!!The original play

* AlternativeCharacterInterpretation: The debates have been raging unabated for 400 years:
** '''Hamlet''': Insane, or faking it? TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth prince manipulated into evil[[note]]No, seriously; this was in vogue in the 19th century.[[/note]]? Deeply troubled youth wrestling with moral and honor codes? Spineless whiny git who killed in cold blood many times before hitting his actual mark? Misogynistic, Oedipal, whiny jerk? NonActionGuy {{Bookworm}} who would prefer to be back at school studying or writing more poetry for his girlfriend instead of carrying out the unsavory task of murder, unlike his predecessors in the Revenge Tragedies his story {{deconstruct|ion}}s? A total [[TheSociopath sociopath]]? Suffering from multiple personality disorder[[note]]Hamlet has been played by two different people in some versions of the play, with each one having a different personality and lines.[[/note]]? All of the above?
** '''Ophelia''': Is she a:
*** Sweet but fragile girl who got caught in the political crossfire between her father and boyfriend?
*** Pathetic and stupid doormat who was TooDumbToLive?
*** Driven mad due to having [[MySecretPregnancy to hide her pregnancy]] from her father, brother, and lover?
*** Cassandra-like oracle who can see the future but only speaks in riddles, rhymes and metaphors due to her insane state of mind?
*** Or, as was the trend in the psychoanalytic interpretations of the 1960s and 1970s, a sexually-frustrated young woman torn between her lust for her Hamlet and her lust for--wait for it--[[BrotherSisterIncest Laertes]]. Hey, we said 'overanalyzed', didn't we?
*** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoM8bHQtSEU "Cut the crap, Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking and I want babies NOW!"]]
*** The Victorians did not question for a minute that Ophelia loves Hamlet. Some readers, nowadays, wonder if Ophelia's affection is real or another political ploy on her father's part -- but if it is, why does she take Hamlet's abuse so much to heart?
*** A specific scene with '''Hamlet''': when he's exhorting her to "get thee to a nunnery", is he simply being a massive asshole to her because he's stressed? Or mental imbalance? Or, under the ''cover'' of this, is he intentionally trying to drive her away from the castle entirely, so that she's way outside of the line of fire when things inevitably have to go down? It's been noted that it is ''very'' easy to change the entire tone of the scene just off of the delivery of that one line.
*** Was she DrivenToSuicide or was her death accidental?
** '''Claudius''':
*** While there's no doubt whatsoever that he's a villain (he ''admits'' in prayer to murdering his own brother), some think that he still was a pretty good ruler, and that Hamlet's revenge on him [[NiceJobBreakingItHero just made things worse for Denmark]].
*** It's debatable whether he did love Gertrude at all - he tells Laertes he really does love her and wanted to avoid Hamlet's death in a manner that would be more direct then looking like an accident. However, he fails to do more to stop Gertrude from drinking poison than just telling her not to drink from the cup. He could be seen as being letting logic rule over him for that moment, simply being too late to stop her by the time she drinks (where he is standing at the time depends on the adaptation) or it can be seen as clear proof he really doesn't care.
*** Or it could just be an OhCrap moment- as soon as he tells her not to drink it, he realizes he's basically admitted that the drink is poisoned and he's just tried to murder her son.
** '''Horatio''': Motivated by friendship and loyalty? [[HoYay Something else entirely?]] Is he even Danish? Did he even know Hamlet very well beforehand? If not, what the hell is he doing in Denmark? [[ImaginaryFriend Does he even exist except to give Hamlet someone to talk to when he's alone?]]
** '''Fortinbras''': Noble war hero who acted the most logically and justly of the cast? Bloodthirsty barbarian prince who's willing to send hundreds to their deaths for a scrap of land? DeusExMachina on legs? {{Expy}} for [[UsefulNotes/TheHouseOfStuart King James]]?
** '''Polonius''': MagnificentBastard or [[IdiotBall stupid, stupid,]] ''[[IdiotBall stupid]]'' [[IdiotBall bastard]]?
*** A genuinely caring father looking out for his son's personal development and raising legitimate concerns about his daughter's future, or a domineering, invasive patriarch spouting cliched wisdom and taking advantage of his children for political favour-currying?
** '''Gertrude''':
*** Loving mother forced to marry her brother-in-law to save her son's life or deceitful accomplice in a palace coup? (Some believe that Hamlet's emphasis on revenge over capturing the throne for himself implies that Gertrude was the queen regnant, and both Hamlet's father and Claudius were only kings consort -- which at the time would have made them the rulers, not her. If this is the case, the play may also have been in part Shakespeare's approval of Elizabeth I's unmarried status. Creator/RogerEbert and others note that Gertrude may being practical to avoid a power vacuum that would invite usurpation of the throne.)
*** The scene in which Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine is also open to interpretation; in some adaptations, she is unaware that there is poison in the wine and her line "I will, My Lord, I pray you pardon me" is said as if she's just having a good time. In others, "I will..." is delivered to imply that she knows exactly what's in there and has been DrivenToSuicide. Or [[HeroicSacrifice taking the poison for her son]].
*** And speaking of DrivenToSuicide, Gertrude's report of how Ophelia died is realistically rather suspect since it implies someone saw her fall into the water, and watched her slowly sink to her death. Did she actually kill her as a MercyKill, or did something else happen entirely?
** '''King Hamlet''':
*** Ever read ''[[Theatre/{{Macbeth}} The Scottish Play]]''? There's this great line: "and oftentime, to win us to or harms, the instruments of darkness tell us truths." Consider if the above quote applies to him, if he's actually an evil spirit. Hamlet himself even lampshades this possibility. Mind you, some scholars would say that any good Elizabethan would consider ''any'' spirit as an evil one.
*** One issue raised in the play itself is the question of whether the Ghost is indeed his spirit or simply a demon impersonating him (or if it is him, he's incompetent). The Ghost leaves when the cock crows, a behavior associated with evil spirits, and he purports to be suffering in flames and torment, which could mean he comes from Purgatory, but this concept was rejected by Protestantism (the play is ambiguous/inconsistent about its religious background). In terms of intention, the Ghost is extorting Hamlet to do something arguably immoral (under the view that only God should take revenge on sinners), and his commands lead to the deaths of tons of people, including some (e.g. his son and wife) who King Hamlet would presumably want to live.
*** From the play one could walk away with the impression that the King was a cold, stern, warmongering bastard in life and Denmark is better off with him dead, even if he was killed for selfish motives. One of the first things Claudius does on talking the throne is make peace with their enemy Norway- was King Hamlet unable to do this, or was he unwilling to try? One notes how Hamlet seems to care more about him than his mother, partly because she married Claudius and did so shortly after her husband's death: was he a crap husband and is she relieved he's gone? And was he a cold and distant WellDoneSonGuy Hamlet has a higher opinion of than he should? Does he want justice for his death or revenge? Or does he see no difference? Maybe he died because he was a crap brother too?
* BigLippedAlligatorMoment: The Zefirelli version completely removes the Hecuba monologue, thereby rendering Hamlet's "Oh what an ass am I" sequence afterwards one of these.
* CounterpartComparison: Hamlet often reminds modern audiences of ''Franchise/{{Batman}}''. He's a spoiled rich kid burdened with a mission to avenge his father's death, he is extremely moody and introspective, incredibly well-educated even among the aristocrats and known for travelling around the world, and is also aces as a swordsman and fighter, and who worries friends, audiences, and others about his sanity. Batman's speech about why he wears a costume, "criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot" is not far from why Hamlet decides to stage the play within the play, which is analogous to Batman's embrace of theatrical tricks and gestures (as taught to him in ''Film/BatmanBegins''):
--> "...Hum, I have heard\\
That guilty creatures sitting at a play\\
Have, by the very cunning of the scene,\\
Been struck so to the soul that presently\\
They have proclaimed their malefactions.\\
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak\\
With most miraculous organ..."
* DesignatedHero: After learning from the ghost of his father that his father was murdered by Claudius, Hamlet spends the next Act or so mocking and taunting Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, while also verbally abusing and SlutShaming Ophelia. What do all 4 of these characters have in common? All 4 of them had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the murder of Hamlet's father. When Hamlet finally does something, he murders Polonius because he heard a voice behind some curtains and jumps to the conclusion that it must be Claudius. He then hides the body and jokes that everybody'll smell him soon enough. This murder leads Laertes to mount a popular rebellion against Claudius, and righteously demand vengeance for his father's death, a.k.a. the very crime [[HeWhoFightsMonsters which Hamlet wants to avenge]] but has now in turn committed. This murder drives Ophelia to insanity and her death (she may even have been DrivenToSuicide). Hamlet then deliberately brings about the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern [[DesignatedVillain despite little to no evidence that they actually did anything wrong]]. He finally gets around to the one person he was supposed to be killing, Claudius, only after the latter has poisoned Gertrude and gotten Laertes to poison Hamlet who then gets accidentally poisoned by Hamlet. So it could be argued that every death that occurs from the start of the play onward is all Hamlet's fault. The final exchanges between Horatio and Fortinbras about how Hamlet would have made a good king is a major InformedAttribute because it's pretty obvious that a guy as self-absorbed and irresponsible as Hamlet would have made a terrible king.
* DesignatedVillain: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Since Claudius killed Hamlet's father all by himself, he'd have no reason to confide in them or anyone else about it. So R&G might not see anything vile about obeying his summons and check out their old friend, Hamlet, and see if they can find out what's wrong with him. When Claudius sends R&G to England with Hamlet, he gives them a sealed envelope for the English which orders Hamlet's immediate execution. Since these orders are sealed, ''[[UnwittingPawn there's nothing to indicate R&G knew what those sealed orders were.]]'' Yet when Hamlet breaks into their cabin and opens the seal and reads the order, he changes the order making it for R&G's immediate executions. Since Hamlet gets kidnapped by pirates on the way to England, [[FridgeHorror R&G would have no reason to deliver those sealed orders if they already knew what those orders originally were]].
* DracoInLeatherPants: Hamlet is often idealized by many fans, and even scholars, because they project themselves onto him. Mostly because he's a character who is an intellectual and waxes eloquent philosophical views about existence and death, making him appealing to scholars and intellectuals. Thus, his negative qualities -- his misogyny, his snobbism[[note]]"The age is grown so picked that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier" (ACT V, SCENE 1, "the Gravedigger scene")[[/note]], and his hypocritical idea of violence, i.e. he hates war, but dismisses the crime of killing Polonius -- makes him out to be very bad news indeed.
* EnsembleDarkhorse:
** Rosencrantz and Guildenstern due to their [[Theatre/RosencrantzAndGuildensternAreDead spin-off]].
** In the David Tennant version Polonius is the standout--the character is difficult to play due the need to be simultaneously hilarious and boring, but Oliver Ford Davies nails it; he's also the only character other than Hamlet to blatantly break the fourth wall.
** Ophelia is this for artists, judging by the number of painting depicting her compare to any other characters except for Hamlet himself despite the fact that her role in the plot is much smaller than Claudius or even Gertrude. She is more or less the emotional heart of the play, being that her death and funeral scene between Laertes, Gertrude, and Hamlet is one of the few openly emotional moments in an otherwise quite intellectual play.
* EscapistCharacter: Amazingly for a tragedy, Hamlet proves to be this. The main reason is that Hamlet doesn't really have a TragicFlaw in the classical sense (the flaws that we now ascribe to him, indecision, over-introspection, oedipal hang-ups are modern). He's incredibly intelligent, has Ophelia deeply in love with him, has Horatio's support, incredibly witty, able to belt out long soliloquies while chatting up and bantering with his pals and the plebes (the theater company), he's devoted to his father and family, and is more or less an {{Ubermensch}} aristocratic Prince who dislikes war and fighting, but is quite charismatic and good with a sword. Throwaway comments even imply that he's popular among the people. Until the part in the end, where he and the rest of the cast die, Hamlet more or less comes up on top and wins every contest and situation he is in.
* HeManWomanHater: Hamlet is often accused of being this, what with his "get thee to a nunnery" tirade to Ophelia and his arguments with his mother about her marriage(s). However, people who take this view often tend to overlook the fact that Ophelia has been rejecting Hamlet and was actually in the process of giving back his love-letters and gifts to her (Hamlet ostensibly doesn't know that she was forced into it), not to mention being caught out in a lie about the whereabouts of her father [[note]]she tells Hamlet her father is at home when he's spying on their conversation along with Claudius. Though no specific stage directions are given, most productions have Hamlet being somehow tipped off to their presence which prompts him to ask Ophelia "Where is your father?"[[/note]], and Gertrude...well, [[DysfunctionalFamily marrying your former husband's brother a month after said former husband's death isn't exactly ''ever'' likely to do wonders for your relationship with your son...]] When all is said and done, Hamlet seems to care more about people (of any gender) appearing to betray him rather than just outright hating women.
* HoYay:
** Hamlet with Horatio.
** In the 2008 RSC version, with basically everybody to some degree.
** Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
* IncestYayShipping: Laertes and Ophelia. Laertes even gets into a tussle with Hamlet over who loves her more, and he shows a fascination with her sex life (or lack of).
* JerkassWoobie:
** Hamlet himself is ultimately this kind of trope.
** Laertes too. Specifically because of his dead sister.
** Heck, even Claudius. The same scene that confirms his guilt in killing Hamlet's father also shows he has some remorse over it.
* MagnificentBastard: Hamlet used a play to determine if his uncle really was guilty, [[HoistByHisOwnPetard turned his uncle's plots to kill Hamlet against him]] and used his last action before his death to prevent a succession crisis.
* MemeticMutation:
** "To be or not to be, that is the question..."
** "Alas, poor Yorick!"
** "X, thy name is Y!"
** After a ''really'' bad film version was shown on ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000'' "Cut his throat in a church!" started to gain popularity.
** "Good night, sweet prince."
* MoralEventHorizon:
** Arguably, Claudius letting the Queen drink from the poisoned cup. He earlier claimed to truly love her, but only tells her to not drink from the cup once rather than risk giving up his scheme, not to save her life.
** That depends on the production. He could be on the other side of the stage from her, and unable to do anything without betraying that the cup is poisoned.
** Also, using Laertes' grief at his sister's death to manipulate him into being his pawn.
** Frankly murdering his own brother to steal his kingdom and his wife probably crosses this before the play even starts.
* {{Narm}}:
** At the end of the "Play Within a Play" scene, Claudius has the line, "Bring me some light! Away!" It is '''very''' difficult to portray this seriously.
*** In Branagh's version, Derek Jacobi nails it. His achievement is then ruined by the overreaction of his sycophants, who begin to scream "LIGHTS, LIGHTS, LIGHTS!" like they are trapped in a darkened room.
** Also from Branagh's version, Polonius' face after his death looks more like a mischievous frog than a murder victim, although this may be intentional.
** '''Every''' bit of Claudius' death in the Branagh version. ''Especially'' the [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWjn2oSVBm8 sword]]
** And again from Branagh:
--->'''Polonius:''' What do you read, my lord?
--->'''Hamlet:''' Words, words, ''WOUEUOEOUEUOERRRDS.''[[note]]Creator/DavidTennant uses the exact same delivery in his performance as Hamlet.[[/note]]
* NightmareFuel: In the Branagh version, the courtier Osric (who has until then been a prissy ComicRelief character) [[DrivenToSuicide stabs himself]] in the final scene before announcing that Fortinbras has taken the kingdom, and we see a pretty graphic close-up of his bloodied hand from holding the wound shut. In fact, the whole of Fortinbras' entry into the palace is played more as the chilling arrival of a military dictator and less as the restoration of order that critics have often considered it to be.
* {{Padding}}: It ''is'' Shakespeare's longest play, and Hamlet has more lines than any other Shakespeare character, with his runner-up John Falstaff needing ''three whole plays'' [[CantCatchUp to even come second]]. The real problem for critics, audiences, theatre directors and actors, is how much this padding is a defect of the play, or the poor nature of the texts handed down to us, and how much it is an IntendedAudienceReaction. The basic plot, Hamlet gaining revenge on Claudius because YouKilledMyFather could ideally have been wrapped up [[WhyDontYouJustShootHim at most by Act 3]], but Hamlet keeps delaying the deed for reasons that are either because he has some serious philosophical qualms or because Shakespeare knows that if he did that the play would just end early and he needed to keep butts in the seat. Some of the plots and subplots (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Ophelia's suicide, Laertes' making a comeback and starting a rebellion and being acclaimed king by the populace, the Gravedigger) don't really have anything to do with the situation of the Old King's death and usurpation.
* ScienceMarchesOn: Multiple examples given how old the play is.
** Laertes mentions how we feed the masses like a pelican with his blood. At the time pelicans were thought to feed their young with their own blood. One wonders if they'd ever actually seen a pelican.
** A chameleon is mentioned for its diet of nothing but air. Yes they really thought that.
* SeinfeldIsUnfunny:
** The sheer number of lines in the play that have become established expressions in English can make it seem like all Shakespeare has done is just string a bunch of clichés together. Indeed, the overexposure of this play has often made it difficult, in the views of dramatists, to properly stage it, since the Hamlet of the text is not the same as the Hamlet that the audience wants.
** Most people have heard ''Hamlet'' praised as "the crowning achievement of Elizabethan drama" so often that it's easy to forget that it was once seen, especially in the 18th century as an avant-garde play. While popular among the public, critics didn't like the play for its violation of Creator/{{Aristotle}}'s ''Literature/{{Poetics}}'', and the fact that the play very self-consciously delays its obvious conclusion (Hamlet killing Claudius) for reasons entirely due to the hero's character. Later generations saw Hamlet as a groundbreaking play for consciously sliding that far to the "Character" side of the SlidingScaleOfPlotVersusCharacters, which led to so many more radical tweaks and changes, that today, Hamlet is proverbial for its baroque revenge plot and machinations, when in fact it's a highly character-driven work.
* {{Shipping}}:
** Hamlet & Ophelia
** Alternatively, Hamlet & Horatio
* SignatureScene: Most people, if they come across a skull, feel moved to pick it up, hold it out dramatically, and start in on [[SignatureLine "To be or not to be . . . "]] Only problem being is, [[BeamMeUpScotty that speech comes at a completely different point in the play]].
* TheWoobie:
** Ophelia. See also BreakTheCutie, KillTheCutie, and ButtMonkey.
** Almost everybody, [[AlternativeCharacterInterpretation depending on your point of view]].

!!The [[ShowWithinAShow Play Within A Play]]:

* {{Anvilicious}}: Its entire purpose: to be so blatantly anvilicious that Claudius can't fail to miss it.
* BigLippedAlligatorMoment: Depending on the adaptation, the midgets and/or clowns in the prelude.

!!The Klingon version

%%* {{Anvilicious}}: Something's rotten on the world of Qo'noS.
* MST3KMantra: Crucial to readers in the real world.