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Great Examples of Hamlet Thesis Statements

what would be a good thesis statement for hamlet

Do you need to write a paper on Hamlet? Are you confused and don’t know how to come up with a thesis statement? Read this article and get some more insight into the ways how to write a successful thesis on this popular piece of art!

Hamlet is one of the most famous tragedies created by William Shakespeare. This classic play is extremely important for the English literature. Most students have written an essay on this tragedy at least once during their studies. It is an essential part of their requirements to complete a degree. If you do a profound research, your thesis on Hamlet can break some new grounds and exert an impact on your readers.

One can find a number of topics covered in Hamlet. The most important ones are duality, revenge, and confusion. Meanwhile, the central theme of the tragedy is mourning. All of the themes are eternal: people faced these issues in the times of Shakespeare and we still encounter them in the present days. Therefore, it is not as hard as it may seem to choose a thesis on Hamlet. If you are creative enough, you can come up with an original and interesting thesis statement. All you need to do is to study the tragedy thoroughly to get your opinion regarding it.

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Your Hamlet thesis statement can be related to any of the major topics of the play, including mourning, duality, revenge, and others. Further in this article, you will find several good examples of thesis statements on Hamlet. You can use them as a guide to understand the point and create your own thesis statement.

Thesis Statement Samples

  • Example 1:The Theme of Revenge in Hamlet “Hamlet is a sorrowful hero who is madly looking for vengeance for his beloved father’s demise, murders everyone who stands on his way, and eventually manages to take revenge by killing King Claudius, the man who murdered his father.”
  • Example 2:The Theme of Tragedy in Hamlet

“Hamlet’s melancholy, blemish, bogus madness and inability to take action on his desire to seek vengeance for his father’s killing – it all result into his unavoidable but tragic collapse.”

  • Example 3:The Theme of Hunger for Power in Hamlet

“William Shakespeare, in his famous tragedy Hamlet, tells about Claudius – an antagonist and an egocentric man who is seeking power by all means. He murders his brother and marries Queen Gertrude, his brother’s widow to attain the power he desires so much.”

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What do you think about these thesis statements? Hopefully, they will help you understand how a good thesis on Hamlet should look like and come up with your own excellent statement! If you are creative and original, you will succeed with your paper.

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You are at: Thesis Writing Thesis Topic Help Articles Great Examples of Hamlet Thesis Statements

Great examples of hamlet thesis statements.

Hamlet, one of the most popular tragedies written by William Shakespeare holds a good deal of respect in English literature. High level student often choose to write hamlet thesis as a part of their degree completion requirement in order to get hands on their degrees as soon as possible. Moreover, hamlet thesis statements or hypotheses have to be groundbreaking if students want to make an impact on readers through their hamlet thesis .

Revenge, confusion and duality are the major themes alongside the CENTRAL THEME, mourning in Hamlet, so Hamlet thesis topics selection is not a big ask for students. In other words, students can easily come up with original yet interesting hamlet thesis ideas if they have studied the tragedy of Hamlet thoroughly.

You can write your Hamlet thesis statements on revenge , duality, mourning and many other themes of the play. Here are a few good examples of Hamlet thesis statement which you may follow in order to come up with the thesis statement of your own:

Example 1: Hamlet Thesis Statement on the Theme of Revenge

“Hamlet, a tortured hero with a feigned madness seeking revenge for the death of his father kills everyone who stood on his way and finally succeeds in taking vengeance for the murder of his father by killing the murderer, King Claudius for good”

Example 2: Hamlet Thesis Statement on the Theme of Tragedy

“Melancholy, pretended madness, Flaws and inability of Hamlet to act on his desire to seek revenge for his father’s murderer, all led to his inevitable yet tragic downfall”.

Example 3: Hamlet Thesis Statement on Hunger for Power

“In play, Hamlet written by William Shakespeare, Claudius, a selfish power seeking antagonist kills his brother, King Hamlet; then marries Queen Gertrude with Prince ultimately becoming his son-in-law to gain power by all means necessary”.

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Hamlet, the lengthiest novel written by William Shakespeare involves diverse controversies between several characters regarding treachery, revenge, incest and moral corruption. The story of Hamlet mainly revolves around characters of Claudius, Laertes, Horatio and Ophelia; so, one should gravely evaluate these characters before writing hamlet essays.“Life of Hamlet involves loads of tragedies including the death of his father, his mother’s incestuous marriage, madness and his own death at the end”.Life of Hamlet involves loads of tragedies including the death of his father, his mother’s incestuous marriage , madness and his own death at the end.

Hamlet essay topics comprise revenge, insanity, soliloquies and criticism with each topic dealing with diverse themes. Consequently, students can come up with different thesis for different themes to write essays on hamlet. Here are some examples of different thesis statement for hamlet critical essays with various hamlet critical essay topics:

Example 1: Argumentative Thesis to write Critical Essays on Hamlet (Madness)

“In ‘Hamlet’, a play by William Shakespeare; the protagonist, Hamlet throughout the play is perceived to be mad however Hamlet’s insanity was more than an act”.Life of Hamlet involves loads of tragedies including the death of his father, his mother’s incestuous marriage , madness and his own death at the end.

Example 2: Analytical Thesis to write a Critical Essay on Hamlet (Revenge)

“It was the continuous losses faced by Hamlet in his life filled with extreme tragedies that forced him to avenge his father’s death from Claudius”.“In ‘Hamlet’, a play by William Shakespeare; the protagonist, Hamlet throughout the play is perceived to be mad however Hamlet’s insanity was more than an act”.Analytical Thesis to write a Critical Essay on Hamlet Revenge.

Example 3: Expository Thesis to write Hamlet Essay (Hamlet’s Tragedy)

“Life of Hamlet involves loads of tragedies including the death of his father, his mother’s incestuous marriage , madness and his own death at the end”.

Initially, you should perilously measure the major characters of play, “Hamlet” and list down the prominent features of these characters as a road map for their hamlet essay. Then, you should analyze the different topics of play to translate Hamlet essays efficaciously.Initially, you should perilously measure the major characters of play, “Hamlet” and list down the prominent features of these characters as a road map for their hamlet essay. Then, you should analyze the different topics of play to translate Hamlet essays efficaciously.

Sam Collier is a senior research writer and provide help for hamlet essays and essays on hamlet.Feel free to contact for any sort of help in this regard.

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Jeffrey R. Wilson

Essays on hamlet.

Essays On Hamlet

Written as the author taught Hamlet every semester for a decade, these lightning essays ask big conceptual questions about the play with the urgency of a Shakespeare lover, and answer them with the rigor of a Shakespeare scholar. In doing so, Hamlet becomes a lens for life today, generating insights on everything from xenophobia, American fraternities, and religious fundamentalism to structural misogyny, suicide contagion, and toxic love.

Prioritizing close reading over historical context, these explorations are highly textual and highly theoretical, often philosophical, ethical, social, and political. Readers see King Hamlet as a pre-modern villain, King Claudius as a modern villain, and Prince Hamlet as a post-modern villain. Hamlet’s feigned madness becomes a window into failed insanity defenses in legal trials. He knows he’s being watched in “To be or not to be”: the soliloquy is a satire of philosophy. Horatio emerges as Shakespeare’s authorial avatar for meta-theatrical commentary, Fortinbras as the hero of the play. Fate becomes a viable concept for modern life, and honor a source of tragedy. The metaphor of music in the play makes Ophelia Hamlet’s instrument. Shakespeare, like the modern corporation, stands against sexism, yet perpetuates it unknowingly. We hear his thoughts on single parenting, sending children off to college, and the working class, plus his advice on acting and writing, and his claims to be the next Homer or Virgil. In the context of four centuries of Hamlet hate, we hear how the text draws audiences in, how it became so famous, and why it continues to captivate audiences.

At a time when the humanities are said to be in crisis, these essays are concrete examples of the mind-altering power of literature and literary studies, unravelling the ongoing implications of the English language’s most significant artistic object of the past millennium.


Why is Hamlet the most famous English artwork of the past millennium? Is it a sexist text? Why does Hamlet speak in prose? Why must he die? Does Hamlet depict revenge, or justice? How did the death of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, transform into a story about a son dealing with the death of a father? Did Shakespeare know Aristotle’s theory of tragedy? How did our literary icon, Shakespeare, see his literary icons, Homer and Virgil? Why is there so much comedy in Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy? Why is love a force of evil in the play? Did Shakespeare believe there’s a divinity that shapes our ends? How did he define virtue? What did he think about psychology? politics? philosophy? What was Shakespeare’s image of himself as an author? What can he, arguably the greatest writer of all time, teach us about our own writing? What was his theory of literature? Why do people like Hamlet ? How do the Hamlet haters of today compare to those of yesteryears? Is it dangerous for our children to read a play that’s all about suicide? 

These are some of the questions asked in this book, a collection of essays on Shakespeare’s Hamlet stemming from my time teaching the play every semester in my Why Shakespeare? course at Harvard University. During this time, I saw a series of bright young minds from wildly diverse backgrounds find their footing in Hamlet, and it taught me a lot about how Shakespeare’s tragedy works, and why it remains with us in the modern world. Beyond ghosts, revenge, and tragedy, Hamlet is a play about being in college, being in love, gender, misogyny, friendship, theater, philosophy, theology, injustice, loss, comedy, depression, death, self-doubt, mental illness, white privilege, overbearing parents, existential angst, international politics, the classics, the afterlife, and the meaning of it all. 

These essays grow from the central paradox of the play: it helps us understand the world we live in, yet we don't really understand the text itself very well. For all the attention given to Hamlet , there’s no consensus on the big questions—how it works, why it grips people so fiercely, what it’s about. These essays pose first-order questions about what happens in Hamlet and why, mobilizing answers for reflections on life, making the essays both highly textual and highly theoretical. 

Each semester that I taught the play, I would write a new essay about Hamlet . They were meant to be models for students, the sort of essay that undergrads read and write – more rigorous than the puff pieces in the popular press, but riskier than the scholarship in most academic journals. While I later added scholarly outerwear, these pieces all began just like the essays I was assigning to students – as short close readings with a reader and a text and a desire to determine meaning when faced with a puzzling question or problem. 

The turn from text to context in recent scholarly books about Hamlet is quizzical since we still don’t have a strong sense of, to quote the title of John Dover Wilson’s 1935 book, What Happens in Hamlet. Is the ghost real? Is Hamlet mad, or just faking? Why does he delay? These are the kinds of questions students love to ask, but they haven’t been – can’t be – answered by reading the play in the context of its sources (recently addressed in Laurie Johnson’s The Tain of Hamlet [2013]), its multiple texts (analyzed by Paul Menzer in The Hamlets [2008] and Zachary Lesser in Hamlet after Q1 [2015]), the Protestant reformation (the focus of Stephen Greenblatt’s Hamlet in Purgatory [2001] and John E. Curran, Jr.’s Hamlet, Protestantism, and the Mourning of Contingency [2006]), Renaissance humanism (see Rhodri Lewis, Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness [2017]), Elizabethan political theory (see Margreta de Grazia, Hamlet without Hamlet [2007]), the play’s reception history (see David Bevington, Murder Most Foul: Hamlet through the Ages [2011]), its appropriation by modern philosophers (covered in Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster’s The Hamlet Doctrine [2013] and Andrew Cutrofello’s All for Nothing: Hamlet’s Negativity [2014]), or its recent global travels (addressed, for example, in Margaret Latvian’s Hamlet’s Arab Journey [2011] and Dominic Dromgoole’s Hamlet Globe to Globe [2017]). 

Considering the context and afterlives of Hamlet is a worthy pursuit. I certainly consulted the above books for my essays, yet the confidence that comes from introducing context obscures the sharp panic we feel when confronting Shakespeare’s text itself. Even as the excellent recent book from Sonya Freeman Loftis, Allison Kellar, and Lisa Ulevich announces Hamlet has entered “an age of textual exhaustion,” there’s an odd tendency to avoid the text of Hamlet —to grasp for something more firm—when writing about it. There is a need to return to the text in a more immediate way to understand how Hamlet operates as a literary work, and how it can help us understand the world in which we live. 

That latter goal, yes, clings nostalgically to the notion that literature can help us understand life. Questions about life send us to literature in search of answers. Those of us who love literature learn to ask and answer questions about it as we become professional literary scholars. But often our answers to the questions scholars ask of literature do not connect back up with the questions about life that sent us to literature in the first place—which are often philosophical, ethical, social, and political. Those first-order questions are diluted and avoided in the minutia of much scholarship, left unanswered. Thus, my goal was to pose questions about Hamlet with the urgency of a Shakespeare lover and to answer them with the rigor of a Shakespeare scholar. 

In doing so, these essays challenge the conventional relationship between literature and theory. They pursue a kind of criticism where literature is not merely the recipient of philosophical ideas in the service of exegesis. Instead, the creative risks of literature provide exemplars to be theorized outward to help us understand on-going issues in life today. Beyond an occasion for the demonstration of existing theory, literature is a source for the creation of new theory.

Chapter One How Hamlet Works

Whether you love or hate Hamlet , you can acknowledge its massive popularity. So how does Hamlet work? How does it create audience enjoyment? Why is it so appealing, and to whom? Of all the available options, why Hamlet ? This chapter entertains three possible explanations for why the play is so popular in the modern world: the literary answer (as the English language’s best artwork about death—one of the very few universal human experiences in a modern world increasingly marked by cultural differences— Hamlet is timeless); the theatrical answer (with its mixture of tragedy and comedy, the role of Hamlet requires the best actor of each age, and the play’s popularity derives from the celebrity of its stars); and the philosophical answer (the play invites, encourages, facilitates, and sustains philosophical introspection and conversation from people who do not usually do such things, who find themselves doing those things with Hamlet , who sometimes feel embarrassed about doing those things, but who ultimately find the experience of having done them rewarding).

Chapter Two “It Started Like a Guilty Thing”: The Beginning of Hamlet and the Beginning of Modern Politics

King Hamlet is a tyrant and King Claudius a traitor but, because Shakespeare asked us to experience the events in Hamlet from the perspective of the young Prince Hamlet, we are much more inclined to detect and detest King Claudius’s political failings than King Hamlet’s. If so, then Shakespeare’s play Hamlet , so often seen as the birth of modern psychology, might also tell us a little bit about the beginnings of modern politics as well.

Chapter Three Horatio as Author: Storytelling and Stoic Tragedy

This chapter addresses Horatio’s emotionlessness in light of his role as a narrator, using this discussion to think about Shakespeare’s motives for writing tragedy in the wake of his son’s death. By rationalizing pain and suffering as tragedy, both Horatio and Shakespeare were able to avoid the self-destruction entailed in Hamlet’s emotional response to life’s hardships and injustices. Thus, the stoic Horatio, rather than the passionate Hamlet who repeatedly interrupts ‘The Mousetrap’, is the best authorial avatar for a Shakespeare who strategically wrote himself and his own voice out of his works. This argument then expands into a theory of ‘authorial catharsis’ and the suggestion that we can conceive of Shakespeare as a ‘poet of reason’ in contrast to a ‘poet of emotion’.

Chapter Four “To thine own self be true”: What Shakespeare Says about Sending Our Children Off to College

What does “To thine own self be true” actually mean? Be yourself? Don’t change who you are? Follow your own convictions? Don’t lie to yourself? This chapter argues that, if we understand meaning as intent, then “To thine own self be true” means, paradoxically, that “the self” does not exist. Or, more accurately, Shakespeare’s Hamlet implies that “the self” exists only as a rhetorical, philosophical, and psychological construct that we use to make sense of our experiences and actions in the world, not as anything real. If this is so, then this passage may offer us a way of thinking about Shakespeare as not just a playwright but also a moral philosopher, one who did his ethics in drama.

Chapter Five In Defense of Polonius

Your wife dies. You raise two children by yourself. You build a great career to provide for your family. You send your son off to college in another country, though you know he’s not ready. Now the prince wants to marry your daughter—that’s not easy to navigate. Then—get this—while you’re trying to save the queen’s life, the prince murders you. Your death destroys your kids. They die tragically. And what do you get for your efforts? Centuries of Shakespeare scholars dumping on you. If we see Polonius not through the eyes of his enemy, Prince Hamlet—the point of view Shakespeare’s play asks audiences to adopt—but in analogy to the common challenges of twenty-first-century parenting, Polonius is a single father struggling with work-life balance who sadly choses his career over his daughter’s well-being.

Chapter Six Sigma Alpha Elsinore: The Culture of Drunkenness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Claudius likes to party—a bit too much. He frequently binge drinks, is arguably an alcoholic, but not an aberration. Hamlet says Denmark is internationally known for heavy drinking. That’s what Shakespeare would have heard in the sixteenth century. By the seventeenth, English writers feared Denmark had taught their nation its drinking habits. Synthesizing criticism on alcoholism as an individual problem in Shakespeare’s texts and times with scholarship on national drinking habits in the early-modern age, this essay asks what the tragedy of alcoholism looks like when located not on the level of the individual, but on the level of a culture, as Shakespeare depicted in Hamlet. One window into these early-modern cultures of drunkenness is sociological studies of American college fraternities, especially the social-learning theories that explain how one person—one culture—teaches another its habits. For Claudius’s alcoholism is both culturally learned and culturally significant. And, as in fraternities, alcoholism in Hamlet is bound up with wealth, privilege, toxic masculinity, and tragedy. Thus, alcohol imagistically reappears in the vial of “cursed hebona,” Ophelia’s liquid death, and the poisoned cup in the final scene—moments that stand out in recent performances and adaptations with alcoholic Claudiuses and Gertrudes.

Chapter Seven Tragic Foundationalism

This chapter puts the modern philosopher Alain Badiou’s theory of foundationalism into dialogue with the early-modern playwright William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet . Doing so allows us to identify a new candidate for Hamlet’s traditionally hard-to-define hamartia – i.e., his “tragic mistake” – but it also allows us to consider the possibility of foundationalism as hamartia. Tragic foundationalism is the notion that fidelity to a single and substantive truth at the expense of an openness to evidence, reason, and change is an acute mistake which can lead to miscalculations of fact and virtue that create conflict and can end up in catastrophic destruction and the downfall of otherwise strong and noble people.

Chapter Eight “As a stranger give it welcome”: Shakespeare’s Advice for First-Year College Students

Encountering a new idea can be like meeting a strange person for the first time. Similarly, we dismiss new ideas before we get to know them. There is an answer to the problem of the human antipathy to strangeness in a somewhat strange place: a single line usually overlooked in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet . If the ghost is “wondrous strange,” Hamlet says, invoking the ancient ethics of hospitality, “Therefore as a stranger give it welcome.” In this word, strange, and the social conventions attached to it, is both the instinctual, animalistic fear and aggression toward what is new and different (the problem) and a cultivated, humane response in hospitality and curiosity (the solution). Intellectual xenia is the answer to intellectual xenophobia.

Chapter Nine Parallels in Hamlet

Hamlet is more parallely than other texts. Fortinbras, Hamlet, and Laertes have their fathers murdered, then seek revenge. Brothers King Hamlet and King Claudius mirror brothers Old Norway and Old Fortinbras. Hamlet and Ophelia both lose their fathers, go mad, but there’s a method in their madness, and become suicidal. King Hamlet and Polonius are both domineering fathers. Hamlet and Polonius are both scholars, actors, verbose, pedantic, detectives using indirection, spying upon others, “by indirections find directions out." King Hamlet and King Claudius are both kings who are killed. Claudius using Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet mirrors Polonius using Reynaldo to spy on Laertes. Reynaldo and Hamlet both pretend to be something other than what they are in order to spy on and detect foes. Young Fortinbras and Prince Hamlet both have their forward momentum “arrest[ed].” Pyrrhus and Hamlet are son seeking revenge but paused a “neutral to his will.” The main plot of Hamlet reappears in the play-within-the-play. The Act I duel between King Hamlet and Old Fortinbras echoes in the Act V duel between Hamlet and Laertes. Claudius and Hamlet are both king killers. Sheesh—why are there so many dang parallels in Hamlet ? Is there some detectable reason why the story of Hamlet would call for the literary device of parallelism?

Chapter Ten Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Why Hamlet Has Two Childhood Friends, Not Just One

Why have two of Hamlet’s childhood friends rather than just one? Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have individuated personalities? First of all, by increasing the number of friends who visit Hamlet, Shakespeare creates an atmosphere of being outnumbered, of multiple enemies encroaching upon Hamlet, of Hamlet feeling that the world is against him. Second, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not interchangeable, as commonly thought. Shakespeare gave each an individuated personality. Guildenstern is friendlier with Hamlet, and their friendship collapses, while Rosencrantz is more distant and devious—a frenemy.

Chapter Eleven Shakespeare on the Classics, Shakespeare as a Classic: A Reading of Aeneas’s Tale to Dido

Of all the stories Shakespeare might have chosen, why have Hamlet ask the players to recite Aeneas’ tale to Dido of Pyrrhus’s slaughter of Priam? In this story, which comes not from Homer’s Iliad but from Virgil’s Aeneid and had already been adapted for the Elizabethan stage in Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragedy of Dido, Pyrrhus – more commonly known as Neoptolemus, the son of the famous Greek warrior Achilles – savagely slays Priam, the king of the Trojans and the father of Paris, who killed Pyrrhus’s father, Achilles, who killed Paris’s brother, Hector, who killed Achilles’s comrade, Patroclus. Clearly, the theme of revenge at work in this story would have appealed to Shakespeare as he was writing what would become the greatest revenge tragedy of all time. Moreover, Aeneas’s tale to Dido supplied Shakespeare with all of the connections he sought to make at this crucial point in his play and his career – connections between himself and Marlowe, between the start of Hamlet and the end, between Prince Hamlet and King Claudius, between epic poetry and tragic drama, and between the classical literature Shakespeare was still reading hundreds of years later and his own potential as a classic who might (and would) be read hundreds of years into the future.

Chapter Twelve How Theater Works, according to Hamlet

According to Hamlet, people who are guilty of a crime will, when seeing that crime represented on stage, “proclaim [their] malefactions”—but that simply isn’t how theater works. Guilty people sit though shows that depict their crimes all the time without being prompted to public confession. Why did Shakespeare—a remarkably observant student of theater—write this demonstrably false theory of drama into his protagonist? And why did Shakespeare then write the plot of the play to affirm that obviously inaccurate vision of theater? For Claudius is indeed stirred to confession by the play-within-the-play. Perhaps Hamlet’s theory of people proclaiming malefactions upon seeing their crimes represented onstage is not as outlandish as it first appears. Perhaps four centuries of obsession with Hamlet is the English-speaking world proclaiming its malefactions upon seeing them represented dramatically.

Chapter Thirteen “To be, or not to be”: Shakespeare Against Philosophy

This chapter hazards a new reading of the most famous passage in Western literature: “To be, or not to be” from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet . With this line, Hamlet poses his personal struggle, a question of life and death, as a metaphysical problem, as a question of existence and nothingness. However, “To be, or not to be” is not what it seems to be. It seems to be a representation of tragic angst, yet a consideration of the context of the speech reveals that “To be, or not to be” is actually a satire of philosophy and Shakespeare’s representation of the theatricality of everyday life. In this chapter, a close reading of the context and meaning of this passage leads into an attempt to formulate a Shakespearean image of philosophy.

Chapter Fourteen Contagious Suicide in and Around Hamlet

As in society today, suicide is contagious in Hamlet , at least in the example of Ophelia, the only death by suicide in the play, because she only becomes suicidal after hearing Hamlet talk about his own suicidal thoughts in “To be, or not to be.” Just as there are media guidelines for reporting on suicide, there are better and worse ways of handling Hamlet . Careful suicide coverage can change public misperceptions and reduce suicide contagion. Is the same true for careful literary criticism and classroom discussion of suicide texts? How can teachers and literary critics reduce suicide contagion and increase help-seeking behavior?

Chapter Fifteen Is Hamlet a Sexist Text? Overt Misogyny vs. Unconscious Bias

Students and fans of Shakespeare’s Hamlet persistently ask a question scholars and critics of the play have not yet definitively answered: is it a sexist text? The author of this text has been described as everything from a male chauvinist pig to a trailblazing proto-feminist, but recent work on the science behind discrimination and prejudice offers a new, better vocabulary in the notion of unconscious bias. More pervasive and slippery than explicit bigotry, unconscious bias involves the subtle, often unintentional words and actions which indicate the presence of biases we may not be aware of, ones we may even fight against. The Shakespeare who wrote Hamlet exhibited an unconscious bias against women, I argue, even as he sought to critique the mistreatment of women in a patriarchal society. The evidence for this unconscious bias is not to be found in the misogynistic statements made by the characters in the play. It exists, instead, in the demonstrable preference Shakespeare showed for men over women when deciding where to deploy his literary talents. Thus, Shakespeare's Hamlet is a powerful literary example – one which speaks to, say, the modern corporation – showing that deliberate efforts for egalitarianism do not insulate one from the effects of structural inequalities that both stem from and create unconscious bias.

Chapter Sixteen Style and Purpose in Acting and Writing

Purpose and style are connected in academic writing. To answer the question of style ( How should we write academic papers? ) we must first answer the question of purpose ( Why do we write academic papers? ). We can answer these questions, I suggest, by turning to an unexpected style guide that’s more than 400 years old: the famous passage on “the purpose of playing” in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet . In both acting and writing, a high style often accompanies an expressive purpose attempting to impress an elite audience yet actually alienating intellectual people, while a low style and mimetic purpose effectively engage an intellectual audience.

Chapter Seventeen 13 Ways of Looking at a Ghost

Why doesn’t Gertrude see the Ghost of King Hamlet in Act III, even though Horatio, Bernardo, Francisco, Marcellus, and Prince Hamlet all saw it in Act I? It’s a bit embarrassing that Shakespeare scholars don’t have a widely agreed-upon consensus that explains this really basic question that puzzles a lot of people who read or see Hamlet .

Chapter Eighteen The Tragedy of Love in Hamlet

The word “love” appears 84 times in Shakespeare’s Hamlet . “Father” only appears 73 times, “play” 60, “think” 55, “mother” 46, “mad” 44, “soul” 40, “God" 39, “death” 38, “life” 34, “nothing” 28, “son” 26, “honor” 21, “spirit” 19, “kill” 18, “revenge” 14, and “action” 12. Love isn’t the first theme that comes to mind when we think of Hamlet , but is surprisingly prominent. But love is tragic in Hamlet . The bloody catastrophe at the end of that play is principally driven not by hatred or a longing for revenge, but by love.

Chapter Nineteen Ophelia’s Songs: Moral Agency, Manipulation, and the Metaphor of Music in Hamlet

This chapter reads Ophelia’s songs in Act IV of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the context of the meaning of music established elsewhere in the play. While the songs are usually seen as a marker of Ophelia’s madness (as a result of the death of her father) or freedom (from the constraints of patriarchy), they come – when read in light of the metaphor of music as manipulation – to symbolize her role as a pawn in Hamlet’s efforts to deceive his family. Thus, music was Shakespeare’s platform for connecting Ophelia’s story to one of the central questions in Hamlet : Do we have control over our own actions (like the musician), or are we controlled by others (like the instrument)?

Chapter Twenty A Quantitative Study of Prose and Verse in Hamlet

Why does Hamlet have so much prose? Did Shakespeare deliberately shift from verse to prose to signal something to his audiences? How would actors have handled the shifts from verse to prose? Would audiences have detected shifts from verse to prose? Is there an overarching principle that governs Shakespeare’s decision to use prose—a coherent principle that says, “If X, then use prose?”

Chapter Twenty-One The Fortunes of Fate in Hamlet : Divine Providence and Social Determinism

In Hamlet , fate is attacked from both sides: “fortune” presents a world of random happenstance, “will” a theory of efficacious human action. On this backdrop, this essay considers—irrespective of what the characters say and believe—what the structure and imagery Shakespeare wrote into Hamlet say about the possibility that some version of fate is at work in the play. I contend the world of Hamlet is governed by neither fate nor fortune, nor even the Christianized version of fate called “providence.” Yet there is a modern, secular, disenchanted form of fate at work in Hamlet—what is sometimes called “social determinism”—which calls into question the freedom of the individual will. As such, Shakespeare’s Hamlet both commented on the transformation of pagan fate into Christian providence that happened in the centuries leading up to the play, and anticipated the further transformation of fate from a theological to a sociological idea, which occurred in the centuries following Hamlet .

Chapter Twenty-Two The Working Class in Hamlet

There’s a lot for working-class folks to hate about Hamlet —not just because it’s old, dusty, difficult to understand, crammed down our throats in school, and filled with frills, tights, and those weird lace neck thingies that are just socially awkward to think about. Peak Renaissance weirdness. Claustrophobicly cloistered inside the castle of Elsinore, quaintly angsty over royal family problems, Hamlet feels like the literary epitome of elitism. “Lawless resolutes” is how the Wittenberg scholar Horatio describes the soldiers who join Fortinbras’s army in exchange “for food.” The Prince Hamlet who has never worked a day in his life denigrates Polonius as a “fishmonger”: quite the insult for a royal advisor to be called a working man. And King Claudius complains of the simplicity of "the distracted multitude.” But, in Hamlet , Shakespeare juxtaposed the nobles’ denigrations of the working class as readily available metaphors for all-things-awful with the rather valuable behavior of working-class characters themselves. When allowed to represent themselves, the working class in Hamlet are characterized as makers of things—of material goods and services like ships, graves, and plays, but also of ethical and political virtues like security, education, justice, and democracy. Meanwhile, Elsinore has a bad case of affluenza, the make-believe disease invented by an American lawyer who argued that his client's social privilege was so great that it created an obliviousness to law. While social elites rot society through the twin corrosives of political corruption and scholarly detachment, the working class keeps the machine running. They build the ships, plays, and graves society needs to function, and monitor the nuts-and-bolts of the ideals—like education and justice—that we aspire to uphold.

Chapter Twenty-Three The Honor Code at Harvard and in Hamlet

Students at Harvard College are asked, when they first join the school and several times during their years there, to affirm their awareness of and commitment to the school’s honor code. But instead of “the foundation of our community” that it is at Harvard, honor is tragic in Hamlet —a source of anxiety, blunder, and catastrophe. As this chapter shows, looking at Hamlet from our place at Harvard can bring us to see what a tangled knot honor can be, and we can start to theorize the difference between heroic and tragic honor.

Chapter Twenty-Four The Meaning of Death in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

By connecting the ways characters live their lives in Hamlet to the ways they die – on-stage or off, poisoned or stabbed, etc. – Shakespeare symbolized hamartia in catastrophe. In advancing this argument, this chapter develops two supporting ideas. First, the dissemination of tragic necessity: Shakespeare distributed the Aristotelian notion of tragic necessity – a causal relationship between a character’s hamartia (fault or error) and the catastrophe at the end of the play – from the protagonist to the other characters, such that, in Hamlet , those who are guilty must die, and those who die are guilty. Second, the spectacularity of death: there exists in Hamlet a positive correlation between the severity of a character’s hamartia (error or flaw) and the “spectacularity” of his or her death – that is, the extent to which it is presented as a visible and visceral spectacle on-stage.

Chapter Twenty-Five Tragic Excess in Hamlet

In Hamlet , Shakespeare paralleled the situations of Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras (the father of each is killed, and each then seeks revenge) to promote the virtue of moderation: Hamlet moves too slowly, Laertes too swiftly – and they both die at the end of the play – but Fortinbras represents a golden mean which marries the slowness of Hamlet with the swiftness of Laertes. As argued in this essay, Shakespeare endorsed the virtue of balance by allowing Fortinbras to be one of the very few survivors of the play. In other words, excess is tragic in Hamlet .


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Humanities LibreTexts

12.6: Literary Thesis Statements

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  • Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap
  • City College of San Francisco via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative

The Literary Thesis Statement

Literary essays are argumentative or persuasive essays. Their purpose is primarily analysis, but analysis for the purposes of showing readers your interpretation of a literary text. So the thesis statement is a one to two sentence summary of your essay's main argument, or interpretation.

Just like in other argumentative essays, the thesis statement should be a kind of opinion based on observable fact about the literary work.

Thesis Statements Should Be

  • This thesis takes a position. There are clearly those who could argue against this idea.
  • Look at the text in bold. See the strong emphasis on how form (literary devices like symbolism and character) acts as a foundation for the interpretation (perceived danger of female sexuality).
  • Through this specific yet concise sentence, readers can anticipate the text to be examined ( Huckleberry Finn) , the author (Mark Twain), the literary device that will be focused upon (river and shore scenes) and what these scenes will show (true expression of American ideals can be found in nature).

Thesis Statements Should NOT Be

  • While we know what text and author will be the focus of the essay, we know nothing about what aspect of the essay the author will be focusing upon, nor is there an argument here.
  • This may be well and true, but this thesis does not appear to be about a work of literature. This could be turned into a thesis statement if the writer is able to show how this is the theme of a literary work (like "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid) and root that interpretation in observable data from the story in the form of literary devices.
  • Yes, this is true. But it is not debatable. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who could argue with this statement. Yawn, boring.
  • This may very well be true. But the purpose of a literary critic is not to judge the quality of a literary work, but to make analyses and interpretations of the work based on observable structural aspects of that work.
  • Again, this might be true, and might make an interesting essay topic, but unless it is rooted in textual analysis, it is not within the scope of a literary analysis essay. Be careful not to conflate author and speaker! Author, speaker, and narrator are all different entities! See: intentional fallacy.

Thesis Statement Formula

One way I find helpful to explain literary thesis statements is through a "formula":

Thesis statement = Observation + Analysis + Significance

  • Observation: usually regarding the form or structure of the literature. This can be a pattern, like recurring literary devices. For example, "I noticed the poems of Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir all use symbols such as the lover's longing and Tavern of Ruin "
  • Analysis: You could also call this an opinion. This explains what you think your observations show or mean. "I think these recurring symbols all represent the human soul's desire." This is where your debatable argument appears.
  • Significance: this explains what the significance or relevance of the interpretation might be. Human soul's desire to do what? Why should readers care that they represent the human soul's desire? "I think these recurring symbols all show the human soul's desire to connect with God. " This is where your argument gets more specific.

Thesis statement: The works of ecstatic love poets Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir use symbols such as a lover’s longing and the Tavern of Ruin to illustrate the human soul’s desire to connect with God .

Thesis Examples


These sample thesis statements are provided as guides, not as required forms or prescriptions.


The Literary Device Thesis Statement

The thesis may focus on an analysis of one of the elements of fiction, drama, poetry or nonfiction as expressed in the work: character, plot, structure, idea, theme, symbol, style, imagery, tone, etc.

In “A Worn Path,” Eudora Welty creates a fictional character in Phoenix Jackson whose determination, faith, and cunning illustrate the indomitable human spirit.

Note that the work, author, and character to be analyzed are identified in this thesis statement. The thesis relies on a strong verb (creates). It also identifies the element of fiction that the writer will explore (character) and the characteristics the writer will analyze and discuss (determination, faith, cunning).

The character of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet serves as a foil to young Juliet, delights us with her warmth and earthy wit, and helps realize the tragic catastrophe.

The Genre / Theory Thesis Statement

The thesis may focus on illustrating how a work reflects the particular genre’s forms, the characteristics of a philosophy of literature, or the ideas of a particular school of thought.

“The Third and Final Continent” exhibits characteristics recurrent in writings by immigrants: tradition, adaptation, and identity.

Note how the thesis statement classifies the form of the work (writings by immigrants) and identifies the characteristics of that form of writing (tradition, adaptation, and identity) that the essay will discuss.

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame reflects characteristics of Theatre of the Absurd in its minimalist stage setting, its seemingly meaningless dialogue, and its apocalyptic or nihilist vision.

A close look at many details in “The Story of an Hour” reveals how language, institutions, and expected demeanor suppress the natural desires and aspirations of women.

Generative Questions

One way to come up with a riveting thesis statement is to start with a generative question. The question should be open-ended and, hopefully, prompt some kind of debate.

  • What is the effect of [choose a literary device that features prominently in the chosen text] in this work of literature?
  • How does this work of literature conform or resist its genre, and to what effect?
  • How does this work of literature portray the environment, and to what effect? 
  • How does this work of literature portray race, and to what effect?
  • How does this work of literature portray gender, and to what effect?
  • What historical context is this work of literature engaging with, and how might it function as a commentary on this context?

These are just a few common of the common kinds of questions literary scholars engage with. As you write, you will want to refine your question to be even more specific. Eventually, you can turn your generative question into a statement. This then becomes your thesis statement. For example,

  • How do environment and race intersect in the character of Frankenstein's monster, and what can we deduce from this intersection?

Expert Examples

While nobody expects you to write professional-quality thesis statements in an undergraduate literature class, it can be helpful to examine some examples. As you view these examples, consider the structure of the thesis statement. You might also think about what questions the scholar wondered that led to this statement!

  • "Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as 'the other world,' the antithesis of Europe and therefore civilization, a place where man's vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality" (Achebe 3).
  • "...I argue that the approach to time and causality in Boethius' sixth-century Consolation of Philosophy can support abolitionist objectives to dismantle modern American policing and carceral systems" (Chaganti 144).
  • "I seek to expand our sense of the musico-poetic compositional practices available to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, focusing on the metapoetric dimensions of Much Ado About Nothing. In so doing, I work against the tendency to isolate writing as an independent or autonomous feature the work of early modern poets and dramatists who integrated bibliographic texts with other, complementary media" (Trudell 371).

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. "An Image of Africa" Research in African Literatures 9.1 , Indiana UP, 1978. 1-15.

Chaganti, Seeta. "Boethian Abolition" PMLA 137.1 Modern Language Association, January 2022. 144-154.

"Thesis Statements in Literary Analysis Papers" Author unknown.  

Trudell, Scott A. "Shakespeare's Notation: Writing Sound in Much Ado about Nothing " PMLA 135.2,  Modern Language Association, March 2020. 370-377.

Contributors and Attributions

Thesis Examples. Authored by: University of Arlington Texas. License: CC BY-NC

140 Hamlet Essay Topics

One of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays is Hamlet. Set in Denmark, it tells the story of Hamlet, a young prince who becomes aware of his father’s death and seeks revenge against his mother Gertrude by killing her new husband, Claudius.

The play is a thrilling roller coaster ride of emotions, with themes such as lust, love, betrayal, and revenge present throughout the story.

Hamlet Essay Writing

Usually first studied in high school literature classes, Hamlet’s many themes have been the subject of many essay writing assignments. Whether it’s an argumentative, persuasive, or analytical essay, the trick to writing about Hamlet lies in the following steps.

Understand the Reading

The key to writing about Hamlet is understanding it. Shakespeare wrote in a much different way from modern literature, so it takes time for many to understand the writing or where the author is going.

To better understand the play, it may be necessary to read it multiple times. It can help to mark specific sections with a color-coded or annotation system. If you color code the reading, use different colored highlighters designated to a particular theme, symbol, character, or event to mark several passages. If annotating, use a pencil or pen to underline, circle, or write notes in the margins of important passages.

By marking the reading as you go through it, you develop a better idea of how each symbol relates to the others and the overall story.

Choose a Topic

Once you have read through the play and made notes detailing the significant themes, symbols, and characters, it is time to choose a topic. There are many different ways to approach the essay, depending on what you feel will make for the best argument or story.

Pick a topic that interests you and can be backed by the number of examples you have highlighted or noted while reading the play. If you are having trouble choosing a topic for a Hamlet essay, consider using any of the 140 Hamlet essay topics at the bottom of this article.

Create a Strong Thesis Statement

Once you have chosen a topic, it is time to create your thesis statement. A thesis statement on Hamlet should include the topic your essay will focus on, as well as an argument that your textual evidence can support. For example:

“The role of women in Hamlet is significant to understanding the meaning behind revenge.”

“Hamlet’s lust for Gertrude affects his ability to carry out his plan for revenge.”

“It can be argued that Hamlet is trapped in a cycle of revenge and cannot escape until the ghost gives him permission to do so.”

These thesis statements clearly state what your essay will focus on and can be backed up with examples from the play.

Hamlet Essay Structure

Once you have the key steps above completed, it’s time to start drafting your Hamlet essay.


Start with a compelling hook that draws the reader in. For example, compelling opening sentences for Hamlet essays could be something like:

“In a time when women were expected to be silent…”

“Hamlet’s lust for his mother…”

“In a world where revenge…”

After the hook, you’ll want to include pertinent background information to help the reader understand your essay. For example, if you are writing about the role of women in Hamlet, begin with a brief summary of King Hamlet’s death and how it affected his family before getting into specific examples from the play that show the role of women.

Finish your introduction with a strong thesis statement that lays out the essay’s overall argument.

The body paragraphs should go logically from the least crucial point to the most vital, usually with one to three examples per paragraph. Use quotations from the play where possible, and remember to include any subtleties that tie back into your thesis statement.

Pro Tip: When quoting lines from Hamlet, be sure to reference them in the correct format. Depending on the style, this may require using parenthetical notation to reference the act, line, and scene, written as (1.2.41)

Your conclusion should summarize what you have said during your essay and tie up any loose ends that were left.

For example, if your essay began with a summary of King Hamlet’s death and how it affected his family, be sure to end the essay by reiterating how that loss impacted Hamlet’s life.

This is also where you can bring up any implications or possible future developments based on what has happened in the play to tie it back into the overall argument.

Pro Tip: Remember that a well-written essay will include fewer examples and more textual evidence instead of a long list of facts without any supporting quotes from the play. Include as much detail as possible about each example or instance you bring up in your essay to strengthen your argument and show your reader how each point is relevant to the topic.

Choosing the right topic for your Hamlet essay can be challenging. Fortunately, this list of 140 Hamlet essay topics is perfect for students writing about the famous play.

Hamlet Essay Topics About Tragedy

  • Discuss the tragedy of Hamlet and how it affects his life
  • Analyze how tragedy is represented through literary devices throughout Hamlet
  • Compare and contrast Hamlet’s various tragedies in terms of literary devices
  • Discuss how Hamlet’s tragedies are reflected through the characters in the play
  • Analyze the effect of death on both Hamlet and his family/friends
  • Compare/contrast Queen Gertrude’s tragedies to Lady Macbeth’s
  • Analyze how death functions as a literary device throughout Hamlet
  • Discuss whether or not Hamlet is truly a tragic hero
  • Compare and contrast the portrayal of tragedy in Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet
  • Discuss how Hamlet’s tragedies could have been avoided
  • Would it still be considered a tragedy if Hamlet happened in modern times?
  • Reflect on the theme of tragedy as it pertains to Hamlet
  • Which character in Hamlet experiences the worst tragedy, why?
  • How does the theme of tragedy compare with the other themes in Hamlet?
  • When does the tragedy of Hamlet become noticeable as the play progresses?
  • Why is Hamlet considered a tragedy?
  • Do you think that Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s best or worst tragedies?
  • How could the tragedy have been avoided in Hamlet?
  • Would better communication between the characters have prevented the tragedy in Hamlet?
  • Who is more of a tragic hero, Hamlet or Othello? Why?

Hamlet Essay Topics About Revenge

  • Discuss why Hamlet’s plan to seek revenge is an internal conflict
  • Analyze how Hamlet deals with his desire for revenge after learning of his father’s death
  • Compare and contrast Claudius’ and Macbeth’s quests for power that leads them to take a life
  • Analyze whether or not Hamlet’s motivations can be justified as revenge
  • Discuss the role of revenge and vengeance in Shakespeare tragedies (e.g., Othello, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet)
  • Analyze how revenge is portrayed in Hamlet
  • Compare and contrast taking revenge on Claudius to Ulysses’s quest for revenge in The Odyssey
  • Discuss the concept of suspicious minds throughout Hamlet
  • Identify examples of extreme suspicion in Hamlet
  • Discuss the literary devices used to express suspicion in Hamlet
  • Analyze the impact of suspicious minds on Hamlet and his family/friends
  • Analyze the role of urgency in Hamlet: Is it a necessary part of revenge?
  • Is revenge justified in Hamlet? Discuss your answer.
  • Hamlet is often considered an anti-hero. Why do you think that is?
  • How would the story have been different if Hamlet had taken revenge sooner?
  • What does Shakespeare achieve through his portrayal of revenge in Hamlet?
  • Which character in Hamlet gets the most out of their revenge?
  • Is revenge ever warranted in any situation? Discuss why or why not.
  • How would modern-day society view Hamlet’s revenge plot?
  • Compare and contrast the themes of revenge in Hamlet with a modern-day literary work

Hamlet Essay Topics About Women in Hamlet

  • Analyze how women are portrayed in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  • Compare and contrast Lady Macbeth and Gertrude in terms of their relationships with the men in their lives
  • Discuss the role of gender politics throughout Hamlet
  • Analyze how Gertrude is treated by her husband, son, and the other characters in the play
  • Analyze Gertrude’s role as Queen of Denmark
  • Analyze how Shakespeare uses women to convey the political atmosphere of Denmark during this period
  • What is the significance of the women in Hamlet?
  • How do male-female relationships function throughout Hamlet?
  • Compare and contrast the portrayal of women in Shakespeare’s Othello with that of Hamlet
  • If Hamlet was written today, how would the female characters be portrayed?
  • Was there any significance behind Claudius’ betrothal to Gertrude?
  • Discuss the importance of Ophelia’s death in Hamlet
  • How do women convey the theme of revenge throughout Hamlet?
  • Did Gertrude love Claudius, or was she forced into marriage with him?
  • Is any female character redeemed in Hamlet?
  • How does gender function as a theme in Hamlet?
  • Would a female director’s vision of the play be drastically different from a male director’s?
  • Discuss whether or not women stand up for themselves throughout Hamlet.
  • Analyze why Gertrude commits suicide at the end of Hamlet
  • How do women convey madness, desire, and revenge themes in Hamlet?
  • Do you think that Shakespeare was critical or supportive of women throughout his works?
  • Is Gertrude just as guilty for Hamlet’s death as Claudius is?
  • Analyze whether or not Shakespeare has a feminist or misogynistic view of women in Hamlet.

Hamlet Essay Topics About Grief

  • Analyze the role of grief in Hamlet
  • Discuss the various ways that characters deal with grief throughout Hamlet
  • Analyze Laertes’ main motivation for seeking revenge on Claudius
  • Compare and contrast how different characters are affected by grief in Hamlet
  • Analyze whether or not Laertes is a reliable source of information in the play
  • Analyze whether or not Hamlet is actually living up to his name throughout the play
  • What does Shakespeare mean when he says that “the readiness is all”?
  • How are the characters’ feelings about death conveyed in Hamlet?
  • How does grief influence the actions of various characters in Hamlet?
  • Which theme is more prevalent in Hamlet – grief or madness?
  • What is the significance of Ophelia’s death in Hamlet?
  • Would modern-day society view grief as a valid motivation for revenge?

Hamlet Essay Topics About Madness

  • Analyze the various ways that insanity is manifested in Hamlet
  • Discuss how Shakespeare uses madness to convey themes of grief and revenge in Hamlet
  • Compare and contrast Hamlet’s riddling with The Tempest’s concept of magic
  • What is the significance of the “ghost” scene in Act 1, Scene 4?
  • Is Hamlet genuinely insane?
  • Does Ophelia go mad, or does she purposefully act that way?
  • Does Claudius’ desire for power drive him into insanity?
  • Analyze whether or not all of the characters in Hamlet are truly insane.
  • How does insanity function as a theme throughout Shakespeare’s play?
  • What is the significance of Laertes’ recovery from his madness, and how does it affect the plotline?
  • Compare and contrast Gertrude’s sanity at the beginning of the play with her sanity at the end.
  • How does insanity manifest itself throughout Hamlet?
  • Which literary devices are the most essential for depicting the scope of madness experienced by characters in Hamlet?

Hamlet Essay Topics About Power & Corruption

  • Analyze the role of power dynamics within families in Hamlet
  • Discuss Claudius’ motivations for murdering his brother and marrying Gertrude
  • Analyze the significance of the name “Hamlet” throughout Shakespeare’s play.
  • Compare and contrast how different characters respond to their loss of power or status in the play.
  • Discuss the theme of corruption throughout the play.
  • Does power corrupt Claudius?
  • Are there any characters in the play that do not experience some form of loss of power, status, or nobility?
  • Compare and contrast Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with Laertes
  • How would the pursuit of power in Hamlet be viewed in modern times?
  • Is there a specific character that is corrupted or corrupting throughout Hamlet?
  • Discuss whether the theme of corruption exists more prominently in The Lord of the Flies or Hamlet.
  • What does Shakespeare mean when he says, “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain”?
  • Was one character’s quest for power the only thing going on in the play?
  • How do the themes of corruption and power in Hamlet mimic modern-day events?
  • What are the most significant changes throughout Hamlet in terms of power dynamics?
  • Which characters are corrupted by their pursuit of power, and which are not?
  • How does Shakespeare convey the theme of corruption through literary devices?
  • How does Shakespeare critique corruption and power in Hamlet?
  • Are there any characters that display no form of corruption after experiencing significant events in the play?

Hamlet Essay Topics About Jealousy

  • Analyze how the theme of jealousy plays out throughout Hamlet
  • Which characters in Hamlet express feelings of jealousy and why?
  • Compare and contrast Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia to that of Laertes’ relationship with Ophelia.
  • How does Shakespeare use jealousy as a literary device?
  • Do you think Gertrude is justified in her feelings towards Ophelia?
  • Does Laertes’ understanding of his sister’s relationship with Hamlet influence his decision to fight in the duel?
  • What motivations do Hamlet and Laertes have in fighting in a duel with one another?
  • Compare and contrast Claudius’ feelings of envy when he hears of Fortinbras’ men passing by with the jealousy Laertes experiences towards Hamlet.
  • Does the theme of jealousy exist throughout the play?
  • How does Shakespeare portray the characters that experience feelings of jealousy in Hamlet?
  • Which character’s jealousy is most detrimental to their relationships with others?
  • What impact do Gertrude’s feelings for Claudius have on the play?
  • How does Shakespeare subtly convey feelings of jealousy through his use of language and literary devices?

Hamlet Essay Topics About Friendship

  • How do Ophelia’s feelings of loss influence her decisions to act in certain ways throughout the play?
  • What is the significance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern betraying Hamlet?
  • Analyze whether or not Gertrude’s friendship with Claudius contributes to her betrayal of Hamlet.
  • How do the relationships between characters in Hamlet evolve throughout the play?
  • How does Shakespeare portray friendships in Hamlet?
  • Which character displays the most loyalty to another, and why?
  • What is the significance of Ophelia’s relationship with her father, Polonius?
  • What do you think Shakespeare thought about friendship based on Hamlet?
  • What is the importance of Hamlet’s relationship with Horatio?
  • How does Shakespeare portray friendships in his use of language and literary devices?
  • How would you define friendship based on your analysis of Hamlet?
  • Is it possible for someone who betrays another person to be considered a friend?

Hamlet Essay Topics About Morality

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not experience as much change as the primary characters of the play from good to evil.
  • In what ways has Claudius changed since he came to power?
  • How would someone who has killed a person be viewed in modern society?
  • Compare and contrast Laertes’ actions with those of Hamlet’s.
  • Does Shakespeare explore immorality or morality in Hamlet?
  • Do you think Claudius can be saved from damnation in the eyes of God?
  • What impact do recent events in the play have on Hamlet’s decision to avenge his father’s death?
  • How does Shakespeare portray morality in his use of language and literary devices?

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Group 6

what would be a good thesis statement for hamlet

William Shakespeare

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Action and Inaction Theme Icon

Hamlet  is part of a literary tradition called the revenge play, in which a person—most often a man—must take revenge against those who have wronged him. Hamlet , however, turns the genre on its head in an ingenious way: Hamlet , the person seeking vengeance, can't actually bring himself to take his revenge. As Hamlet struggles throughout the play with the logistical difficulties and moral burdens of vengeance, waffling between whether he should kill Claudius and avenge his father once and for all, or whether to do so would be pointless, cruel, or even self-destructive, William Shakespeare’s unique perspective on action versus inaction becomes clear. Ultimately, as the characters within the play puzzle, pontificate, and perish, Shakespeare suggests that there is no inherent morality in either action or inaction, insofar as each option is tied to vengeance: whether one acts or does not, death inevitably comes for everyone.

There are two major arenas in which Hamlet’s ability to take decisive action are played out: the first being the question of whether or not he will kill Claudius and avenge his father, and the second being the question of whether Hamlet will take his own life in order to avoid making the former decision. When Hamlet’s father’s ghost appears to him and charges him with taking vengeance upon Claudius for murdering him, Hamlet is determined to do the ghost’s bidding—but as Hamlet (often purposefully) misses opportunity after opportunity to kill Claudius, he begins to wonder what his own inability to act says about him, and whether he is as weak and mad as he has led everyone to believe. Hamlet has faked madness as a cover for his investigations into Claudius, taking one small action in order to stall having to take a larger, riskier one. However, as Hamlet languishes in indecision, even that small action becomes too frightening, and he begins contemplating suicide, asking, in a famous line, whether it is better “to be or not to be.” On the matter of suicide, even, Hamlet cannot make a decision—to take his own life would be to fail his father, but to stay alive means reckoning with his own inaction day after day. Ultimately, Hamlet resolves too late to kill Claudius—Claudius and Laertes have already put a plan to kill Hamlet as revenge for the deaths of Polonius and Ophelia into action. Hamlet succeeds in killing Claudius—but not before realizing that his own death from being slain by Laertes’s poisoned rapier is imminent. Hamlet has acted at last, but has staved off his actions for so long that Shakespeare seems to be using Hamlet’s idleness to suggest that neither action nor inaction has any bearing on morality, or any influence on the ultimate outcome of one’s life.

It is also significant that in the background of the main drama of Hamlet , Elsinore swirls with rumors of the approach of Fortinbras , the young prince of Norway who has succeeded his father (also named Fortinbras), on the Norwegian throne. Fortinbras is determined to take back lands his father lost in battle—including Denmark—and marches relentlessly across Europe as he sets his eyes on lands in Poland and beyond. Hamlet overhears these murmurings of Fortinbras’s campaign, and though he never comes face-to-face with his foil and opposite, the audience (and Hamlet himself) recognize Fortinbras’s decisive action on his late father’s behalf as all that Hamlet is unable to bring himself to do. In the end, when Fortinbras arrives at Elsinore to find a massacre before him, he accepts Horatio ’s (and the late Hamlet’s) nomination to the Danish throne. For his decisive action, Fortinbras is rewarded with the one thing Hamlet partly longed for but could never take the action necessary to secure: political and social control of his country—and yet other characters who have taken the same decisive actions as Fortinbras, such as Claudius and Laertes, have met their deaths as well.

By the end of the play, all of the major characters are dead, and a new leader has come to Denmark to seize the throne. While Hamlet’s great inner moral struggles—“to be or not to be,” to take revenge or to stay his hand, to ascend to the throne or to languish in obscurity—have been slowly unfolding, the wheels of the world have kept turning. Death has come for all the major players, and while some have been slain as a result of Hamlet’s actions, others have been killed by his inaction. Death is humanity’s great equalizer, and Shakespeare shows that it does not discriminate between the valiant and the cowardly, the motivated and the fearful, or the good and the wicked.

Action and Inaction ThemeTracker

Hamlet PDF

Action and Inaction Quotes in Hamlet

O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.

Poison, Corruption, Death Theme Icon

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.

Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Religion, Honor, and Revenge Theme Icon

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, That he should weep for her?

The play’s the thing, Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

To be or not to be—that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles And, by opposing, end them.

Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me…

Women Theme Icon

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below; Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

We defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

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William Shakespeare: Hamlet’s Actions and Inactions Essay (Critical Writing)

“Hamlet” is a play for all times. Its protagonist is a contradictory and mysterious person. If he is guided by blind revenge or righteous feel of justice, why he hesitates and lingers to punish culprits if he is prudent or light-minded – these adages may be united under two maxims:” Look before you leap” and “He who hesitates is lost”. This paper is an attempt to analyze Hamlet’s actions and inactions to prove the authenticity of the application of these maxims to the protagonist.

Although the scene of the play is laid in the Danish Kingdom, the problems involve the whole of mankind to think over this play. In the first act, we get acquainted with Hamlet and it gives us some intellectual challenge. The protagonist is a noble hero, he has a philosophical set of minds, he judges everything from the height of moral virtues, but he has found himself in a complicated and even tragic predicament after having known about his mother and uncles betray. The old world is destructed, and the Ghost asks Hamlet to take responsibility and revenge for his father’s death and restore universal justice. Hamlet obeys the Ghost and is careless of consequences. Here we see the first “leap” of Hamlet because he takes too much upon himself. But this proves the Prince to be an ideal person of the Renaissance.

Hamlet disguises himself as a madman. He should convince everybody that he has gone insane. Being a jester gives an opportunity to tell everything he thinks about. The Prince gives praise to Human beings, calls him perfect, but here we hear the disappointment in life values. All Universal lacks any sense. Hamlet became animated when remembering an old play about the murder of Priam by Pyrrhus. This scene has a very emotional moment when the Prince remembers Priam’s wife Hecuba. For Hamlet it is very important: Hecuba is a faithful wife and Queen Gertrude – not. Anguish comes to the surface again, but reproaches about inaction mingle with this anguish. Why does he linger? Why not avenge his father’s death? He is angry with himself and calls himself pejorative names: “what a rogue and peasant slave am I” (Hamlet, Act II). This is an example of his hesitations.

The famous soliloquy “To be or not to be” is the culmination of Hamlet’s doubts. “To suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Hamlet, Act III) directly refers to the situation Hamlet is in: to fight against evil or avoid struggle. Desires controvert virtues. Hesitation is grounded on fear. The Prince is afraid to suffer a defeat. His views on life are destructed, and his goddess Justice is blind. Does he have enough powers to resist the temptation of inactivity and sleep peacefully? Once again, the Prince is prevented from action by his hesitancy. Hamlet does not moralize. He is lost in the world, lost in his hesitations. He cannot draw a demarcation line between reality and his feigned insanity. Hamlet chooses “to be”, but “to be” means to die. He claims that death is inevitable, but hesitates because it is unknown as well. The soliloquy expresses Hamlet’s torment of mind. He is determined to kill the King, but he is unsure if it will bring good or harm.

Now nothing can stop Hamlet and there is a right moment. Hamlet finds Claudius praying, but he cannot kill him. The prayer defends the King and Hamlet does not want him to die sinless. It leads to Heaven, but Claudius does not deserve it. And here Hamlet should think before he leaps. The Prince just excuses his hesitation by waiting for some other appropriate fatal occasion. He wants his revenge to be perfect and edifying. If not – he refuses it completely. He has no time to consider the circumstances and kills Polonius, once more “leaping” before thinking.

Laertes wants to compete in fencing with Hamlet and kill him during this duel. Laertes’ sword will be poisoned and the Prince will die from the wound. Hamlet is tortured by forebodings of evil. Horatio suggests declining the duel. But Hamlet’s response astonishes by its wisdom. Come what may, what must be will be, there exists some Divine power that rules the world – such thoughts occur in Hamlet’s mind for the first time.

Hamlet is uncertain whether he can believe the Ghost. He scruples to trust everybody: Ophelia, Horatio, Gertrude. He is even unsure of himself. When a troupe of actors comes, he gets inspired with his new intention. To re-act, the murder of his father means to punish the culprits. Hamlet mocks the evils of life, thus trying to delete them from reality. He is just satisfied when everybody sees that it is his uncle who has killed Hamlet’s father. His suspicions are confirmed, but he never tries to return for evil. And it happens but by an accident. Hamlet makes no attempt to punish the King. So Hamlet “leaps” into the struggle, but with much hesitation. On one hand, he is a loser, because he died, on the other – a winner, because culprits endured the punishment. He reflects upon his infirmity but does not try to put his intentions into practice. He is obsessed with thinking, not acting. This is his essence and escapes from reality. Only death can bring deliverance and oblivion from uncertainty.

Hamlet is not remarkable for willpower or determination, foresight and deep consideration. But we enjoy refined thoughts and genuine sentiments of his. The Prince lacks deliberateness in actions; he rushes to the whirl of life on the spur of the occasion. If Hamlet were a man of action, he might have killed Claudius at once together with the Queen. And everybody would think him to be a cruel murderer. If he were more prudent, he could have avoided his death and become a King himself. But could he be a good King for his people? A hesitating and indiscreet king can ruin his kingdom. He could save Ophelia, innocent victim of his indifference, Laertes, noble and loving brother. But Hamlet breaks the equilibrium of imaginative and authentic worlds, and reality turns out to be crueler than his fictional insanity. Skepticism, accompanying Hamlet, makes him vulnerable, as only strong beliefs can bring to actions. What if Hamlet has not believed the Ghost at all? Maybe it is conscience that came to him, and if he had not listened to it, his life would be full of scruples of remorse facing his father’s memory. Hamlet, the flesh and blood of his mother, wanted to sentence her to death, and if he had not been stopped by the Ghost, a fatal mistake could have been made.

It is controversial if Hamlet is a hero or a pure madman with judicious observations; his motives are mixed and vague. But we can find Hamlet in ourselves. Like him, we hesitate before an important decision and overestimate our powers. It is in human nature and when Hamlet speaks, he speaks on behalf of all people.

Works Cited

Shakespeare William. Hamlet. NY: Dover Publications, 2004.

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    Sample thesis statements on Hamlet Hamlet is a presentation of a tragedy because he embodies a fatal flaw the leads to his unfortunate demise The story of Hamlet attracts admiration and pity is equal…

  14. Here's How to Kill It on Your Hamlet Essay

    Thesis Statement. In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet is the only character to have conversations with the ghost of his father, and the ghost advises him to murder his uncle. The existence of the ghost demonstrates how mad Hamlet has become. Conversations. Castle guards and Horatio see, but don't talk to, the ghost.

  15. 140 Hamlet Essay Topics

    140 Hamlet Essay Topics. One of Shakespeare's most iconic plays is Hamlet. Set in Denmark, it tells the story of Hamlet, a young prince who becomes aware of his father's death and seeks revenge against his mother Gertrude by killing her new husband, Claudius. The play is a thrilling roller coaster ride of emotions, with themes such as lust ...

  16. Action and Inaction Theme in Hamlet

    Below you will find the important quotes in Hamlet related to the theme of Action and Inaction. Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes. O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew. Related Characters: Hamlet (speaker) Related Themes: Page Number and Citation: 1.2.133-134. Cite this Quote. Explanation and Analysis:

  17. William Shakespeare: Hamlet's Actions and Inactions

    He is lost in the world, lost in his hesitations. He cannot draw a demarcation line between reality and his feigned insanity. Hamlet chooses "to be", but "to be" means to die. He claims that death is inevitable, but hesitates because it is unknown as well. The soliloquy expresses Hamlet's torment of mind. He is determined to kill the ...

  18. Give an example of a thesis statement that analyzes Hamlet's 'To be or

    Hamlet:. Hamlet is a tragedy by William Shakespeare that follows Hamlet, Prince of Denmark after he discovers that his father as murdered by his uncle, who is now married to Hamlet's mother. Hamlet swears to avenge his father, but he first wants to be sure of his uncle's guilt. During the course of his investigation, Hamlet's uncle learns of Hamlet's suspicions and arranges to have him killed.

  19. What is a good thesis for an essay on Macbeth by Shakespeare?

    For example, for an essay about Macbeth and his ambition, I might create this thesis statement: Macbeth, as the tragic hero of the play, is driven to his own demise by his tragic flaw -- ambition ...