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  • Hamlet

    Hamlet is the son of Old Hamlet, who has recently died and he has come back to Denmark to mourn his father’s death. His uncle Claudius has married his mother, Gertrude, and is now king. Hamlet’s father appears to him as a ghost and urges him to avenge his death.

    Facts we learn about Hamlet at the start of the play:

    • He is a young Danish prince.
    • His father has died suddenly.
    • His mother married his uncle very quickly after his father’s death.
    • He has a girlfriend called Ophelia.

    Things they say:

    'I have that within me which passes show/ these but the trappings and the suits of woe' (Hamlet, 1:2)

    Hamlet believes he is the only one really upset by his Father’s death.

    'Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me!/ You would play upon me! You would seem to know my stops…/ Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?' (Hamlet, 3:2)

    Hamlet realises he is being manipulated and lied to and sees through others’ schemes.

    Things others say about them:

    'He knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger. He is far gone, far gone' (Polonius, 2:2)

    Hamlet speaks strangely and confuses people, making them think he is mad.

    'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet/ To give these mourning duties to your Father/ …But to persever in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubborness, ‘tis unmanly grief' (Claudius, 1:2)

    Hamlet is really upset about his Father’s death and Claudius tells him it is ‘unmanly’.

    'Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!/ The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword/ Th’expectancy and rose of the fair state,/ The glass of fashion and the mould of form/ Th’observed of all observers, quite, quite down!' (Ophelia, 3:1)

    Hamlet used to have the grace of a gentleman, the wit of a scholar and a soldier’s strength.

  • Ophelia

    Ophelia is Polonius’ daughter and Laertes’ sister. Hamlet has been in love with her for a while before the play starts and has given her several gifts during their courtship until her father warns her away from him and tells her not to see him anymore. During the play, he treats her very badly. When she loses her father, her mental health suffers and she tragically drowns herself.

    Facts we learn about Ophelia at the start of the play:

    • She is Polonius’ daughter.
    • Laertes is her brother.
    • Hamlet has sent her gifts and visited her and there is a history between them.

    Things they say:

    'And I, of ladies most deject and wretched / That sucked the honey of his music vows /…O, woe is me / T’have seen what I have seen, see what I see!' (Ophelia, 3:1)

    Ophelia believed the sweet promises Hamlet made to her and is devastated to see him change during the play.

    Things others say about them:

    'I must tell you / You do not understand yourself so clearly / As it behoves my daughter and your honour' (Polonius, 1:3)

    Ophelia has spent a lot of time with Hamlet but her Father thinks she should behave with more honour.

    'I have heard of your paintings too, well enough / God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another / You jig and amble, and you lisp…and make your Wantoness your ignorance' (Hamlet, 3:1)

    Hamlet is deliberately cruel to Ophelia when he accuses her of wearing too much make up and enticing men.

    'Fear it, Ophelia, fear it my dear sister, / And keep you in the rear of your affection' (Laertes, 1:3)

    Ophelia trusts Hamlet.

  • Claudius

    Claudius is the brother of Old Hamlet and Hamlet's uncle. After his brother’s death, he married Gertrude and became the King of Denmark and criticises Hamlet for being too upset over the death of his father. Claudius confesses that he murdered his own brother in order to get the crown and marry his wife. He plots to have Hamlet killed and then poisons Gertrude accidentally. He is murdered by Hamlet before he dies.

    Facts we learn about Claudius at the start of the play:

    • He has been newly crowned as King of Denmark.
    • He married his brother’s wife only months after Old Hamlet died.
    • He thinks Hamlet should be less upset about his father’s death and wants Hamlet to see him as family.

    Things they say:

    ‘I am still possessed / Of those affects for which I did the murder, / My crown, mine own ambition and my Queen.’ (Claudius, 3:3)

    Claudius is ambitious.

    ‘think of us / As of a father’ (Claudius, 1:2)

    Claudius wants Hamlet to see him as a father.

    ‘Try what repentance can – what can it not? – yet what it can, when one cannot repent?’ (Claudius, 3:1)

    Claudius does not feel guilty enough for murdering his brother to repent.

    'young Fortinbras, / Holding a weak supposal of our worth / Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death / Our state to be disjoint and out of frame –’ (Claudius, 1:2)

    Claudius wants to prove himself as king, trying to deal with Fortinbras and prove the state is not weak.

    Things others say about them:

    ‘Thus was I sleeping by a brother’s hand / Of life, of crown, of queen at one dispatched.’ (Old Hamlet, 1:5)

    Claudius murdered his brother, something he later admits to himself when talking to God.

  • Gertrude

    Gertrude is the Queen of Denmark and is the mother of Hamlet. Within two months of her husband dying she married Claudius. Hamlet does not like this new marriage and criticises her choice to remarry. She worries for him when he starts to behave strangely after Old Hamlet's death. She dies when she drinks poison meant for her son.

    Facts we learn about Gertrude at the start of the play:

    • She is Queen of Denmark and Hamlet’s mother.
    • She used to be married to Old Hamlet.
    • Less than a month after her husband’s death, she married his brother, Claudius.

    Things others say about them:

    'My most seeming-virtuous queen / O Hamlet, what a falling off was there / From me, whose love was of that dignity / That it went hand in hand even with the vow / I made to her in marriage; and to decline / Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor to those of mine!' (Old Hamlet, 1:5)

    Gertrude was a virtuous and good queen but the ghost of her dead husband criticises her choice to remarry Claudius.

    ‘Frailty, thy name is Woman’ (Hamlet, 1:2)

    Gertrude is seen as fickle by her son, who thinks she is weak.

    'Beauteous majesty of Denmark' (Ophelia, 4:5)

    Gertrude is a beautiful Queen, according to Ophelia.

  • Old Hamlet

    Old Hamlet is dead before the play begins and appears as a ghost in the play. He was the King of Denmark and Gertrude’s husband. They had a son together called Hamlet. Old Hamlet appears to his son as a ghost and informs him that he’s been murdered by his brother, Claudius. He asks Hamlet to avenge his murder.

    Facts we learn about Old Hamlet at the start of the play:

    • He was the King of Denmark and has recently died.
    • He was married to Gertrude.
    • As a ghost, he tells Hamlet he was murdered by his brother Claudius, who has since become king.

    Things they say:

    'I am thy Father’s Spirit / Doomed for a certain term to walk the night / And for the day confined to fast in fires / Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature / Are burnt and purged away' (Old Hamlet, 1:5)

    Old Hamlet is in limbo until his murder is avenged, walking during the night and burning in fires during the day.

    Things others say about them:

    'So excellent a King, that was to this / Hyperion to a Satyr; so loving to my Mother' (Hamlet, 1:2)

    Old Hamlet was a good king and loved Gertrude. Hamlet compares him to Claudius saying he was a far superior king.

    'I saw him once. He was a goodly King' (Horatio, 1:2)

    Old Hamlet was a respected monarch.

    'Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned…thou comest in such a questionable shape that I will speak to thee' (Hamlet, 1:4)

    Old Hamlet appears as a ghost and Hamlet is not sure whether to trust him at first.

  • Polonius

    Polonius is the Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’ court. He is also the father of Ophelia and Laertes. He spies on both his children and Hamlet. Polonius also misjudges many situations throughout the play and is eventually killed by Hamlet while hiding behind an arras, or screen.

    Facts we learn about Polonius at the start of the play:

    • He is the Lord Chamberlain with an official place in the court.
    • He does not like Ophelia seeing Hamlet and has told her not to see him.
    • He gives his consent for his son to study in Paris.

    Things they say:

    'I hold my duty as I hold my soul / Both to my God and to my gracious King' (Polonius, 2:2)

    Polonius believes his main duties are to serve God and King Claudius.

    Things others say about them:

    'These tedious old fools' (Hamlet, 2:2)

    Polonius is of the older generation and is seen as boring by Hamlet.

    'They say an old man is twice a child' (Rosencrantz, 2:2)

    Polonius behaves like an old man and it makes him more silly than a child.

    'I loved your Father' (Claudius, 4:7)

    Polonius was a close ally and friend of Claudius.

  • Laertes

    Laertes is Polonius’ son and Ophelia’s brother. Laertes acts as a caring and concerned brother when he warns Ophelia to be careful with Hamlet. He leaves Denmark to study in Paris and only comes back when his father is killed. Laertes is devastated when his sister also then kills herself and challenges Hamlet to a duel to get revenge. He dies while fighting Hamlet.

    Facts we learn about Laertes at the start of the play:

    • He is Polonius’ son and Ophelia’s brother.
    • He is leaving to study in Paris but his father doesn’t trust him.
    • He thinks his sister should be careful of Hamlet.

    Things they say:

    ‘Perhaps he loves you now, / And now no soil or cautel doth besmirch / The virtue of his will; but you must fear, / His greatness weighed. His will is not his own.’ (Laertes, 1:3)

    Laertes does not trust Hamlet and cares about Ophelia being hurt.

    ‘...willingly I came to Denmark / To show my duty in your coronation’ (Laertes, 1:2)

    Laertes is dutiful and came back to Denmark for Claudius’ coronation.

    Things others say about them:

    ‘They cry ‘Choose we: Laertes shall be king!’ - / Caps, hands and tongue, applaud it to the clouds’ (Messenger, 4:5)

    Laertes is loved by the people and is a rival for the crown.

    ‘What is the cause, Laertes, / That thou rebellion looks so giant-like?’ (Claudius, 4:5)

    Laertes is a potential threat to Claudius and can have a quick temper.

  • Horatio

    Horatio is Hamlet's closest friend and studied with him at university in Wittenberg. Horatio remains loyal to Hamlet throughout the play and is trusted by Hamlet until the end. He is one of the only characters who survive in the play and he tells Hamlet’s story to Prince Fortinbras in the final scene.

    Facts we learn about Horatio at the start of the play:

    • He is Hamlet’s closest friend.
    • He studied with Hamlet at the University of Wittenberg.
    • He is one of the first characters to witness the ghost of Old Hamlet and does not believe it is real at first.

    Things they say:

    'I am more an antique Roman than a Dane' (Horatio, 5:2)

    Horatio is fiercely loyal to Hamlet and tries to take poison himself when Hamlet is dying, preferring to die by his side like a loyal Roman than a Dane like Claudius or Gertrude.

    Things others say about them:

    'Sir, my good friend' (Hamlet, 1:2)

    Horatio is Hamlet’s closest friend.

    'You are friends, scholars, soldiers' (Hamlet, 1:5)

    Horatio is an intellectual with an education and experience as a soldier in Denmark.

    'He that thou knowest thine' (Hamlet, 4:6)

    Horatio knows Hamlet better than anyone else in the play and is trusted by him.

  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two old friends of Hamlet's. They are invited by Claudius and Gertrude to find out what is wrong with Hamlet and what is causing his ‘madness’. Hamlet realises their intentions and eventually confronts them, before arranging their deaths.

    Facts we learn about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at the start of the play:

    • They are old friends of Hamlet.
    • They are courtiers and want to help Claudius and Gertrude.
    • They are summoned by Claudius to investigate why Hamlet is behaving so strangely.

    Things they say:

    When Hamlet first sees them, Hamlet asks how they are. Guildenstern replies, 'Happy in that we are not over-happy/ On fortune’s cap we are not the very button' (Guildenstern, 2:2)

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern claim to be content, rather than having extreme emotions like Hamlet.

    Things others say about them:

    'My excellent good friends' (Hamlet, 2:2)

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been good friends with Hamlet since childhood.

    Hamlet describes them as 'Sponges' that 'soaks up the King’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities' (Hamlet, 4:2)

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern will do whatever Claudius and Gertrude ask in order to try and get favour.

  • Fortinbras

    Fortinbras is the young Prince of Norway. His father was killed by Old Hamlet when he was King of Denmark. He wishes to avenge his father’s death by conquering Denmark and winning back Norway’s lands.

    Facts we learn about Fortinbras at the start of the play:

    • He is a young prince.
    • His father was killed by Hamlet’s father, Old Hamlet.
    • He has an army at his disposal.
    • He wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s death.

    Things they say:

    'For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune/I have some rights of memory in this Kingdom/ Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me' (Fortinbras, 5:2)

    Fortinbras is opportunistic, realising that all the possible heirs to the throne are gone and he is free to seize Denmark.

    Things others say about them:

    'Young Fortinbras/ Holding a weak supposal of our worth/ or thinking by our late dear brother’s death/ Our state to be disjoint and out of frame' (Claudius, 1:2)

    Fortinbras believes the State of Denmark is vulnerable because it has just lost its King.

    'Witness this army of such mass and charge / Led by a delicate and tender Prince / Whose spirit, with divine ambition puffed / Makes mouths at the invisible event / Exposing what is mortal and unsure / To all that fortune, death, and danger dare / Even for an eggshell' (Hamlet, 4:4)

    Fortinbras is ambitious and leads a huge army.

Explore their relationships

Hamlet

  • Hamlet - Claudius

    Claudius tries to comfort Hamlet over the death of his father by saying he doesn't just see him as a family relation but like a son. Hamlet admits that Claudius is now more than a family relation but he does not like him or his actions.

    ‘A little more than Kin and less than kind!’ (Hamlet, 1:2)

    Hamlet doesn’t like the fact that Claudius has married his mother only weeks after his father died. Claudius also tells Hamlet not to grieve for his father so much.

    ‘To persever/ In obstinate condolement is a course/ Of impious stubbornness. 'Tis unmanly grief’ (Claudius, 1:2)

    Towards the end of Act 1, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to him and tells him that Claudius murdered him. Hamlet is shocked and angry. His disgust towards his uncle remains constant throughout the play and drives him to seek revenge by killing him in the final scene.

    ‘O my prophetic soul!/ My uncle?’ (Hamlet, 1:5)

    When Hamlet meets the ghost of his father, the ghost declares that Claudius murdered him. It could be argued that Hamlet may be suspicious of believing a ghost but his desire for this to be true seems apparent when he says

    ‘O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!” (Hamlet, 1:5)

    The wheels are set in motion for Hamlet to avenge his Father’s murder.

    Having observed an actor deliver a monologue with true emotion, Hamlet berates himself for not being able to express his hurt and desire for revenge. He’s merely thought about revenge but not acted upon it. He steels himself and arranges for the players to perform a play about murder that shall provoke a reaction from the king and so prove that the ghost of his father was telling the truth.

    ‘The Play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King’ (Hamlet, 2:2)

    When Claudius storms out of the performance of 'The Death of Gonzago', Hamlet is finally convinced that the ghost was correct. Claudius murdered his father. When the prince goes to find Claudius, he observes him praying and Hamlet refuses to murder him while he’s praying.

    ‘O, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven/ It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t/ A brother’s murder’ (Claudius, 3.3)

    At the end of his fight with Laertes, Laertes tells Hamlet that Claudius had set up the duel so that the young prince would be murdered. Hamlet’s thirst for revenge is total and he stabs Claudius and forces him to drink poison.

    ‘Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane. Drink off this potion’ (Hamlet, 5.2)

  • Hamlet - Gertrude

    At the beginning of the play, Hamlet is angry at his mother for marrying his uncle and for doing so too quickly after his father’s death. She doesn’t seem to understand why he is so upset.

    ‘She married. O, most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!’ (Hamlet, 1:2)

    Before the players begin their performance in Act 3, Hamlet observes how happy Gertrude has been since his father died. At this point he has seen the ghost and believes his father was murdered.

    ‘Look how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within’s two hours’ (Hamlet, 3.2)

    Later in Act 3, Hamlet and Gertrude exchange heated words as Hamlet is now certain that Claudius murdered his father. In the chaos of the argument, Hamlet kills Polonius. Gertrude is greatly distressed by Hamlet’s treatment of her and scared when she sees him talk to a ghost she claims she can’t see.

    ‘What have I done that thou darest wag thy tongue/ In noise so rude against me?’ (Gertrude, 3:4)

    By the end of Scene 4 in Act 3, Gertrude shows some remorse. Hamlet believes he’s trying to help Gertrude and says he needed to deliver some home truths to her on behalf of God as well as himself, but he seems to still care for his mother.

    ‘I’ll blessing beg of you. For this same Lord/ I do repent. But heaven hath pleased it so/ To punish me with this, and this with me…/ I must be cruel only to be kind’ (Hamlet, 3:4)

    Before Hamlet dies in the final scene, Gertrude tries to mop Hamlet’s brow as she can see he is suffering in the duel with Laertes. She wants to see her son succeed but is poisoned, which angers Hamlet even further.

    ‘He’s fat and scant of breath / Here, Hamlet, take my napkin. Rub thy brows / The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet’ (Gertrude, 5:2)

  • Hamlet - Old Hamlet

    It’s hard to know the strength of Hamlet’s relationship with his father before he died. However, at the beginning of the play, his grief appears total. This would indicate that he loved Old Hamlet dearly.

    When the ghost of Old Hamlet appears to Hamlet, he asks his son to exact revenge on Claudius for murdering him. This conversation acts as a catalyst for the rest of the play’s action. If Hamlet’s relationship with his father wasn't so strong, he may not have followed his father’s instructions.

    ‘I am thy father’s spirit’ (Old Hamlet, 1:5)

  • Hamlet - Laertes

    Laertes is troubled that Hamlet has been trying to seduce his sister. He says that men like Hamlet don’t take love seriously and move from one victim to the next because they have power.

    ‘For Hamlet, and the trifling of his Favour/ Hold it a fashion And a toy in blood/…Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting/ The perfume and suppliants of a minute/ no more' (Laertes, 1:3)

    Laertes returns from Paris looking for revenge for the death of his father. When he gets back he also sees Ophelia, who has gone mad. He finds out that Hamlet is responsible for both these things and wants to kill Hamlet.

    ‘And so have I a noble father lost / a sister driven into desperate terms…But my revenge will come’ (Laertes, 4:7)

    Laertes and Hamlet face each other for the first time when Hamlet interrupts Laertes at his sister Ophelia’s grave. The two men fight until they are separated after arguing about who loves Ophelia more.

    ‘I print he take thy fingers from my throat/ For, though I am not splenetic and rash/ Yet have I in me something dangerous/ Which let thy wisdom fear. Hold off thy hand’ (Hamlet, 5:1)

    When both men are poisoned during a duel, Laertes confesses that Claudius was the one who set everything up and both of them seek forgiveness from each other as they die.

    ‘Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet/ Mine and my Father’s death come not upon thee/ Nor thine on me!' (Laertes, 5:2)

  • Hamlet - Ophelia

  • Hamlet - Horatio

  • Hamlet - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Ophelia

  • Ophelia - Laertes

    In Act 1 Scene 3, Laertes advises his sister not to be seduced by Hamlet. He doesn’t want her to get hurt and warns her not to fall for Hamlet.

    ‘Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister’ (Laertes, 1:3)

    When Ophelia loses her mind in Act 4 after her father’s death and her mistreatment at the hands of Hamlet, Laertes is heartbroken and his love for her is really clear.

    ‘O rose of May / Dear maid, kind Sister, Sweet Ophelia!’ (Laertes, 4:5)

    When Ophelia tragically dies, Laertes jumps on his sister’s coffin and begs mourners to stop throwing soil into the grave until he’s held her one more time.

    ‘Hold off the earth awhile/ Till I have caught her once more in mine arms’ (Laertes, 5:1)

  • Ophelia - Polonius

  • Ophelia - Hamlet

Claudius

  • Claudius - Hamlet

    Claudius tries to comfort Hamlet over the death of his father by saying he doesn't just see him as a family relation but like a son. Hamlet admits that Claudius is now more than a family relation but he does not like him or his actions.

    ‘A little more than Kin and less than kind!’ (Hamlet, 1:2)

    Hamlet doesn’t like the fact that Claudius has married his mother only weeks after his father died. Claudius also tells Hamlet not to grieve for his father so much.

    ‘To persever/ In obstinate condolement is a course/ Of impious stubbornness. 'Tis unmanly grief’ (Claudius, 1:2)

    Towards the end of Act 1, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to him and tells him that Claudius murdered him. Hamlet is shocked and angry. His disgust towards his uncle remains constant throughout the play and drives him to seek revenge by killing him in the final scene.

    ‘O my prophetic soul!/ My uncle?’ (Hamlet, 1:5)

    When Hamlet meets the ghost of his father, the ghost declares that Claudius murdered him. It could be argued that Hamlet may be suspicious of believing a ghost but his desire for this to be true seems apparent when he says

    ‘O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!” (Hamlet, 1:5)

    The wheels are set in motion for Hamlet to avenge his Father’s murder.

    Having observed an actor deliver a monologue with true emotion, Hamlet berates himself for not being able to express his hurt and desire for revenge. He’s merely thought about revenge but not acted upon it. He steels himself and arranges for the players to perform a play about murder that shall provoke a reaction from the king and so prove that the ghost of his father was telling the truth.

    ‘The Play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King’ (Hamlet, 2:2)

    When Claudius storms out of the performance of 'The Death of Gonzago', Hamlet is finally convinced that the ghost was correct. Claudius murdered his father. When the prince goes to find Claudius, he observes him praying and Hamlet refuses to murder him while he’s praying.

    ‘O, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven/ It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t/ A brother’s murder’ (Claudius, 3.3)

    At the end of his fight with Laertes, Laertes tells Hamlet that Claudius had set up the duel so that the young prince would be murdered. Hamlet’s thirst for revenge is total and he stabs Claudius and forces him to drink poison.

    ‘Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane. Drink off this potion’ (Hamlet, 5.2)

  • Claudius - Old Hamlet

    From the moment Old Hamlet appears as a ghost to Hamlet, his desire to avenge his brother for his murder is strong. He describes Claudius as a 'beast'.

    ‘That incestuous, that adulterated beast/ With witchcraft of his wit' (Old Hamlet, 1:5)

    When Hamlet is arguing with his mother, the ghost of Old Hamlet appears again to remind him not to get distracted, that he must kill Claudius.

    ‘Do not forget. This visitation / Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose' (Old Hamlet, 3:4)

  • Claudius - Gertrude

  • Claudius - Polonius

Gertrude

  • Gertrude - Hamlet

    At the beginning of the play, Hamlet is angry at his mother for marrying his uncle and for doing so too quickly after his father’s death. She doesn’t seem to understand why he is so upset.

    ‘She married. O, most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!’ (Hamlet, 1:2)

    Before the players begin their performance in Act 3, Hamlet observes how happy Gertrude has been since his father died. At this point he has seen the ghost and believes his father was murdered.

    ‘Look how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within’s two hours’ (Hamlet, 3.2)

    Later in Act 3, Hamlet and Gertrude exchange heated words as Hamlet is now certain that Claudius murdered his father. In the chaos of the argument, Hamlet kills Polonius. Gertrude is greatly distressed by Hamlet’s treatment of her and scared when she sees him talk to a ghost she claims she can’t see.

    ‘What have I done that thou darest wag thy tongue/ In noise so rude against me?’ (Gertrude, 3:4)

    By the end of Scene 4 in Act 3, Gertrude shows some remorse. Hamlet believes he’s trying to help Gertrude and says he needed to deliver some home truths to her on behalf of God as well as himself, but he seems to still care for his mother.

    ‘I’ll blessing beg of you. For this same Lord/ I do repent. But heaven hath pleased it so/ To punish me with this, and this with me…/ I must be cruel only to be kind’ (Hamlet, 3:4)

    Before Hamlet dies in the final scene, Gertrude tries to mop Hamlet’s brow as she can see he is suffering in the duel with Laertes. She wants to see her son succeed but is poisoned, which angers Hamlet even further.

    ‘He’s fat and scant of breath / Here, Hamlet, take my napkin. Rub thy brows / The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet’ (Gertrude, 5:2)

  • Gertrude - Claudius

Old Hamlet

  • Old Hamlet - Hamlet

    It’s hard to know the strength of Hamlet’s relationship with his father before he died. However, at the beginning of the play, his grief appears total. This would indicate that he loved Old Hamlet dearly.

    When the ghost of Old Hamlet appears to Hamlet, he asks his son to exact revenge on Claudius for murdering him. This conversation acts as a catalyst for the rest of the play’s action. If Hamlet’s relationship with his father wasn't so strong, he may not have followed his father’s instructions.

    ‘I am thy father’s spirit’ (Old Hamlet, 1:5)

  • Old Hamlet - Claudius

    From the moment Old Hamlet appears as a ghost to Hamlet, his desire to avenge his brother for his murder is strong. He describes Claudius as a 'beast'.

    ‘That incestuous, that adulterated beast/ With witchcraft of his wit' (Old Hamlet, 1:5)

    When Hamlet is arguing with his mother, the ghost of Old Hamlet appears again to remind him not to get distracted, that he must kill Claudius.

    ‘Do not forget. This visitation / Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose' (Old Hamlet, 3:4)

Polonius

  • Polonius - Ophelia

  • Polonius - Laertes

  • Polonius - Claudius

Laertes

  • Laertes - Ophelia

    In Act 1 Scene 3, Laertes advises his sister not to be seduced by Hamlet. He doesn’t want her to get hurt and warns her not to fall for Hamlet.

    ‘Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister’ (Laertes, 1:3)

    When Ophelia loses her mind in Act 4 after her father’s death and her mistreatment at the hands of Hamlet, Laertes is heartbroken and his love for her is really clear.

    ‘O rose of May / Dear maid, kind Sister, Sweet Ophelia!’ (Laertes, 4:5)

    When Ophelia tragically dies, Laertes jumps on his sister’s coffin and begs mourners to stop throwing soil into the grave until he’s held her one more time.

    ‘Hold off the earth awhile/ Till I have caught her once more in mine arms’ (Laertes, 5:1)

  • Laertes - Hamlet

    Laertes is troubled that Hamlet has been trying to seduce his sister. He says that men like Hamlet don’t take love seriously and move from one victim to the next because they have power.

    ‘For Hamlet, and the trifling of his Favour/ Hold it a fashion And a toy in blood/…Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting/ The perfume and suppliants of a minute/ no more' (Laertes, 1:3)

    Laertes returns from Paris looking for revenge for the death of his father. When he gets back he also sees Ophelia, who has gone mad. He finds out that Hamlet is responsible for both these things and wants to kill Hamlet.

    ‘And so have I a noble father lost / a sister driven into desperate terms…But my revenge will come’ (Laertes, 4:7)

    Laertes and Hamlet face each other for the first time when Hamlet interrupts Laertes at his sister Ophelia’s grave. The two men fight until they are separated after arguing about who loves Ophelia more.

    ‘I print he take thy fingers from my throat/ For, though I am not splenetic and rash/ Yet have I in me something dangerous/ Which let thy wisdom fear. Hold off thy hand’ (Hamlet, 5:1)

    When both men are poisoned during a duel, Laertes confesses that Claudius was the one who set everything up and both of them seek forgiveness from each other as they die.

    ‘Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet/ Mine and my Father’s death come not upon thee/ Nor thine on me!' (Laertes, 5:2)

Horatio

  • Horatio - Hamlet

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - Hamlet

Teacher Notes

On this page students can arrange the characters on the screen, showing the connections between the characters and their relationships. They can then print this using the button on the page and label them with their own quotes.

The following activities are also great ways of exploring specific relationships in the classroom.

Making Polonius’ family relevant (2008)

This activity can be found on pages 9-11 and takes approximately 30 minutes. Please note the videos referred to in this exercise are no longer available.

Hamlet and Horatio (2010)

This activity can be found on pages 8-10 and takes approximately 40 minutes.