Themes and Motifs in Hamlet (RSC)

Overview: themes and motifs

THEMES

  • Moral Corruption
  • Revenge
  • Appearance and reality
  • Mortality

MOTIFS 

(Recurring element and patterns of imagery)

  • Disease, rotting, decay
  • Actors and theatre
  • Ears and hearing
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Moral Corruption (pt. 1)

ACT 1, SCENE 2:

  • Claudius and Gertrude try to persuade Hamlet to lift his spirits
  • Alone on stage, Hamlet expresses his outrage at his mother's hasty marriage to his uncle

ACT 1, SCENE 5:

  • The ghost of Hamlet's father tells him how he was murdered by Claudius

ACT 3, SCENE 2: 

  • The Mousetrap play performance appears to reveal Claudius' guilt

ACT 3, SCENE 4:

  • Hamlet confronts his mother about her disloyalty
  • Hamlet accidentally murders Polonius
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Moral Corruption (pt.2)

ACT 4, SCENE 3

  • Claudius sends orders to England to put Hamlet to death

ACT 4, SCENE 5

  • Laertes, furious at the death of his father and sister's madness, swears vengeance

ACT 5. SCENE 2

  • Claudius' plotting results in death of most characters
  • Fortinbras will assume the throne of Denmark
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Revenge

ACT 1, SCENE 5

  • Hamlet promises his father to avenge his murder but laments the responsibility of it

ACT 2, SCENE 2

  • Hamlet berates his own passivity and contrasts it with the passion of the first actor for long dead, legendary figures

ACT 3, SCENE 3

  • Coming upon Claudius
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