Hamlet - Key Characters

HideShow resource information

Hamlet - Key Characters


He is introspective, thinking a lot about his actions 

He seeks the truth so he can be certain that what he does is the right thing, especially when carrying out the revenge wished for by the ghost of his dead father

He is indecisive and fails to decide what to do throughout, until the tragic ending

It seems he has a duty to perform, but does not know how to go about it. He is angry with himself for not being able to kill Claudius

He wants to do the right thing and does have ambition to be the next king

He wants to see Claudius damned and so does not kill him when he has the change, as he has just been praying to god

He has strong religious beliefs

1 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters

Hamlet (continued)

He would rather kill Claudius when he is doing something sinful, like sleeping with his mother in 'incestous sheets'

Many of the characters have opinions of Hamlet and he seems to try and be the characters they think he is, which is part of the play's theme of 'seeming' to be something that you are not

Who the real Hamlet is, is something that has been debated since the play was written. There is no difinitive answer

Ophelia is in love with Hamlet, but he sows little sign of affection to her

Hamlet is described as mad by many characters, but is the maddness real or just pretend? It seems from Hamlet's many soliloquies that he is of basically sound mind, but is confused. He pretends to be mad to help enchance his plans

2 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters


Her relationship with Hamlet is unusual 

She loves him, but he hates her because she has quickly married Claudius. Hamlet feels she should have more respect for her dead husband and should have mourned for him longer

She married Claudius because she loved him and wanted to be Queen

The role of women at this time was to be subservient and it would have been a lonely place for her if she wasn't Queen

It is speculated as to whether she was involved in the murder of her previous husband, although nothing is proved, Hamlet feels it could be the case

It is Gertrude's behaviour that destroys Hamlet's faith in the fidelity of women, which he later takes out of Ophelia

3 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters

Gertrude (continued)

She accidentally drinks the poisoned wine in Act 5, ironicallt killed by her husband's treachery

There are views that there is a strange, incestous relationship between Hamlet and his mother. There is a closeness about some of their meetings which may suggest this

4 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters


On the surface he seems to be a good King capable of dealing with the politic issues of war

He has clearly killed King Hamlet to get the throne for himself and gradually his guilt become more obvious to the audience

He covers up his true actions

He must love Gertrude to have married her

He spies on Hamlet and plans to murder him to cover up his own evil actions

He confesses his sins in the chapel so we are sure of his guilt

Claudius's plot to kill Hamlet fails as he died at the hands of his own poison

5 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters


Seen as foolish by Hamlet and seems to be a rambling old man, but he can be seen as evil and cunning

He is loyal to Claudius, acting out his spying plans for him

Father of Ophelia and Laertes

He spends a lot of the play talking at length on a number of issues

He can be made fun of and is seen as a comic figure by Hamlet

Killed whilst spying on Hamlet, he meets a suitable end for his treachery, although Hamlet thinks he is killing Claudius

He even asks Reynaldo to spy on his own son and to tempt him, showing his lack of trust; ironic for someone who is working for a traitor.

6 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters

Polonius (continued)

Reputation is important to him and he thinks Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia could damage it

Polonius' death causes Ophelia to go mad and makes Claudius worried he may die next

7 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters

The Ghost

The play opens in the middle of the night

The appearance of the ghost was relevant contextually to the audience then as it would be something that the vast majority believed in and would take seriously

To a modern audience this may be less convincing

The play's action comes as a result of what the ghost tells Hamlet and it has been argued that without the visit from he ghost, Hamlet would not have behaved in the way that he does, looking for a good moment to gain his revenge, for his father, on Claudius

The fact that others see the ghost means that it is not merely a figment of Hamlet's imagination, although at this point it is only Horatio and the others who see it, not Hamlet himself

When Hamlet sees the ghost later on, he is alone and this could throw into doubt all of what Hamlet claims he sees and hears although we, as an audience also hear what the ghost tells him

8 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters


Hamlet's friend

He acts as a sounding board for Hamlet

By actually seeing the ghost he proves it is not a figment of Hamlet's imagination

He is loyal, supportive and rational

9 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters


Son of Polonius

He kills Hamlet in the final scene

He is a loyal son and an honourable man

He returns from France to avenge his father's death and Claduius points the finger at Hamlet

Laertes is much more rash than Hamlet and acts quickly without thinking about consequences of his actions

He shows what can happen when you act quickly

10 of 11

Hamlet - Key Characters


Young and in love with Hamlet

She holds hope that Hamlet will show her some affection, but he never really does

She is loyal to her father

An innocent character, her madness is genuine, unlike Hamlet's pretence

11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all Hamlet resources »