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There are many themes for Hamlet by Shakespeare. What would you say the meaning of...

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chickvball012 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 28, 2008 at 11:47 AM via web

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There are many themes for Hamlet by Shakespeare. What would you say the meaning of Hamlet is?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 28, 2008 at 4:09 PM (Answer #2)

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If I had to say what the single meaning of Hamlet is, it would be summed up in two classic scenes: Hamlet's famous soliloquy that begins "To be or not to be" and the graveyard scene in which the skull of Yorick is held aloft.

In the first, Hamlet is considering suicide, but he's also asking, what is the meaning of existence. How do we define ourselves? Then, no matter what answer he comes up with—no matter what we do or how we define ourselves—we end up as worm food.

The meaning, then, of Hamlet is the meaning of life and how to make a lasting impact when sooner or later we will die and be forgotten.

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted September 29, 2008 at 1:26 AM (Answer #3)

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I don't think there is one clear life-lesson intended by Shakespeare, Hamlet is not a simple parable. Hamlet is layered with so many different possible subjects and views. Each time you read it, you find something new.

In Act III Scene II, Shakespeare uses Hamlet to tells us what he thinks plays are for. Hamlet is talking to the actors who are about to act the 'play within a play', He instructs them thus...  

HAMLET: "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance; that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of the which one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theatre of others."

Shakespeare Plays are to show us what life is, it is up to us as individuals to find 'meaning' in Shakespeare's mirror, if we are 'judicious', not 'unskilful'.

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xexeu | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 28, 2009 at 1:47 PM (Answer #4)

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one of shakespeare's favorites own acting part was that of the player king in the "play within the play" in which he would not only act out his most accomplished literary character's words and thus provide an intricate reversion of author/character authority but also, what has many a time been overseen by critics at large, perhaps avoiding the grounds of biographical traits in the sovereign poet's dramatic achievements, he would pay homage to his own dead son, Hamnet, upon whose memory the play is partly intended, perhaps as a means to humanize Saxo Grammaticus' legendary Hamleth, adding up to the myse en abyme of "the Mousetrap" and in fact trascending the authorial heteroglossia to be found in "Hamlet". thus when the player king states "but orederly to end where i begun/our wills and fates do so contrary run/that our devices still are overthrown/our thoughts our ours/their ends none of our own" hamlekespeare is also exposing not only their own metaphysical vision on mankind's predicament but also their personal recognition of our inescapable augury, "since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is 't to leave betimes? Let be".

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted July 12, 2010 at 5:43 PM (Answer #5)

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The best answer for this question is to say there is no answer. The “meaning” of Hamlet is mercurial. Depending upon when you read it, how many times you have read it, what school of literary theory you subscribe to when you analyze literature--all of these give different meanings at different times. What are common themes of Hamlet might be a better question.

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