Hamlet: Facts About the William Shakespeare Play

Here are some facts about William Shakespeare‘s Hamlet.

  • The full title of the play is The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

  • The exact date of when it was written is not known, but experts estimate that it must have been penned between 1599 and 1602.
  • Hamlet is the longest of Shakespeare’s plays.
  • The play is about the revenge Prince Hamlet is urged to carry out by the ghost of his father on Claudius, his uncle. Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father and married Hamlet’s father.
  • It is thought that, when Shakespeare was alive, Hamlet was one of his most popular plays.
  • Today, it is one of the most performed plays. Since 1879, it been performed more than any other Shakespeare play by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • The storyline of Hamlet was, in part, taken from Saxon legend of Amleth as retold by Francois de Belleforest (a scholar of the 1700s)
  • Most experts agree that Shakespeare wrote the role of Hamlet for Richard Burbage, one of the top Elizabethan actors.
  • Some of the characters in Hamlet are: Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Horatio, Laertes and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
  • Some people believe that the character of Polonius was based on William Cecil, chief counsellor to Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Many actors have performed the title role including: Ralph Fiennes, Richard Burton, Mel Gibson, Keanu Reeves, Jude Law, Christopher Walken, Ian McKellen, Daniel Day-Lewis, David Tennant, Ethan Hawke, Kenneth Branagh, Laurence Olivier, Derek Jacobi and Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Hamlet has inspired many great writers, including Charles Dickens, James Joyce and Iris Murdoch.

What next? Discover some facts about Macbeth, another one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.

Facts About Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Here are some Macbeth facts.

  • Macbeth is one of the most well-known of William Shakespeare‘s plays. It is also one of his shortest and darkest plays.
  • It was written in about 1606.

  • It is about a brave Scottish general who learns from three witches that he will become King of Scotland. He murders several times to achieve his goal, feeling guilty at the same time.
  • The play was performed at London’s Globe Theatre in 1606. Richard Burbage, a well-known popular actor of the day was probably the first person to play Macbeth on stage.
  • Women were not allowed to act then, and all female parts were played by men. One story says that Shakespeare took the part of Lady Macbeth at the last minute when the main actor was ill.
  • The earliest film version of Macbeth was a black and white silent film made in 1908. Since then there have been over a dozen film and television productions of the play.
  • Orson Welles’ 1948 film, Macbeth, is perhaps the most famous big screen version. It was filmed in just 23 days and used sets and scenery left over from western films.
  • There have been many books and comics featuring Macbeth since the play was written. One comic even describes how Superman actually wrote the play, instead of Shakespeare!
  • The play is sometimes called The Scottish King or The Scottish Play.
  • There really was an 11th century King of Scotland named Macbeth, and several other characters are based on real people.
  • The plot of Macbeth is similar to that of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. There are also similarities with events in Scottish history.
  • Macbeth contains many jokes, and references about the King at the time, James I. He was fascinated by witches, which may have been why Shakespeare included the three witch characters.