Who are the main characters in Hamlet?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main characters in Hamlet are as follows:

Hamlet: He is a tortured soul, grieved over his father's death and his mother's quick remarriage (to his uncle!). He becomes especially tormented when the ghost of his father appears and demands he avenge his murder by killing Claudius.


This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Claudius, ambitious for the throne, cold-bloodedly murders his brother and marries his brother's wife. He doesn't regret this, as he likes the power he has and is glad to be married toGertrude. He realizes that his biggest threat is Hamlet and works to have him killed.

Gertrude: She will confess to the frenzied Hamlet that she probably was wrong to marry Claudius, but she nevertheless remains loyal to her husband, not realizing how evil he is. Some critics believe that an Oedipal desire for his mother, enacted by Claudius, drives Hamlet's loathing of Claudius.

Polonius: A wordy and pompous but sly courtier, he tries to please Claudius by finding out what is wrong with Hamlet. He gets accidentally killed by Hamlet for his efforts.

Laertes: Polonius's son and, in many ways, a "mirror" of Hamlet, Laertes comes home determined to avenge his father's death by killing Hamlet. Because he can't control his emotions, he is used by Claudius.

Ophelia (Laertes's sister), Horatio (Hamlet's friend), and the ghost are more minor characters, but they play important roles: Ophelia's suicide adds to Laertes's rage against Hamlet; Horatio is the voice of reason and the survivor who will tell the story of what went wrong in the Danish court; and the ghost sets the action of the play in motion with his revelations.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main characters are Hamlet, Ghost of King Hamlet, Gertrude, Claudius, Ophelia, Laertes, and Polonius.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the major personalities of Hamlet?

The major personality traits of Hamlet are indecisiveness, cynicism, and bitterness.

All of these traits are related to the murder of Hamlet's father by his wicked uncle and stepfather, Claudius. When the ghost of his father tells him how he was murdered, Hamlet resolves to kill Claudius out of revenge.

And yet, he spends virtually the whole play procrastinating, seemingly incapable of settling scores with old King Hamlet's murderer. Hamlet's indecisiveness is arguably his most notable character trait, the one for which he is most famous. And it holds him up from what he vowed to do all along until right up until the very end, when he fatally wounds Claudius with the tip of a poisoned sword just before his own death.

Hamlet is also a very cynical young man. In his brutal verbal assault on his mother, Gertrude, and in a similar tongue-lashing he gives to Ophelia, he shows a profound contempt for the values of the society in which he lives, so much so that it appears that Hamlet doesn't actually believe in anything. Or, as we might say, he is a nihilist.

Hamlet's cynicism is also much in evidence when he sets up his old school chums Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be killed when he finds out that they bear a message from Claudius to the King of England requesting that Hamlet be executed. Once again, we can observe a character trait that seems to arise from Hamlet's ongoing sadness at the loss of his father.

When his father died, it seems that Hamlet lost whatever respect he had for other people. And so, his tortured soul has been hardened by cynicism, which has become for Hamlet a kind of psychological defense mechanism against a world for which he no longer cares.

Allied to Hamlet's cynicism is his bitterness. The young prince is understandably bitter at the way life has turned out for him. Not only is his father dead, but the man who murdered him has married Hamlet's mother and become safely ensconced on the Danish throne.

Last Updated on