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Hamlet

Written: c. 1600; Texts: Quartos 1603 (Q1 bad quarto), 1604 or 1605 (Q2 variously dated), First Folio 1623 (Tragedy)
Source: Thomas Kyd (1558-94). Ur-Hamlet (c. 1589); Francois de Belleforest (1530-83). Histories Tragiques Book 5 (1570)
Characters: Hamlet, Claudius, Polonius, Horatio, Laertes, Gertrude, Ophelia, Ghost of Hamlet's Father; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Setting: Elsinor Castle, Denmark
Time: c. 9th Century

The soliloquy reaches a new level of importance within this play. In no other play by Shakespeare does the dramatic conflict become more central within a single character than it does in Hamlet himself. And so this part becomes an actor's great challenge – acting against himself, alone on stage. The part is made more difficult since literary critics don't agree on exactly what Hamlet's problem is. Is he struggling to bring himself to avenge his father's death out of fear or from genuine uncertainty about the veracity of what may or may not be his father's ghost? Is spectral evidence enough to commit murder or does he need corroboration? Is he procrastinating or searching for genuine proof of his uncle's purported crime?

What a Difference a Word Makes

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If Hamlet’s first words in the play, “A little more than kin and less than kind,” are an aside, as most editors indicate by prefacing the line with the stage direction, “aside,” then this line would be Hamlet’s first and shortest soliloquy. At the very least, it would be the first time any character in the play spoke directly to the audience,
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The Forms of Things Unknown

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For all the power of his poetry, volume of his vocabulary and sheer prolific output, Shakespeare seemed intent on telling us that we cannot know, truly know, what we most want to know, or even think we already know. We know this on several levels.

We’re frustrated enough that he left no correspondence, no diary, no memoir, no hand-written manuscripts.
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Video: To Be Or Not To Be

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David Tennant as Hamlet in a film of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s award-winning production of Shakespeare’s greatest play.
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Hamlet’s First Soliloguy

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This is Hamlet’s first extended soliloquy.
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Birds — Martial and Marital

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In Hamlet (1.1.432), a cock trumpets in the morn, a bird more fitting to the combative nature of Hamlet than the lark that heralds the morn after the first night of marital bliss in Romeo and Juliet (3.5.6).
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Hamlet’s Last Soliloquy

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Hamlet’s final soliloquy appears in earlier quarto versions of the play but is omitted from the First Folio. Scholars continue to debate reasons for this.
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Seasons, Elements and Humors

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The four seasons, the four elements and the four humors were all related. The four seasons spring, summer, autumn and winter paralleled the four humors blood/sanguine, yellow bile/choleric, phlegm/phlegmatic and black bile/melancholic, which in turn paralleled the four elements air, fire, water and earth. Good health and good disposition of character or personality were believed to be a matter of keeping one’s humors in proper balance.
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Who’s there?

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Barnardo
Who’s there?
Francisco
Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.
Barnardo
Long live the King!
Francisco
Barnardo?

Not a mouse stirring.

Barnardo
He.
Francisco
You come most carefully upon your hour.
Barnardo
’Tis now struck twelve.
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Act 1
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What, has this thing appeared again tonight?

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Horatio
What, has this thing appeared again tonight?
Barnardo
I have seen nothing.
Marcellus
Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy
And will not let belief take hold of him
Touching this dreaded sight twice seen of us.

Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
Of mine own eyes.
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In the most high and palmy state of Rome

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In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
As stars with trains of fire, and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star,
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands,
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.
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But soft, behold! Lo where it comes again!

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But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again!
I’ll cross it though it blast me. Stay, illusion!
It spreads his arms.

If thou art privy to thy country’s fate,
Which happily foreknowing may avoid,
O, speak!

If thou hast any sound or use of voice,
Speak to me.
If there be any good thing to be done
That may to thee Hendiadysdo ease and grace to me,

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It was about to speak when the cock crew

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Barnardo
It was about to speak when the cock crew.
Horatio
And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons.Simile
I have heard
The cock, that is the trumpet to the mornMetaphor,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day,
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Connected Notes:
Seasons, Elements and Humors, Birds — Martial and Marital

Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death

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Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
MetaphorThe memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief, and Personificationour whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
PersonificationYet so far hath discretion fought with nature
That we with wisest sorrow think on him
Together with remembrance of ourselves.

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And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?

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King Claudius
And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?
You told us of some suit. What is ’t, Laertes?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane
And lose your voice. What wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?

The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
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But now, my cousin Hamlet and my son

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King
But now, my cousin Hamlet and my son—
Hamlet, aside
A little more than kin and less than kind.Paronomasia
King
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Hamlet
Not so, my lord; I am too much in the sun.

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O that this too too solid flesh would melt

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O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!Epizeuxis & Metaphor

Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!Metonymy
O God, God,
How Synonymiaweary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!

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Thrift, thrift, Horatio

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Hamlet 
Thrift, thrift, Horatio.Epizeuxis The funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.Alliteration
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
My father—methinks I see my father.

He was a man. Take him for all in all,
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