjectives
Feeling betrayed that his uncle Intellectual,
Hamlet Protagonist, tragic murdered his father. Hamlet philosophical,
hero becomes obsessed with proving emotionally driven,
his uncle’s guilt and then independent minded
seeking revenge.

Antagonist, villain, Contrasting most other Shrewd, lustful,

Claudius murderer, the important men in Hamlet, who ruthless
current King of are preoccupied with ideas of
Denmark. justice, revenge, and moral
Hamlet’s uncle. balance, Claudius is obsessed
with maintaining his own
power. His acts of murder and
marriage drive Hamlet to take
The Lord action against him.
Polonius Chamberlain of
Claudius’s court, Polonius feels that he must prove Elderly,
and father of to all that he is the King's best manipulative,
Laertes and servant. He fears being replaced dependent
Ophelia. when the crown is passed on.

Gertrude The Queen of Gertrude is a woman Dependent,

Denmark, the preoccupied by her desire for insecure, domestic
mother of Hamlet stability and affection. She is
and newly wedded known by her tendency to use
wife of Claudius. men to fulfill her instinct for
self preservation which
therefore makes her extremely
dependent upon the men in her
Horatio Hamlet's school Horatio is not a wealthy man, Loyal, honest, true
mate and best but honest fair, and loyal to
friend. Hamlet’s confidante.

Ophelia The daughter Dominated by her father, who Lover, sweet,

of Polonius, and lectures her while paying no oppressed
the sister of attention to what she tries to
Laertes. Hamlet's say, or how she feels, Ophelia
love, and is serves as Hamlet’s love
secretly engaged interest.
to Hamlet.
Laertes The son of Battles Hamlet with a poisoned superficial,
Polonius, and the sword to avenge the deaths of his energetic
brother of Ophelia. father and sister, for which he
blamed Hamlet, but is informed
that King Claudius had poisoned
the sword Laertes was using.
Major Works Data Sheet Page 4
Setting Significance of the opening scene

The play takes place in the late medieval period The opening scene reveals that the state of
in Elsinore, eastern Denmark. The main scenes Denmark is in a state of chaos and disorder
occur in the castle, a plain and a churchyard. due to the political tragedy of the death of
King Hamlet.

Significance of the ending/closing scene

Symbols The tension in the final scene of Hamlet
1.) Yorrick’s Skull: This symbolizes the way that arises from the different understanding that
death ultimately brings everyone to the same the two men have of the duel: Hamlet thinks
level so that kings rot the same way as beggars. it is a courtly contest, while Laertes is acting
All people start and end in the same place of revenge at any cost. It ends with death of
despite their places in society. all of the main characters, royal family, and
with Hamlet’s dying wish that Fortinbras
take the throne. The truth about Claudius’s
2.) Poison – Poison murders many characters intentions is revealed, and Hamlet finally
symbolizing that one can bring yourself down as comes to terms with his inner conflict in
a result of one’s wrong intentions. (karma) finally killing Claudius. Hamlet dies, but the
Poison is used by Claudius which shows that he crowning of Fortinbras represents that the
is too afraid to commit murder on his own, and state of Denmark is once again in good
needs to use poison in order to do so. hands.
Old AP Questions

Possible Themes

Revenge, suicide and death, the difficulty of knowing the truth in a painful world, the
supernatural, power of the mind.