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Did You Know

Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway, gave birth to twins named Judith and Hamnet in 1585, when Shakespeare was a mere twenty-one years old. Hamnet, Shakespeare's only son, died tragically at the age of eleven in 1596. It is quite possible that Shakespeare had his son's name in mind when writing this most famous of his tragedies.

There is significant historical evidence to suggest that an earlier version of Hamlet existed, most likely written in the early 1590s, although there are no extant copies of the text. Many scholars speculate that this Ur-Hamlet was authored by Thomas Kyd, an important Elizabethan dramatist who penned revenge tragedies. One of them, The Spanish Tragedy, was immensely popular in the decade following the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588) and served as a prototype for Shakespeare's Hamlet. Ghosts figure prominently in both dramas, as do plays within plays, and the main character in each studies to seem the thing he is not. However, other critics - most notably Harold Bloom of Yale University - have made a case for the young Shakespeare as author of the Ur-Hamlet. It is thought then that the more mature Shakespeare resumed work on Hamlet at the height of his intellectual prowess, at the turn of the seventeenth century, producing the masterpiece we know today.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Scene 1.1
Scene 1.2
Scenes 1.3 and 1.4
Scene 1.5
Scene 2.1
Scene 2.2
Scene 3.1
Scene 3.2
Scene 3.3
Scene 3.4
Scenes 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3
Scenes 4.4 and 4.5
Scenes 4.6 and 4.7
Scene 5.1
Scene 5.2


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