An Analysis of Characterization in "Hamlet"

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About this sample


Words: 786 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 29, 2024

Words: 786|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 29, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Analysis of Physical Appearance
  2. Examination of Dialogue and Language
  3. Study of Actions and Behavior
  4. Exploration of Relationships
  5. Evaluation of Hamlet's Psychological State
  6. Comparison to Other Characters
  7. Conclusion
  8. References:

William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is a tragic play that is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of literature in history. The play revolves around the character of Hamlet, a young prince of Denmark who is consumed by grief and vengeance following the death of his father. In this essay, we will analyze the various methods of characterization used in "Hamlet" to depict the complex nature of the protagonist.

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Analysis of Physical Appearance

Hamlet's physical appearance is an important aspect of his characterization. Throughout the play, he is described as being tall, thin, and pale, with a melancholy demeanor. He is often seen wearing black clothing, which reflects his state of mind and his mourning for his father's death.

"But I have that within which passeth show, these but the trappings and the suits of woe" (Act I, Scene II).

Hamlet's appearance is reflective of his internal struggles, and serves as a visual representation of his grief and anger towards his mother and stepfather, as well as his own guilt and complicity in the murder of his father.

Examination of Dialogue and Language

The character of Hamlet is also characterized by his language and rhetoric. His soliloquies and speeches are a window into his inner thoughts and emotions, and reveal his wit, intelligence, and philosophical nature. Hamlet's language is poetic and complex, with a tendency towards puns and wordplay.

"To be, or not to be, that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them" (Act III, Scene I).

His dialogue is characterized by a sense of uncertainty and indecisiveness, which reflects his struggle to come to terms with his father's death and the moral implications of his actions. His language is also an indication of his education and upbringing, as he is a member of the royal court.

Study of Actions and Behavior

Another aspect of Hamlet's characterization is his actions and behavior throughout the play. He is often depicted as being erratic and unpredictable, demonstrating a range of emotions and behaviors that are difficult to categorize. He is impulsive, rash, and prone to violence, but also exhibits moments of introspection, empathy, and compassion.

His behavior towards other characters is also important in his characterization. He is particularly cruel towards Ophelia, whom he once loved, and manipulates her into believing that he no longer cares for her. He is also distrustful of his friends and family members, and often feels isolated and alone in his struggle against Claudius and his own inner demons.

Exploration of Relationships

Hamlet's relationships with other characters in the play are a key component of his characterization. His relationship with his family, particularly his mother Gertrude and his stepfather Claudius, is fraught with tension and conflict. He is deeply troubled by his mother's hasty marriage to his uncle, and sees it as a betrayal of his father's memory.

His relationships with other characters, such as Ophelia, Horatio, and Polonius, are also important in his characterization. His love for Ophelia is genuine but ultimately thwarted by his own indecisiveness and the demands of his revenge plot. His friendship with Horatio is a source of comfort and support throughout the play, while his interactions with Polonius are marked by contempt and disdain.

Evaluation of Hamlet's Psychological State

The most prominent aspect of Hamlet's characterization is his psychological state, which is characterized by a sense of mental and emotional turmoil. He is plagued by guilt and grief over his father's death, and struggles to come to terms with the moral implications of his own actions. His indecisiveness and procrastination are reflective of his uncertainty, as he grapples with the complex moral and ethical questions raised by the play.

Comparison to Other Characters

Hamlet's character can be compared to other tragic heroes in literature, such as Oedipus, Macbeth, and Romeo. Like these characters, Hamlet is flawed and complex, and is ultimately consumed by his own flaws and his inability to reconcile his actions with his conscience. His characterization adds depth and complexity to the play, and elevates it to the rank of a masterpiece.

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In conclusion, the character of Hamlet in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is a complex and multifaceted creation, characterized by his physical appearance, dialogue, actions, relationships, and psychological state. The various methods of characterization used in the play serve to depict the many facets of his personality, and reveal the intricacies of human nature. Hamlet's characterization adds depth and complexity to the play, and is testament to Shakespeare's genius as a playwright and observer of the human condition.


  1. Shakespeare, William. "Hamlet." Edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, Arden Shakespeare, 2006.
  2. Bloom, Harold. "Hamlet: Poem Unlimited." Riverhead Books, 2003.
  3. Bradley, A. C. "Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth." Penguin, 1991.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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An Analysis of Characterization in “Hamlet”. (2024, January 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
“An Analysis of Characterization in “Hamlet”.” GradesFixer, 29 Jan. 2024,
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