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ESSAY SAMPLES BELOW
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essay samples below.
Hamlet Sample Essays: Characters
King Claudius deceives everyone—except Prince Hamlet. Queen Gertrude deceives only herself. From Elsinore’s maddening world of deception and betrayal, Ophelia sees only one route of escape.
#1: The Character of Hamlet
Born a prince, parented by a jester, haunted by a ghost, destined to be killed for killing a king, and remembered as the title character of a play he did not want to be in. If at the cost of his life, Hamlet does in the end “win at the odds.”
#2: The Character of Claudius
His “ambition” for Denmark’s crown 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 the death of the woman he loves followed by his own.
#3: The Character of Gertrude
“Have you eyes?”, Prince Hamlet demands of his mother. Gertrude‘s “o’erhasty marriage” dooms her life and the lives of everyone around her when her wished-for, happy-ever-after fairytale ends in a bloodbath.
#4: The Character of Ophelia
As she struggles to respond to the self-serving purposes of others, Ophelia’s sanity collapses in Elsinore’s “unweeded garden” of falsity and betrayal. Her “self-slaughter” is her revenge for her silencing and humiliation.
Hamlet Sample Essays: Relationships
The “mirth in funeral” union of Claudius and Gertrude means another marriage can never happen. In the “unweeded garden” of Elsinore, the unwed couple of Hamlet and Ophelia are united only in death.
#5: Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost
Hamlet grants the Ghost the atonement his suffering soul needed more than the revenge he demanded: he surrenders Denmark to the son of the man murdered by his father on the day of the prince’s birth.
#6: Relationship of Hamlet and Claudius
Uncle and nephew are two men at war with each other—and themselves. Claudius is haunted by the murder he has committed (“O heavy burden!”); Hamlet by the one he hasn’t yet (“Am I a coward?”).
#7: Relationship of Hamlet and Gertrude
A haunted-by-the-past Hamlet seeks the truth about his father’s death (“Do you see nothing there?”). A live-in-the-present Gertrude seeks to protect her second husband and crown (“No, nothing but ourselves”).
#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: Ophelia, to the water; Hamlet, to Claudius’ rigged fencing duel.
#9: Relationship of Hamlet and Horatio
“Those friends thou hast … Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel.” 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 to become king; Gertrude wanted to remain queen. In the end, both die by the same poison her second husband used to murder her first.
Hamlet Sample Essays: Themes
In “purposes mistook” conflicts between revenge and justice, acceptance and action, and remembering and forgetting, all the characters’ “deep plots” rebound on their “inventors’ heads.”
#11: Main 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” over a crown and a queen.
#12: The Theme of Revenge
Hamlet and Laertes journey from revenge, through obsession and anger, to forgiveness. And the revenge sought by the Ghost on King Claudius becomes the revenge of Old King Fortinbras on Old King Hamlet.
#13: Deception and Appearance versus Reality
“Who’s there?” The characters struggle to distinguish between truth and falsehood 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
“Your noble son is mad”, Polonius tells Denmark’s king and queen. But is Hamlet ever really insane? If not, why is he pretending to be? And is the prince’s “antic disposition” the cause of Ophelia’s traumatic breakdown?
Write your best
Use these 42 model Hamlet essays as:
- Building blocks to help you organize and structure your own personal response to the characters, relationships and themes of Hamlet.
- Starting points for you to express, in your individual writing style, your own thoughts about Shakespeare’s most celebrated but also most challenging play.
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