What are some important political events in Hamlet?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Hamlet there are two events that affect the political state of Denmark:

  1. the conquest of Norwegian lands by King Hamlet - In Act I, Scene 1, Horatio alludes to the battle between King Fortinbras of Norway and King Hamlet of Denmark in which King Hamlet slays Fortinbras and lands of Norway were forfeited. Now, Prince Fortinbras has "Sharked up a list of lawless resolutes.../to recover...by strong hand/those foresaid lands."  But, because of negotiations between King Claudius and Fortinbras's uncle who is king in Norway, young Fortinbras agrees to cease hostilities in Denmark, but he does seek safe passage through Denmark to Poland.
  2. the death of King Hamlet - The regicide of Hamlet's father is pivotal to the plot of Shakespeare's play.  For, it is what incites Hamlet to vow to avenge his father and to investigate the marriage of his mother to his uncle as well as to attack the corruption in the Danish court with Polonius, Rosencratz and Guildenstern.

There is also another potential political situation:

  • Laertes threatens to overthrow the Danish government before he joins King Claudius in his heinous plot to kill Hamlet.  With this added situation, Hamlet is finally impelled to action as he declares that there is "something rotten in the state of Denmark," and he asserts his identity in Act V, scene 1:  "This is I, Hamlet the Dane."