This study guide will help you analyze William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. In addition to help with your analysis, you will also find a summary of the play as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.

Note: A text version of Hamlet can be found online as well as in various textbooks. While the numbers of acts and scenes are always the same, line numbers may vary depending on the edition.

Presentation of the text 

Title: Hamlet (1601/1602)

Playwright: William Shakespeare

Genre: Drama

Hamlet is one of the most famous works of literature. What makes the play so famous is not the revenge story it presents, but the unique character of the protagonist and the depth with which he reflects on human life.

The protagonist’s inner life is accurately portrayed against a backdrop of murderous intrigue, complicated love relationships, and a mystical ghostly apparition. Through the eyes of the prince, we are encouraged to reflect on central themes of human life, such as suicide and death, honor and duty, revenge and conscience, or love and betrayal.

It is therefore not surprising that Hamlet is constantly being remade in both theater and cinema even today. 

More help

In our topic guide about William Shakespeare, you can find more information on how to analyze a Shakespeare play, read about the historical context (the Elizabethan era), and learn more about Shakespeare texts in relation to your SRP or exam.

William Shakespeare

This topic guide gives you thorough knowledge about the famous English poet and playwright William Shakespeare. We give you a biography of him, explain the Elizabethan era, and offer a glossary of Shakespeare-related terms. We also explain how to analyze his plays, sonnets, dramatic devices, and language in general.

Here you can read an extract from our study guide:

In the final Hamlet soliloquy of Act 3, the stage has already been set for the catastrophe that is about to unfold: The audience now knows that Hamlet is ready to take cruel revenge. It is therefore significant that Hamlet's monologue in the fourth act is characterized by a relatively low intensity of feeling.

Here, Hamlet expresses general observations about human beings. “What is a man, If his chief good and market of his time Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more” (3.4.35-37). He transfers these gloomy thoughts to his own situation: "Rightly to be great Is not to stir without great argument, But greatly to find quarrel in a straw When honour's at the stake." (3.4.58). He is at odds with his own inactivity and no longer knows "why yet I live" (3.4.44).

Hamlet considers the army of Fortinbras as an example for the defenders of their honor. The soldiers are willing to put their lives on the line for honor. Hamlet resolves to restore the honor of his family, thinking of the example of the brave soldiers, and from now on to think only of violent revenge.

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  • 31-10-2022
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  • 15-06-2022
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