• Want to help us with this year's BoS Trials?
    Let us know before 30 June. See this thread for details
  • Looking for HSC notes and resources?
    Check out our Notes & Resources page

Characterisation - Hamlet Essay (1 Viewer)


New Member
Feb 19, 2009
Hey guys,

anyone have suggestions on how a Hamlet characterisation essay should be structured? or what's most effective?

Hamlet is a pain in the arse. ><


Apr 28, 2010
Where I want to be
i just finished an assessment on hamlet about half an hour ago. it sucked. our question was to explore how hamlet's relationships with gertrude, claudius, his father and ophelia affected the outcome of the plot. which could help. sorry if it doesn't!


New Member
Sep 8, 2009
Features of Hamlets characterisation.

  • Manliness
  • Prorastination (to delay, to ponder, to consider)
-He is bound to act- his fathers ghost has charged him to.
-Political consequesnces- he cannot simply act (private v. public) he is a prince. Political situation is complicated and the state is not stable.
-Part of Hamlet suspects that if he acts he WILL die.
- He is constantly finding reasons not to- he is bound between action and inaction
- IMPORTANT MOMENT: When he finds Claudius praying but DOES NOT ACT.
- Laertes is a juxtaposition of him (his opposite). When Laertes is questioned how he revenge his fathers murder against Hamlet he immediatley says 'I will cut his throat in a church'.

  • His madness
- Is he really mad?- contrasted against Ophelias TRUE madness.

  • Uncertainty (the nature of the ghost, when to act, vengence, how to act, his mothers role, death)
- he is unsure of his mothers purity. Did she plot against his father?
-death- what happens? (refer to 'to be or not to be' soliloquie)
-IRONY 'I have done you wrong, my Lord' (to Claudius). For once, Hamlet is CERTAIN- letters to England are proof finally.
- he is always discovering legitimate reasons not to act- he wants to be certain. He canno act- he knows he will die.

So...there you go. Sorry for any typo's. Here are some notes I took in class that are the main elements of how Hamlet is characterised. It wa for an essay...that I never handed in (or completed) :p


New Member
Oct 9, 2012
• Hamlet was written in the 16th century by Shakespeare, at a time when characterisation was dramatically different to what it is today. In the 16th century not much detail was focused on ensuring characters remained consistent throughout the play. This is why Hamlet portrays so many different emotions and takes on so many roles during the duration of the play. It adds to theme of revenge tragedy as we see Hamlet go from a sad, depressed man, to faking mad, to dying.

• Characters are revealed through what they think of themselves and what others say about them. Hamlet reveals himself to the audience through soliloquies, asides, monologues and conversations he participates in with other people.
• Hamlet is constantly changing throughout the entire play. In Hamlet’s first soliloquy (act 1, scene 2) the audience is aware of the circumstances affecting his attitude, behaviour and mood. We are aware of his low, depressed feelings all due to his father, the Kings death, and his mother’s fast and un-thoughtful marriage towards Hamlets uncle, Claudius.
• His pity and angst of the world almost makes the spectator feel guilty, upset, like we want to help him. “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world”.
• The character Hamlet has been viewed as one of William Shakespeare’s greatest characterisations. Hamlet as an overwhelming effect on its audience due to the many human weaknesses it unfolds. The play makes its many audiences easy to relate to, due to the universal emotions it holds; indecisiveness, uncertainties, apparent madness and revenge. They are emotions that people try so hard to hide, but Shakespeare had made it easy to capture those through the revenge tragedy of Hamlet.
• Hamlets procrastination is seen as one of his greatest flaws as a character. He lacks to deliver action deliberately, only rushed into extreme measures when he is put on the spot. William Hazlitt (an English writer) views that “Hamlet is not a character marked by strength will or even of passion, but a character marked by refinement of thought and sentiment.”
• It is also Hamlets duty as a Prince to not act so faultily.
• He hesitates to kill Claudius, as he wants to be certain that he is guilty, so he wont go to hell killing an innocent man. His insistence upon finding visible guilt from Claudius delays his action of killing Claudius, which then delays the avenging of his father’s death. This procrastination allows Claudius to be suspicious of Hamlets actions of revenge. Claudius has Hamlet banished in a plot to have him killed.
• Hamlet finds Claudius praying at one stage, and chooses not to kill him during that opportunity as it wont benefit him.
• Although restraining to murder someone is seen as a honourable quality, something to reward Hamlet with, it is unfortunate that it is this flaw of procrastination that causes Hamlets death.
• This procrastination is further enhanced in the 1948 rendition of Hamlet when the title role is introduced by a voiceover saying, “This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.”
• Claudius views hamlet as a distraction, an interruption in his gaining of the thrown. He suspects that Hamlet is attempting to avenge his fathers death, which is why Claudius sends him to England.
• Laertes and Ophelia, like Hamlet, are children of murdered fathers. This connection helps create a link between the three that sends them passionately to their end. Laertes parallels Hamlets similarities as far as age, sex and vengeful functions. When Laertes is questioned how he will revenge his fathers murder against Hamlet, he says, “I will cut his throat in a church”.
• The soliloquies provide the audience with an insight into Hamlets philosophical thinking.
• They show the development of his mind over time
• Ophelia’s view of Hamlet as a person changes throughout the play. Before Hamlet creates the play ‘Mousetrap’, she has a romantic, emotional connection towards him. She is intrigued by him and interested in a physical and emotional way. Once he performs the play to the audience these admirations change. All she can see Hamlet at is mad, even though this madness is fake. This is shown when Ophelia exclaims “oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!”,(act 3, scene 1). She is disgusted at how moral his mind used to be, she was stimulated by him. She sees him as falling low, which then leads her to being miserable.
• This madness that Hamlet puts on in front of all characters contrasts against Ophelia’s true madness, one that was created by betrayal. Marked by a nostalgic state of depression, a detachment from reality, and a self-destructive drive. Ophelia shows all of these symptoms, although it is the change that we see in her that proves to be the most shocking. Ophelia is first presented in Act 1, scene 3 as a carefully sensible young woman. This is in high contrast against her re-appearance as a mad woman in Act 4, scene 5, song escaping her lips. Claudius exclaims that it is the “poison of deep grief”.
• All characters identify Hamlet as being mad, besides Horatio, his sincerest friend. Horatio is the very best friend a person could have. He usually goes along with Hamlet and only once does he directly question Hamlet's actions. Hamlet could stand to be a bit more like Horatio, but it Horatio who adores and looks up to Hamlet.
• Horatio is intelligent and thinks deeply about the ghost which is haunting Hamlet. Hamlet lets him in on his plot to pretend to be mad so that he can foil his uncle. Horatio sees Hamlet's difficulties in life but sticks by him. Even though hamlet takes his friend for granted, Horatio remains loyal to him. Horatio even offers to tell Hamlet's story so that it will be told with truth upon Hamlet's death.
• Gertrude is a shallow woman, thinking only about herself and her own needs. She is a very sexual woman and longs to be delighted. It is her sexuality that turns Hamlet so violently against her.
• Gertrude ignores Hamlets rude remarks of her, being selfish and greedy, as her only cares are being pleasured by her new husband. The ghost is outraged because while he gave Gertrude true love, all Claudius gives her is lust: “O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power so to seduce! – won to his shameful lust.”
• The transformation of Hamlet from a fully functioning intellectual and sophisticated Prince through to a decrepit and emotionally unstable individual through the process of human degradation, to me, is the purpose of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Concerned with the ramifications of man’s natural form and the potential pressures and impacts associated with this composition I believe that Shakespeare has developed his play to highlight the necessity of loyal support.

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)