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Compare Hamlet with Macbeth

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Author: William Shakespeare William Shakespeare
Brief Author Bio: William Shakespeare was born in 1564. His father was a glove-maker and assemblyman in Stratford-upon-Avon, and his mother was the daughter of a well-to-do landowner. At 18, Shakespeare wed a woman eight years his senior, Anne Hathaway; just six months… more Shakespeare's father was a glove-maker, and Shakespeare received no more than a grammar school education. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582, but left his family behind around 1590 and moved to London, where he became an actor and playwright. He… more
Historical Context: Hamlet is in many ways a product of the Reformation—a religious revolution in which Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church—as well as the skeptical humanism of the late Renaissance, which held that there were limits on human knowledge. Hamlet's… Hamlet has been staged and set in different eras of history, from the late Middle Ages to the confines of a modern-day psych ward. Truncated and full-text versions alike have been produced on stage and screen, and 20th and 21st-century casts and directors have launched interpretations of the text which examine Hamlet as an Oedipal figure, as an individual suffering from mental illness, and even as the illegitimate son of King Claudius.' href='#'>more When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, King James of Scotland became King of England. James almost immediately gave his patronage to Shakespeare's company, making them the King's Men. In many ways, Macbeth can be seen as a show of gratitude… Macbeth can be seen as a show of gratitude from Shakespeare to his new King and benefactor. For instance, King James actually traced his ancestry back to the real-life Banquo. Shakespeare's transformation of the Banquo in Holinshed's Chronicles who helped murder Duncan to the noble man in Macbeth who refused to help kill Duncan is therefore a kind of compliment given to King James' ancestor.' href='#'>more
When Written: Likely between 1599 and 1602 1606
Where Written: Stratford-upon-Avon or London, England England
When Published: First Quarto printed 1603; Second Quarto printed 1604; First Folio printed 1623 1623
Literary Period: Renaissance The Renaissance (1500 - 1660)
Genre: Tragic play; revenge play Tragic drama
Setting: Elsinore Castle, Denmark, during the late Middle Ages Scotland and, briefly, England during the eleventh century
Climax: After seeing Claudius’s emotional reaction to a play Hamlet has had staged in order to make Claudius face a fictionalized version of his own murder plot against the former king, Hamlet resolves to kill the Claudius without guilt. Some argue that the murder of Banquo is the play's climax, based on the logic that it is at this point that Macbeth reaches the height of his power and things begin to fall apart from there. However, it is… more
Plot Summary A ghost resembling the recently-deceased King of Denmark stalks the ramparts of Elsinore, Denmark’s royal castle, over the course of several nights, setting all the castle’s guardsmen on edge. The terrified sentinels Marcellus, Francisco, and Barnardo convince a skeptical nobleman, Horatio, to watch along with them one night. When Horatio sees the ghost, he decides they should tell prince Hamlet—his closest friend and the dead king's son. Hamlet is also the nephew of the present king,... Norwegians, aided by Scottish rebels, have invaded Scotland. The Scots successfully defend their country and their beloved king, Duncan. One Scotsman in particular, Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, distinguishes himself in fighting off the invaders. After the battle, Macbeth and his friend Banquo come upon the weird sisters, three witches who prophesy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and one day King. They further prophesy that Banquo's descendants will be kings. The men don't at first...
Major Characters: Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, The Ghost, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Laertes, Horatio, Fortinbras, Yorick Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Macduff, King Duncan, Malcolm, Weird Sisters
Minor Characters: Osric, First Player, Gravediggers, Marcellus, Barnardo, Francisco, Voltemand, Cornelius, Reynaldo, Captain Fleance, Lady Macduff, Young Macduff, Lennox, Ross, Angus, Donalbain, Murderers, Porter, Hecate, Gentlewoman, Siward, Young Siward, King Edward, Captain, Seyton, Old Man, English Doctor, Scottish Doctor
Related Literary Works: The story of Hamlet is based on a Danish revenge story first recorded by Saxo Grammaticus in the 1100s. In these stories, a Danish prince fakes madness in order to take revenge on his uncle, who had killed the prince's… Ur-Hamlet. Though the text has been lost, scholars believe Shakespeare was directly inspired by Kyd’s work. Tom Stoppard’s 1966 play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead reimagines the world of Hamlet with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—Hamlet’s doomed courtiers—as the main characters. Their own existential discussions, which take place “in between” the scenes of the original text (which are briefly interwoven throughout the play) rival Hamlet’s discursive monologues. Hailed as an absurdist tragicomedy, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is widely regarded as one of the greatest plays of the 20th century and has been adapted for radio and film, with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth leading the 1990 movie adaptation. ' href='#'>more Shakespeare's source for Macbeth was Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, though in writing Macbeth Shakespeare changed numerous details for dramatic and thematic reasons, and even for political reasons (see Related Historical Events). For instance, in Holinshed's… Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, though in writing Macbeth Shakespeare changed numerous details for dramatic and thematic reasons, and even for political reasons (see Related Historical Events). For instance, in Holinshed's version, Duncan was a weak and ineffectual King, and Banquo actually helped Macbeth commit the murder. Shakespeare's changes to the story emphasize Macbeth's fall from nobility to man ruled by ambition and destroyed by guilt.' href='#'>more
Extra Credit: The role of Hamlet is often considered one of the most challenging theatrical roles ever written, and has been widely interpreted on stage and screen by famous actors throughout history. Shakespeare is rumored to have originally written the role for… more There are some who believe Shakespeare wasn't educated enough to write the plays attributed to him. The most common anti-Shakespeare theory is that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays and used Shakespeare as a front man… more
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