42 easy-to-read, written-to-inspire sample essays on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Inside you will find three 1,500-word essays on each of the following 14 characters, relationships and themes:
#1: The Character of Hamlet
Born a prince, parented by a jester, haunted by a ghost, destined to kill a king rather than become one, and remembered as the title character of a play he did not want to be in.
#2: The Character of Claudius
His “ambition" (3.3) for Denmark’s throne leads him to commit one murder only to find that he must plot a second to cover up the first. When this plan fails, his next scheme leads to his own death and that of the woman he loved.
#3: The Character of Gertrude
“Have you eyes?” (3.4), Prince Hamlet demands of his mother. Gertrude’s “o’erhasty marriage” (2.2) dooms her life and the lives of everyone around her when her wished-for, happily-ever-after fairy tale ends in a bloodbath.
#4: The Character of Ophelia
Ophelia’s sanity is overwhelmed by Elsinore’s maddening world of deception and betrayal. Her “self-slaughter” (1.2) is her revenge against everyone who dismissed, silenced and humiliated her.
#5: Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost
By surrendering Denmark to his rival’s son, Hamlet grants to the angry Ghost of his “dear father murdered” (2.2) the forgiveness his suffering soul needed more than the revenge he demanded.
#6: Relationship of Hamlet and Claudius
Claudius is haunted by the murder he has committed (“O heavy burden!”, 3.1). Hamlet by the one he hasn’t yet (“Am I a coward?”, 2.2). In the end, Hamlet by two means kills the kills the “arrant knave” (1.5) whose poison claimed the lives of both his parents and who had twice plotted to murder him.
#7: Relationship of Hamlet and Gertrude
A haunted-by-the-past (“Must I remember?”, 1.2) Hamlet seeks the truth about his father’s death. A live-in-the-present (“All that is I see”, 3.4) Gertrude seeks to protect her second husband and throne.
#8: Relationship of Hamlet and Ophelia
Their relationship begins in uncertainty, descends into mutual deceit and rejection, and ends with their double surrender to death: she, to the “weeping brook” (4.7); he, to Claudius’ “he shall not choose but fall” (4.7) rigged fencing duel.
#9: Relationship of Hamlet and Horatio
“Those friends thou hast ... Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel” (1.3). Horatio is Hamlet’s trusted confidant in life and vows to remain the keeper of his memory after the prince’s death.
#10: Relationship of Claudius and Gertrude
A marriage of mutual self-interest. Claudius wanted something (the kingship) he did not have; Gertrude had something (the status of queen) she wanted to hold onto.
#11: The Themes of Hamlet
A king murdered, an inheritance stolen, a family divided: Elsinore’s older generation destroys its younger when two brothers — one living, one undead — battle in a “cursed spite” (1.5) over a crown and queen.
#12: The Theme of Revenge
Two young men journey from revenge, through obsession and anger, to forgiveness. And the revenge sought in act one by the Ghost on his brother Claudius becomes in act five the revenge of old King Fortinbras on old King Hamlet.
#13: The Theme Deception and Appearance versus Reality
’Seems’ and ‘is’ are as tragically far apart as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are comically similar in a play-long triple pun on the verb ‘to act’: to take action, to behave deceitfully, and to perform in theater.
#14: The Theme of Madness
Is Hamlet ever really insane? If not, why is he pretending to be? Is the prince’s behavior the cause of Ophelia’s traumatic breakdown?
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