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Riley

Final Paper
Interpretation and Origin of Hamlet
Although I enjoyed reading many of the texts throughout the semester during this course,
my favorite reading was Hamlet. Only the first part of the book was assigned to read, but I was
very interested to hear about the end of the book. I decided that this would be a good opportunity
to read the rest of the book and use it for my final paper in the class. Not only did I get to finish
the book, I also learned much about the author William Shakespeare and the country of England.
I hope to make it clear of my understanding of the text, author, and country in this final paper.
Hamlet has not only taught me the importance of family and struggle with fate, but has also
given me a better understanding of whom and where the novel originated.
The text begins in Denmark where a ghost walks the embankments of Elsinore Castle.
The ghost is first discovered by some guards, then by Horatio. Horatio is a close friend and
former classmate of Hamlet. The ghost resembles the recently deceased King Hamlet, Hamlets
father. King Hamlets brother, Claudius has inherited the throne and married the kings widow,
Queen Gertrude. Gertrude is Hamlets mother. When Horatio and the guards bring Prince
Hamlet to see the ghost, it speaks to him. The ghost threateningly states that it is his fathers
spirit, and that he was murdered by Claudius. He orders Hamlet to seek revenge on the man who
seized his throne and married his wife, and then disappears.

Prince Hamlet decides to devote himself to revenging his fathers death. Hamlet seems to
be very thoughtful by nature and enters into a deep state of depression and madness. Claudius
and Gertrude worry about the princes unpredictable behavior and try to discover its cause. They
hire some of Hamlets friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to watch him. The Lord
Chamberlain, Polonius, proposes that Hamlet may be mad with love for his daughter, Ophelia.
Claudius decides to spy on Hamlet in conversation with the girl. However, Hamlet does not
seem to love Ophelia. He orders her to enter a nunnery and wishes to ban marriages.
A group of traveling actors come to the castle, and Hamlet grasps upon an idea to test his
uncles guilt. So, he figures he should have the actors perform a scene closely similar to the
order by which Hamlet imagines his uncle to have murdered his father. He does this so that if
Claudius is guilty, he will react in a strange way. When the scene of the murder arrives in the
theater, Claudius gets up and leaves the room. Hamlet and Horatio agree that this proves his
guilt. Hamlet goes to kill Claudius, but finds him praying. Since he believes that killing Claudius
while in prayer would send Claudiuss soul to heaven, Hamlet considers that it would be an
insufficient revenge and decides to wait. Claudius becomes frightened of Hamlets madness and
fears for his own safety, so he orders Hamlet be sent to England.
Hamlet goes to confront his mother where Polonius has hidden behind a drapery in her
room. Hearing a noise from behind the drapery, Hamlet believes the king is hiding there. He

draws his sword and stabs through the fabric, killing Polonius. Hamlet is immediately sent out to
England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for the crime. However, Claudiuss plan for Hamlet
includes more than banishment. He has given Rosencrantz and Guildenstern secret orders to the
King of England demanding that Hamlet is killed.
After her fathers death, Ophelia goes mad with anguish and drowns in the river.
Poloniuss son, Laertes, has been staying in France and returns to Denmark in a rage. Claudius
convinces him that Hamlet is guilty for his sister and fathers deaths. Horatio and the king
receive letters from Hamlet indicating that the prince has returned to Denmark because pirates
attacked his ship in route to England. Claudius decides to use Laertes desire for revenge to
ensure Hamlets death. Laertes will fence with Hamlet in an innocent activity, but Claudius will
poison Laertes blade. If Hamlet draws blood, he will die. As a backup plan, the king decides to
poison a cup that he will be given Hamlet to drink just in case Hamlet scores the first or second
hits of the match. Hamlet returns to the Elsinore just as Ophelias funeral is taking place. He
attacks Laertes in sorrow and proclaims that he did always love Ophelia. Back at the castle, a
courtier named Osric arrives on Claudiuss orders to arrange the fencing match between Hamlet
and Laertes.
The sword fight begins. Hamlet scores the first hit, but declines to drink from the kings
offered cup. Instead, Gertrude takes a drink from it and is quickly killed by the poison. Laertes is

successful in wounding Hamlet, but Hamlet does not die of the poison immediately. Laertes is
cut by his own blade. After revealing to Hamlet that Claudius is responsible for the queens
death, he stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and forces him to drink down the rest of the
poisoned wine. Claudius dies, and Hamlet dies immediately after achieving his revenge.
At this moment, the Norwegian prince named Fortinbras enters with representatives from
England, who reports that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Fortinbras is shocked by the
horrible sight of the entire royal family on the floor dead. He moves to take power of the
kingdom. Horatio satisfies Hamlets last request by telling Fortinbras the tragic story of his
friend. Fortinbras commands that Hamlet is carried away in a manner befitting a fallen soldier.
This novel presents a great example of fate and pride within families, and the author
William Shakespeare does a great job presenting the importance of chivalry between royal
families in England. William Shakespeare is known as the most popular playwright in England.
Shakespeare is the author of 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Written during the first part of the
seventeenth century, Hamlet was first performed in July 1602. It was first published in printed
form in 1603. Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and is among the most powerful and
influential tragedies in the English language. The play was one of Shakespeare's most popular
works during his lifetime and still ranks among his most-performed.
William Shakespeare produced most of his work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays
were mainly comedies and histories which were genres he raised to the top of cleverness and

originality by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608,
including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth. These tragedies were considered some of
the best works in the English language. In his last phase, he worked together with other
playwrights to write tragicomedies, also known as romances.
William Shakespeares career connected the reigns of Elizabeth I who ruled during 1558
to 1603, and James I who ruled from 1603 to 1625. He was a favorite by both of the rulers.
During this time in Denmark, Lutheran authorities treated Catholics very harshly. They feared
that they might undermine the king, government, or national church. I found this as a potential
connection and possibility of why Shakespeare wrote about the complications and actions that
Claudius took to overthrow his brother, King Hamlet. The desire to take these shameful actions
seemed nearly common in this day and age. I truly think this is how Shakespeare developed
some of his ideas for Hamlet. Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of
fifty-two. His works were collected and printed in various editions in the century following his
death.
I believe Hamlet is a great piece of work because it established a strong understanding of
the desire of power and the importance of royalty and family during this time. William
Shakespeare presents the lengths that an individual will go for not only sovereignty, but also for
their own family. The ruthlessness of the characters in Hamlet presents a generalization of
Denmarks inhabitants during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. After reading Hamlet, I

learned that during this time, family morals dictate fate. Shakespeares theme of revenge gives
the reader a strong impression this era. I am pleased to say I enjoyed reading Hamlet in depth, as
well as learning about the origin of the novel and its author.