HAMLET

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HAMLET
PRINCE OF DENMARK
HISTORICAL CONTEXT & BACKGROUND
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
(1564-1616)
• Often regarded as the best English
playwright and poet in history.
• He was the leading shareholder and
principal playwright for the acting
company the “Chamberlain’s Men.”
• Hamlet as well as Othello and King Lear
were written for the Globe Theatre in
London; one of four Renaissance
theatres in the city.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT
 Hamlet is believed to be written by Shakespeare and performed
in theatres by 1603 after the English Reformation in the Elizabethan
(Golden) Age of England.
The Common Anatomy of an
Elizabethan Theatre. The best
known Elizabethan theatre is the
Globe which was built
and occupied by
Shakespeare’s acting company
The Chamberlain’s Men.
ENGLISH REFORMATION
 The Catholic King Henry VIII was married to Catherine of
Aragon but sought an annulment after they failed to produce a male
heir. The Pope refused to annul the marriage and as a result the
King separated all of England from the Roman Catholic Church.
 Immediately after Catherine’s death, Henry married Anne
Boleyn in 1533. She gave birth to Elizabeth who later on became
the Queen of England. Anne was beheaded by King Henry.
 Henry VIII is famous for causing political and religious unrest
due to his wish to annul his marriage. He is also infamous for
beheading all of his wives after they fail to give birth to boys.
ELIZABETHAN (GOLDEN) AGE
•
Over 1 million people lived in London.
•
Queens Elizabeth I reigned from 1558-1603.
•
Elizabeth put a rest to the religious turmoil left by her father
by the Elizabethan Religious Settlement in 1559.
•
English literature, poetry, theatre and music flourished. This
time period is known as the Golden Age of England.
•
Shakespeare’s plays represented a movement towards
breaking free of previous styles of theatre and entertainment
spurred by the Renaissance’s encouragement of new ideas
and thinking.
ELIZABETHAN (GOLDEN) AGE
CONT’D
 With the development of the English language as the accepted
vernacular in England, English became a symbol of the nation and the
Protestant national church.
 Mary Queen of the Scots was Elizabeth’s cousin and an important
figure of the Elizabethan era.
 The Spanish Armada which was a fleet that tried to overthrow
Queen Elizabeth was defeated by the English in 1588.
IMPORTANT EVENTS
1450: Printing
Press invented
1492: Columbus
1565: Conrad
Gesner invents the
pencil
1550: John Dee
discovers the New
World
publishes Elements
of Geometry in
English
1510: Henlein
1543: John Dee
invents the pocket
watch
creates a wooden
robot
1568: Bottled Beer
invented in London
1569: Map
projection is
invented
1582: Modern
Calendar created
IMPORTANT EVENTS
1593: Galileo
CONT’D
1600: Gilbert
invented
invents Water
thermometer
publishes treatise on
electricity &
Magnetism
1588: Spanish
1589: Knitting
1609: Galileo
1583: Telescope
Armada defeated
by the English
1591: Flush toilet
invented in
England.
Machine invented
1590: The
compound
microscope is
invented.
introduces telescope
into astronomy
THE STORY OF HAMLET
“The story of Hamlet in some form is at least seven hundred years
old. Hamlet appears first as Amlethus in the Historia Danica, written
by Saxo Grammaticus in the twlefth century. The original source of
the English play is a French story told in the Histoires tragiques of
Francois de Belleforest, published in Paris in 1576. The outline of
Belleforest’s story follows:
‘In pre-Christian times there was a Danish Prince called
Horvendile, who was married to Queen Geruth. Their son was
named Hamlet. Prince Horvendile was murdered by his brother
Fengon, who thereupon married Queen Geruth. In order to
escape from the tyranny of his uncle, Prince Hamlet pretended to
be mad. Fengon was suspicious and tried to get the truth by
sending a harlot to tempt Hamlet, but Hamlet was forewarned.
Fengon send one of his councilors to hide secretly behind the
arras in the Queen’s chamber so that he might overhear Hamlet’s
cnversation with his mother. Hamlet came into the chamber,
pretending in his madness to be a cock, and beating with his arms
upon the arras he felt the eavesdropper. He slew him with his
sword, cut the body in pieces, boiled them, and fed them to the
hogs.’”
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Abrams, M. H., eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W.
Norton Company Inc., 1968. Print.
Burton, Raffel. Introduction. Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. 1601. New Haven:
Yale UP, 2003. xv-xxxi. Print.
Harrison, G. B. , ed. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. New York: Harcourt, Brace
& World, Inc., 1968. Print.
Maxwell, Julie. “Counter-Reformation Versions of Saxo: A New Source For Hamlet?”
Renaissance Quarterly 57 (2004): 518-60 JSTOR. Web. 16 Feb. 2011
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