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An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Hamlet is the most problematic of the many plays written by Shakespeare also, one of his most popular. Intense. The play was written at a time of profound religious tension, thus audiences easily related. It is a revenge play in the Roman tradition, a form the English were well versed: gaudy, bloody and highly rhetorical rather than poetic. Blood spilled all over the stage. Shakespeare uses this form sparingly and with some artistic care: the blinding of King Lear, for example. When he needs a moment like this, he will use it. It is believed that Shakespeare used a previous version of Hamlet, a story based on a historical event. Shakespeare was tapping into a popular story and writing his own version. It had all the earmarks of being a hit. The reason this play is the longest of his plays is he revised it season after season; adding new material, reshaping it. It is a four-hour play. Hamlet too is the first work of the modern world. Hamlet studied at the University of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther began his attack on the Church. Hamlet thus became a modern man, rejecting God and His Church, and began a life of doubt.

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