Hamlet by William Shakespeare: Themes

The play Hamlet's major theme is death. It is the death of the King Hamlet that triggers the events in the play one after another. When the Prince Hamlet hears about the news of his father's death, he comes back to Denmark. He is shocked at the early remarriage of his mother with his uncle. He is visited by the ghost of the king and informs him that the king is murdered by his uncle, Claudius.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

He is given a task to kill his uncle and take revenge of the murder of his father. Throughout the play, prince Hamlet is thoughtful to kill or not to kill his father’s murderer.

The death of Ophelia and the death of his mother are other deaths that disturb Hamlet and lead his action to unexpected events. The death of Polonius makes his son Laertes take revenge on Hamlet. From this point Hamlet the revenger has become the revenged, hunter becomes the hunted. From the moment Hamlet knows that his uncle is responsible for the murder of his father, he is planning for his death. In this way, the whole play focuses on the theme of death in one way or another. 


In the play Hamlet, the prince Hamlet pretends to be mad so as to find out the truth regarding his father's death and the involvement of the new King Claudius. Polonius falsely considers Hamlet's madness stems from Hamlet's love of Ophelia and his failure to get her in his life. But in the course of the play, Hamlet's behavior becomes more unpredictable and ambiguous. His acting madness seems to cause Hamlet to lose his grip on reality. He cannot control his erratic behavior in the palace. The circumstances he has to manage emotionally are difficult for him. His pretense of maddening costs him a lot. The physical violence under extreme stress shows that Hamlet has deeper-set issues than merely acting mad.


There are only two female characters Gertrude, Hamlet's mother and Ophelia to whom Hamlet dearly loves. They both are linked to the life of Hamlet in one way or another. Both have very important value in his life, but these two female characters lose the importance when there is turning point in Hamlet's life. Hamlet is found agitated whenever he talks to them. When Hamlet comes to Denmark to attain his father's funeral, he is aghast to see his mother married to his uncle Claudius so soon. He starts hating his mother since then. The theme of weakness of women is revealed here. She cannot wait for a year for the remarriage. Her hastiness in getting married again takes her son away from her. Moreover, Hamlet thinks that she does not love her first husband. This idea irritates Hamlet a lot in the play. When Hamlet starts acting as a mad man in the palace, Ophelia too thinks that he has really gone mad. Hamlet is sure that Ophelia is also with Gertrude, Claudius, and Polonius. In reality, Ophelia obeyed her father and her monarch. In both cases, Hamlet feels that both women have cheated him. He's critical and quick to point out flaws in these females. Ophelia is usually viewed as a true victim, while Gertrude's role is interpreted with more flexibility.

Hamlet Study Center

Procrastination in Avenging the Murder of Father in Hamlet