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.
140 Hamlet Essay Topics
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?