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Video:Shakespeare: Hamlet Themes

with Becky Beth Benedict

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies and has many important themes. Watch this About.com video to learn more about the themes in Hamlet.See Transcript

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Transcript:Shakespeare: Hamlet Themes

Hi! I'm Becky Beth Benedict and I'm here for About.com. Today, we're going to talk about themes in Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

Overview of Hamlet

Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet tells the story of a son grabbling with his father's death and various consequences that follow in his family and in the kingdom. There are many rich themes in this play, some of the major ones explored are madness and action versus inaction.

Madness in Hamlet

One obvious place where madness rears its head is in the character of Ophelia, Hamlet's estranged girlfriend. After being rebuked by him she sings and hands flowers out to members of the court before she drowns in a blossom-strewn steam either by accident, by her own devices. Hamlet also tangles with madness himself. Following an encounter with his father's ghost, Hamlet instructs his friends not to worry if he exhibits strange behavior, as he likely feigns some form of madness as he sifts through the facts and determines the guilty. As the play continues it can be argued that madness takes control of Hamlet rather than the reverse, as he switches his own death orders to order the death of his friends, discovers that Ophelia whom he did love is now dead, and he becomes consumed with revenge.

Action Versus Inaction in Hamlet

The character Hamlet is often considered a brooding character, spending much time in deep thought and delivering soliloquies. The most famous being his "To be, or not to be -- that is the question" in which he carefully weighs heavy issues on his mind. These elongated moments of reflection are times of inaction. In fact at the end of that speech he uses the phrase, "And lose the name of action." Hamlet's passive and thoughtful is attitude is peppered with events of extreme and violent action. These spurts of actions include casting away Ophelia, orchestrating the players' performance, stabbing Polonius, finally killing Laertes and Claudius in the final scene of his revenge.

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