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Doublin g

The practise of having one actor play two roles in a play; also used to refer to the many examples of unnecessary (and irritating) double characters, words, and repetitions in the play.

Shatteri ng/ gatherin g Madness as clarity Madness as dissolvin g differenc e.

Madness is often characterised by brokenness; Ophelia wants to gather up the fragments of Hamlet's mind and put them back together. "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!/ The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword"


The 'top' or best example of a member of the animal kingdom - e.g. the dolphin is the best fish.

Ophelia's flowers each represent the character she hands them to. This could be why Shakespeare doesn't bother to make it clear which character receives which flower. So her floral synechdoches are logical, not insane.

Oxymor on

A figure of speech by which two contradictory elements are used; 'I must be cruel only to be kind' 'To die, to dream'

Ophelia, in her madness, confuses the identities of the people she gives flowers to (she gives a herb for a lover to Laertes). In her song she confuses loss of a father with that of a lover. In her language the characters all seem to be interchangeable, or linked.

Apostrop he

A speech or sentence directed at something that is not present: 'O Heaven!' or Claudius when feeling guilty: 'Help, angels, make assay!'

Madness: Uncontrolle d proliferatio n of resemblanc es

Is the ghost really Hamlet's father? Or is it a part of Hamlet?

Madness was viewed, according to Foucault (The Order of Things), by the Elizabethans, as a constant chain of associations; one thing reminds you of another, obsessively and without end. See Ophelia's references to 'dead mens fingers' and the associations that come from those words.

Alchem y

The attempt to change base metal into gold. Used by the spiritual scholar Martin Lings to explain how Shakespeare's characters must suffer to be made divine - through suffering they become 'gold'

HAMLET: His beard was grizzled--no? HORATIO: It was, as I have seen it in his life, A sable silver'd. (To the ghost): I'll call thee Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane

Melancho ly

The condition of having too much black bile, considered in ancient and medieval medicine to cause gloominess and depression. However in Elizabethan times, this mood also has a kind of creativity to it. It's even a bit fashionable. Hamlet has become melancholy - he wasn't melancholy before: 'I have of late, lost all my mirth..' During the early 17th century, a curious cultural and literary cult of melancholia arose in England. It was believed that religious uncertainties caused by the English Reformation and a greater attention being paid to issues of sin, damnation, and salvation, led to this effect. Melancholia is painful but also sweet, especially in music or poetry. The term for a person with melancholia is 'malcontent', which also has association of political rebellion and disobedience.


This play seems to know, almost as if the play is a person itself, of the variety of ways it could be performed. Polonius introduces the players with words that show his awareness of different types of theatre, and the way theatre can be a hybrid of different styles: 'tragical, comical, historical'. Hamlet advises the actors on performance technique, as if he might be both a character, an actor, and even a director!

Man is part angel and part beast

Prayers. H says to O: 'Nymph, in thy orisons/Be all my sins remembered' - Claudius prays, mindful that he has sinned. Yet he also points out that he knows his prayer is empty. What does SH think about prayer?

Rejectin g father figures


'I am too much in the sun' - Hamlet to Claudius Hamlet is inexplicably unwilling to follow his father's instructions, and worries when he sees the ghost a second time that he has come to 'chide' his 'tardy son'. Hamlet discusses himself, and also his position in the cosmos as a human being. 'The graves breathe out contagion'

'How like an angel... The paragon of animals'

Inactivit y/activit y
The other characters are more worried about madness than Hamlet is

And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. Hamlet is aware that thinking about death can make something you do in life seem pointless. Horatio(worried about the effect of seeing the Ghost on Hamlet):
What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff That beetles o'er his base into the sea, And there assume some other horrible form, Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason And draw you into madness?

Evil Ghost?
'The ghost is the voice of Hamlet's own unconsciou s'

'Angels and ministers of grace, defend us' (against the ghost)

GHOST: The serpent that did sting thy father's life Now wears his crown. HAMLET: O my prophetic soul! My uncle!

Hamlet's vows to be a revenger are comical- he reaches for metaphors which seem too typical and too expected, as if he feels his role is out-of-date

O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else? And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart; And you, my sinews, grow not instant old, But bear me stiffly up.

CLAUDIUS: The harlot's cheek, beautied with

plastering art, Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it Than is my deed to my most painted word: O heavy burthen! That I, ... Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words, And fall a-cursing, like a very drab, A scullion!

Are Hamlet and Claudius the same?

Hamlet doesn't always believe what the ghost has told him which supports Freud's theory that Hamlet identifies with Claudius, and in a very strange way, quite likes him.

I'll have these players Play something like the murder of my father Before mine uncle: if he but blench, I know my course. The spirit that I have seen May be the devil...

Hamlet is worried that his melancholy might make him vulnerable to being manipulated. However there is also a sign that he may somehow know that he ghost is a part of his own mind.... Hamlet may be a male feminist?

The spirit that I have seen May be the devil: and the devil hath power To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits,


has given you one face, and you make yourselves another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nick-name God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance. why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?..... What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven?

He might be trying to be kind to Ophelia by telling her to get to a nunnery, we could view Hamlet's insults to her as an attempt to get her out of the manipulative environment he's in Perhaps he already forsees his own death. why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?.... I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me

Hamlet can be said to view women as less sinful than men

Hamlet can be said to view women as more sinful than men

Ordinan t

Controller. Whether heaven or hell is ordinant, whether good or evil prevails in this world, seems to hinge on Hamlet's identification of the Ghost. Yet that would not resolve the ambiguity; for if he takes the Ghost's word, the world is far more corrupt than he has previously imagined; but if the Ghost is false, then that corruption undermines the very foundations of the universe. Taking our ghostly witness at face value, we might recognize it as the soul of Hamlet the Elder, returning to earth on a special mission from purgatory, in accordance with the orthodox tenets of the Catholic faith. The Reformation, however, rejected the dogma of purgatory; and we

Hamlet couldn't kill the king because he was guilty

Hamlet does plenty of murdering sometimes with really distateful language to go with it: Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius ('I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room') There is also arguably a sense of evil being passed down by men to their sons CLAUDIUS 'that father lost, lost his' - as Hamlet says, neither 'man' nor 'woman' pleases him. So perhaps he sees such unpleasant things in his own character that he can't really see himself as all that different to Claudius.

associate Wittenberg with Protestantism. The ardent Protestant soon to be King of England had recently published a treatise arguing that ghosts were not souls of the dead but demons who tempted the living. Whether Hamlet was being led astray to eternal damnation or being enjoined to perform a sacred duty would thus be contingent on theological questions which were moot. Even more perplexing are the moral implications of the Ghost's command. It is based upon the lex talionis, the primitive law of the blood-feud, whereby the nearest of kin to a murdered person is bound to avenge him by slaying his murderer. This barbarous principle, which Hamlet seems ready to act on, runs counter to both the Catholic and Protestant religions. It is altogether incompatible with the teachings of Christianity. 'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord, in both the Old and New Testaments, 'I will repay.'