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Characters and Analysis

Hamlet

The protagonist and the Prince of Denmark. Hamlet is the son of King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude. He is also the nephew of the new king, Claudius. Though charged by the ghost of his dead father to avenge his murder, Hamlet is caught up in his own intellectualizing and self-doubt to act on his duty. He is indecisive and questions his own motives and the fears the consequences of his actions. This leads him to be the cause of the deaths of several characters. He only takes his revenge after being moved to an inevitable duel with Laertes.

Claudius

Hamlet’s uncle and the new king of Denmark. He ascends the throne after marrying Hamlet’s mother and the wife of his dead brother. He is calculating and devious. He is interested only in power and takes any opportunity to take advantage of situations will advance his ambitions. He is behind the murder of King Hamlet, but Prince Hamlet lacks concrete proof of this fact.

Gertrude

Hamlet’s mother and the Queen of Denmark. She is a loving mother, but she seems to be primarily interested in her status as queen more than what may have befallen her late husband. She dotes on Prince Hamlet, but she is shallow and cannot understand his grief.

Polonius

The father of Laertes and Ophelia, he is the Lord Chamberlain of the court and therefore has distinction and power. He is something of a foolish old man. He is largely unaware of the full importance of the events surrounding Hamlet and the court. Motivated by the best of intentions, he nevertheless becomes a victim of Hamlet.

Ophelia

The daughter of Polonius and sister of Laertes, she is an innocent young girl who becomes entangled in the intrigues of the court. She is entirely dependent on her father and her brother. Upon the death of her father, she descends into madness, and, with the taunts and torments of Hamlet, she eventually commits suicide.

Laertes

The son of Polonius. Laertes returns to Denmark to avenge the murder of his father and death of his sister. He is a mirror of Hamlet in that he is a son charged with the duty of vengeance. Laertes, unlike Hamlet, is all action. He is quick-tempered and his impulsive nature leads to his own death.

Horatio

Hamlet’s closest friend. He is a schoolmate form their time at Wittenberg. He is the embodiment of loyalty. Horatio is the person with whom Hamlet exchanges his ideas and thoughts. He is the witness of events in the end of the play.

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