Hamlet First Element of Setting: Time

William Shakespeare

First Element of Setting: Time

It is precisely here, at the beginning of Shakespeare's play, that it is appropriate to mention the setting. Because setting is divided into two different categories, let's take the first element and discuss it: the element of time. Although up for a bit of debate, most learned scholars think that Shakespeare set Hamlet in the latter half of the middle ages—in other words, probably somewhere between 1300 and 1500 (otherwise known as the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries). We can be even more specific about this actual scene by noting that it is night, and quite a dismal night at that. Barnardo reveals that "'Tis now struck twelve." Therefore, Hamlet begins at midnight. It is also important for a reader to note that there is a big difference between reading this play and watching this play. Shakespeare meant for this play to be seen on the stage. There are directors who have set their productions of Hamlet in vastly different time periods; however, for our purposes, we will concentrate on the setting that Shakespeare intended: the late middle ages.