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  • Writer's pictureMackenzie Elisa


Setting: 9th Century AD Denmark Tragedy My really abridged plot summary: How does one even begin to summarize one of the greatest pieces of literature of all time? Yikes. Hamlet is the young prince of Denmark whose father has recently passed away. His uncle, Claudius, has assumed the throne and has marries Hamlet's mother, Gertrude (#incest). Hamlet's father appears to him as a ghost and tells him how Claudius killed him. Hamlet swears vengeance, naturally, but his thoughtful nature leads him to delayed action and sends him into a spiral of melancholy/depression and apparent madness. Claudius and Gertrude employ Hamlet's friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to try to get to the bottom of Hamlet's erratic behavior. It is suspected that his madness is derived from his love for Ophelia. They set Ophelia up to talk to Hamlet and spy on them the whole time. Hamlet dismisses Ophelia very painfully. Hamlet then enlists a troupe of actors to perform a scene similar to that of recent events, hoping that it would get a reaction out of Claudius and prove his guilt, the plan works. Hamlet cannot work up the courage to kill Claudius while in prayer. He goes to confront his mother and stabs Polonius who is hiding behind a curtain and listening. Hamlet is ordered back to England and Claudius plans to have him killed. Ophelia drowns herself after going mad at the news of her father, Polonius', death. Her brother, Laertes, comes back to Denmark enraged and Claudius convinces him that it is all Hamlet's fault. When Claudius hears that Hamlet has come back to Denmark, he plans to have Laertes fence with him, but poison the blade. As a backup plan, he poisons some wine. At the match, Hamlet does not drink out of the poisoned goblet, but Gertrude does and she dies. Laertes cuts Hamlet with the blade, but he does not die immediately. Laertes also gets cut with his own blade and he dies after telling Hamlet Claudius has done. Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned blade and forces the poison down his throat. Claudius dies, and Hamlet follows shortly after, finally achieving his revenge. The Prince of Norway comes in and tells everyone that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Horatio, holding Hamlet's body, tells his story. It quite literally does not get any better than that.

My favorite quotes: We know what we are, but know not what we may be. ~Ophelia, IV.v To die, to sleep-

To sleep perchance to dream- ay, there's the rub,

For in this sleep of death what dreams may come ~Hamlet, III.i


I'm just going to begin by saying that I did in fact give this play a perfect score. Hamlet is my all time favorite play, and I think that it is quite literally one of the greatest plays ever written.

  • Overall Impression: 10- I mean this play is so famous. Everyone knows this story, regardless of if they've read it or not.

  • Use of Language: 10- This play is full of some of the most famous Shakespearean phrases and soliloquies. There are so many layers of poetry and symbolism in this text, I'm just going to cite "to be, or not to be".

  • Protagonist Arc: 10- This is self-explanatory. This is Shakespeare's best exploration of mental health, grief, and mortality. Hamlet is the largest part that Shakespeare wrote. We see his internal struggle more than any other Shakespearean protagonist.

  • Female Characters: 10- I might get some grief for this one, but I think Ophelia's emotional depth is so fascinating. While she isn't as "strong" as Rosalind or Beatrice, I think she possesses so much emotional complexity. There is more to her than just being a frightened damsel. I actually think there's an interesting dichotomy between her and Rosalind that I'll talk about when I eventually get to As You Like It. The events that Ophelia experiences and the situations she is forced into by the two people she trusts the most in her life, Hamlet and Polonius, are highly traumatic. She is living in this gray area between the Medieval belief that she is governed by her father and the Renaissance draw of romantic love, but she is forced to pick only one. She is so desperate to maintain this balance that it ultimately drives her to madness.

  • Fits Genre: 10- This is Shakespeare's quintessential tragedy. We have unnecessary and tragic loss, incest, madness, murder, and ghosts. We even have Polonius who serves as a comedic character amidst this storm cloud of melancholy.

  • Overall Enjoyment: 10- This is my favorite play like ever, so yes, I enjoyed this play very much. It is so well written and such a cornerstone for literature and drama today, that if you haven't read this play, you're missing out.

  • Hype Worthy: 10- I mean this is 100% in the top 3 of Shakespearean plays popularity-wise, but it is 100% deserving of the hype. It is so well-written and the story is epic.

  • Emotional Impact: 10- As an audience, we get more of an insight into Hamlet's head than we do any other Shakespearean character. We see every moment of Hamlet's emotional journey and how desperate he is for revenge. The final scene with Hamlet telling Horatio to tell his story is devastating. After struggling with suicidal ideation for practically the entire play, Hamlet tells Horatio to not take his own life and to tell his story, that is a powerful moment. We also see forgiveness exchanged between Hamlet and Laertes in their final moments, which serves as a major moment of catharsis for all of those left alive onstage.

Total: 80/80 Average: 10 *5 out of 5 stars*

I stand by my rating of this play. Hamlet has withstood the test of time like none other.

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Tom Jacobson
Tom Jacobson
Nov 08, 2021


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