Characters / Hamlet

Hey, ever want to know what makes the characters from Hamlet tick? Well, here you go, but also make sure to check out tropes applying to everything else in Hamlet here so that the following makes a lick of sense.

Oh, and since this thing is older than your great-grandfather, we're not hiding any spoilers. Watch a performance or read the thing.
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    Hamlet 

Prince Hamlet

The prince of Denmark, nephew of the reigning king... and son of the reigning king, since they married Hamlet's mother only two months after his father's death. That incestuous mess would be hard enough for Ham, but before he can even decide whether to be or not, the ghost of his dad pops up and convinces him that the King didn't come to the throne naturally, he killed Hamlet's father to take control. This only gives Hamlet more reason be mad and more urgency to decide: should he kill the King? That is, if life is even worth living to begin with. Prince Hamlet struggles with this indecisively for five acts, getting into fights with everyone not named Horatio, before he takes his final breaths to kill his uncle and accepts the same silence that smothered his jester Yorick, Alexander the Great, and everyone else.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Whole plays and college courses have been written based on Hamlet's bipolar disorder. Hair-Trigger Temper and over-talkativeness during his manic episodes, and anguished soliloquies during his depressed ones.
  • Anti-Hero: He acts rudely to many who (may) mean him no harm, kills Polonius for spying on him (though he seemed to think it was Claudius hiding and watching) and has Guildenstern and Rosencrantz - his college buddies! - sent to death (they were spying for Claudius, so this has some justification, to varying degrees).
  • Berserk Button: Referring to Claudius as his father.
  • Birds of a Feather: With young Fortinbras. Hamlet respects his Hot-Blooded, passionate, emotion-fueled nature, and this, coupled with their similarities in situation and circumstance, is a large part of the reason Hamlet gives the Danish crown to him after the entire royal line is extinguished. Hamlet sees Fortinbras as the man and ruler he wishes he himself could be.
  • Break the Cutie: Hamlet was cute (according to his friends) before he was broken by the murder of his father, which has already happened by the time we meet him.
  • Broken Bird: We don't meet Hamlet until after he has been broken, but according to his friends he used to be a generous, loving, and level-headed man. Due to his father's death and his uncle's betrayal, he is consumed by his own sadness and therefore unable to trust or show compassion to anyone. He cruelly mocks Ophelia, but he would not be this way if it hadn't been for the tragedy of his father's murder.
  • Byronic Hero: Angsty, thoughtful, cynical, lonely, weary of the world, arrogant, loved by many yet an outcast in his own family, overly dramatic and emotional in some interpretations, filled with self-hatred - Hamlet fits all the criteria to a T.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Immensely so. Hamlet rather enjoys running circles round Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are too dense to realize that he's mocking them.
  • The Ditherer: His Fatal Flaw, according to many critics. The play would have been far less tragic if he could have made up his mind to do something.
  • Double Entendre: Fond of using word play to mock others and especially takes pleasure in using sexual double entendre's around Ophelia.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hamlet himself discusses the trope: his "To be or not to be" is a long meditation the fear of death versus a life of struggling (whether it was sincere, or a ploy for the benefit of the spying King and Polonius, is up to the production).
  • Emo Teen: Hamlet, the original emo kid, is a brooding pessimist who dresses all in black and pontificates about suicide. He's also spoilt, and resents his mother for remarrying. The slight hitch occurs in the Gravedigger scene, where it's stated that Hamlet is actually 30. This means either (A) Hamlet is too old to be acting like this, adding to the theory that he is 'actually' mentally unbalanced (though that still doesn't explain how he's a University student at his age), or (B) Hamlet isn't 30 and Shakespeare made another mathematical error. Shakespeare scholars have suggested that the Gravedigger's line was thrown in at the insistence of Richard Burbage, the actor who originally played the lead role and was probably unwilling to play a teenager. Or, alternatively, Shakespeare could do maths just fine, but the gravedigger can't. Alternatively, the gravedigger had it right, but later translations got it wrong. In the original spelling of the Folio text, one of the two authoritative texts for the play, the Gravedigger's answer to how long he has "been a grave-maker" reads "Why heere in Denmarke: I haue bin sixeteene heere, man and Boy thirty yeares.." "Sixteene" is usually rendered as "sexton" (a modernization of the second quarto's "sexten"), even in modern texts that take F1 as their "copy text." But modernizing the punctuation — a normal practice in modernized texts — renders "Why heere in Denmarke: I haue bin sixeteene heere—man and Boy thirty yeares." In other words, this reading suggests that he has been a grave-digger for sixteen years, but that he has lived in Denmark for thirty. According to this logic, then, it is the Grave-digger who is thirty, whereas Hamlet is only sixteen. However, the teenage-Hamlet theory still doesn't explain how Hamlet can remember Yorick, who he says died twenty-three years ago.
  • Famous Last Words: "The rest is silence."
  • Fatal Flaw: It's widely agreed that Hamlet has onenote . There's rather less agreement on what, specifically, it is.
  • Foil: Hamlet has several. Most notable are Fortinbras, Horatio and Laertes. Before they fight, Hamlet (mockingly and very ironically) refers to himself as a foil to Laertes. Also a Pun, as the swords they are using are called foils. Also, the player who weeps Tender Tears over Hecuba overtly inspires Hamlet to reflect on the contrast between them.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper. While his uncertainty is often cited as his key flaw, Hamlet can sometimes surprisingly lash out at people and commit violent acts with little provocation. Most notoriously, he kills Polonius when he mistakes him for the king, hiding behind the arras.
  • Hidden Depths: Still hidden to this day, in fact.
  • Honor Before Reason: One of his many inner conflicts. For example, when he has a chance to kill Claudius, he does not do so because he fears sending him to heaven. Some critics have identified the additional conflict of pagan values (e.g. family honour, avenging ones father's death) vs. Christian ones (not committing murder, the Divine Right of Kings, etc.).
  • Hot-Blooded: Hamlet himself subverts this, claiming to admire these characters but never taking the initiative himself and passing up chances to kill his target. In something of a contradiction he castigates himself for own his lack of passion ("I am pidgeon livered and lack gall") while praising Horatio for it ("Give me the man who is not passion's slave and I will wear him in my heart's core").
  • Hypocrite:
    • He advises the players to resist theatrics and appears to revere passionate people like Fortinbras, but he seems to like grand gestures like the play within a play and is unable to act on his passionate impulses.
    • He despises Claudius for murdering his father, but whereas Claudius only commits one murder for personal advancement (his planned murder of Hamlet once he becomes too problematic aside) and spends the remainder of the play feeling guilty about it, Hamlet kills or ensures the death of several people who are only tangentially involved in what's going on, and doesn't feel the least bit sorry about it.
  • It's All About Me: When Hamlet comes across Laertes burying Ophelia, his beloved sister, how does he react? He claims that he loved Ophelia far more than her brother did, and no woe can possibly equal his.
  • Jerkass: At his worst, he can be quite terrible towards the people he interacts with, and his words are cutting. Case in point - his mocking of Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as well as his tirades towards Ophelia and Gertrude.
  • Karma Houdini: Sort of. He kills Polonius, and although Claudius tries to have him killed on the quiet Hamlet evades punishment. He also seems to receive no punishment for the deaths of Rosencrantz, Guildenstern OR Ophelia, until the very end, and it's implied that Laertes's forgiveness absolves him completely.
  • Kick the Dog: Hamlet's kind of a dick to just about everyone save for Horatio, although he also seems to admire young Fortinbras a great deal. But even more than that, he feels absolutely no remorse whatsoever for killing Polonius, (even if it was an accident) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (who are really implied to just be unwitting pawns of Claudius, although to be fair, Hamlet thought they were trying to get him killed), and being utterly cruel to Ophelia to point he drives her suicidally insane. In the end, Hamlet racks up a higher kill count than Claudius ever aspired to, and pretty much none of them deserved it, either.
  • Kill Him Already!: The driving conflict of the plot is Hamlet's uncertainty and hesitance in avenging his father's death. This may be seen as a more general metaphor for man's uncertainty of his moral duty and place in the universe.
  • Large Ham: His bragging contest with Laertes over their love for Ophelia - Hamlet's surpasses the love of "five thousand brothers" in its intensity.
  • Lost in Character: One possible interpretation of the character.
  • Man Child: If he is indeed 30 (see below), Hamlet very much qualifies.
  • The Masochism Tango: His terrible treatment of Ophelia.
  • Mommy Issues. Some interpretations read Hamlet's obsession as an Oedipus complex - he seems much more fixated on his mother's incestuous marriage, more so than Claudius's murder of his father.
  • Mood-Swinger: He swings back and forth from melancholy to manic as the play goes on. This may be a part of his feigned madness, or may simply be one of his many genuine oddities.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Hamlet on witnessing Ophelia's funeral, and he only admits that he loves her after Laertes demands to be buried with his sister.
  • Not So Different: With Fortinbras. Hamlet realizes this, as well. The four sons Fortinbras, Pyrrhus, Hamlet and Laertes are bound by the same task, yet how differently they approach it is rather interesting to see. (And Hamlet wasn't too bad; Fortinbras delayed for sixteen years.)
  • Obfuscating Insanity. Many in the court (particularly Polonius) perceive Hamlet's eccentric speech and behaviour as signs of madness. It is up to the director's and audience's interpretation as to how much is feigned (to put Claudius in a false sense of security) and how much is real.
  • Odd Friendship: With Horatio. The Prince of Denmark, best friends with a commoner he'd met in college? Not to mention their contrasting personalities.
  • Pungeon Master: An uncommonly melancholy master, but every other word out of his mouth is a Double Entendre or Stealth Insult.
  • Royal Brat: At his worst. He's rather petulant even before the revelation of his father's murder, which annoys Claudius and Gertrude.
  • Sociopathic Hero: His commitment to correcting Claudius' injustice, a noble and moral goal on its own, is marred by the fact that he ruins his loved ones' lives without much concern in the process.
  • Straw Nihilist: His "To be, or not to be" soliloquy gives this impression. He considers suicide as a better alternative to the situation he finds himself in, and questions whether his actions have any meaning to begin with since he's just going to die anyway.
  • Sword over Head: Ironically, things would have worked out much better if he had taken the opportunity.
  • Talkative Loon: Hamlet talks nonsense and antagonizes those around him so they think he has gone mad and don't suspect him of plotting against the king. However, at certain points its unclear how much of Hamlet's madness is feigned and how much of it is legitimate.
  • Tragic Hero: Hamlet's story is, superficially, a classic revenge tragedy, a very popular genre at the time. In more general terms, Hamlet may be seen as the tragic representation of man as an individual, torn between a search for truth and an immediate duty, between fate and free will, between one moral code and another, whose uncertainty and hesitation leads to his downfall.
  • Tragic Mistake: Hamlet's downfall can be traced back to the moment where he sees Claudius at prayer and decides to wait until later to avenge his father.
  • Widow's Weeds: Even though his father has been dead for several months, Hamlet is still wearing black as a sign of grief by the start of the play. This bothers Claudius, who rightfully believes Hamlet does not see him as a father, and fits Hamlet's struggle with anger, indecision, and suicidal thoughts throughout the play.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Leading to problems with calculating his age. While he is a student (which at the time wouldn't have put him past his late teens or early twenties), he remembers Yorick, who died twenty-three years prior, and the gravedigger indirectly mentions that he is about thirty. Real-life casting issues may have played a role here.
  • You Killed My Father: Hamlet's main motivation is to avenge his dead father. His desire to establish absolute certainty and to kill the usurper under exactly the right circumstances leads to much delaying, and ultimately the death of most of the Danish court.

    Claudius 

King Claudius

The King of Denmark is a righteous, brave man who strikes fears into his enemies and earns the admiration of all those without his privilege; it's too bad his brother Claudius murdered him. Now Denmark has to deal with the slimy, lying Claudius as their ruler. He isn't proud of murdering his brother, but he's not remorseful enough to give up his throne either, so Claudius is more than willing to get whoever he can to silence Hamlet before the prince of Denmark can empty the throne of the sad trash that is King Claudius.
  • Affably Evil: A fairly common treatment in productions more sympathetic to him. This is backed up by some textual evidence.
  • Big Bad: It's thanks to him that the whole mess happened.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Sometimes played this way.
  • Cain and Abel: Claudius murders his brother prior to the beginning of the story and then marries his wife.
  • Comforting the Widow: Claudius "comforts" Gertrude. It helps win him the throne. On the other hand, he does seem to genuinely love her. It is not an unpopular Alternative Character Interpretation that the throne was an afterthought and Claudius killed the king solely for Gertrude.
  • Dirty Coward: From Hamlet's point of view, for killing Old Hamlet with poison. It shows in his repeated schemes to kill Hamlet in the most roundabout ways he can.
  • Dirty Old Man: How Hamlet sees him.
  • The Evil Prince: He murdered his brother to take the Danish throne.
  • Evil Uncle: He tries to have Hamlet, his own nephew, killed twice.
  • Happily Married: Seems to be this with Gertrude.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Actually comes close to repenting at one point, but he can't make himself give up the kingdom. Instead he gives up any thoughts of atoning and just concentrates on being King.
  • It's All About Me: He has absolutely no qualms about murdering his brother and nephew, and ruthlessly manipulating his wife and chief courtier, all in the name of protecting his crown.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He's extremely adept at playing all of the characters against one another. The only one who is wise to him is Hamlet, and he can never bring himself to do anything about it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: A plot point—Prince Hamlet intends to use his increasing guilt over murdering his brother against him by adding a fictionalized version of it to a play and prompting a guilty response from Claudius.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: He's based off of the Roman Emperor Claudius I, who was considered the archetypal Evil Emperor in Elizabethan England, and who was poisoned by his niece (with whom he had an incestuous marriage.)
  • No Name Given: In the play itself he is never named, everyone calling him "The King", "Your Uncle" or "My Husband".
  • Pet the Dog: His interactions with Queen Gertrude. Early on, he seems to genuinely care about his nephew too, though later he's willing to have the prince killed too.
  • Rasputinian Death: Hamlet finally kills him by stabbing him through the heart with a poisoned sword, and then forcing him to drink poisoned liquor. In that order.
  • Royal "We": Claudius uses this with abandon, even when informally speaking with Hamlet their new role as father and son, making it clear Claudius isn't comfortable with their relationship yet. Notably, Claudius drops his use of the plural pronoun during his repentant soliloquy in the church ("Oh, my offense is rank...").
  • Sibling Triangle: Claudius murders his brother and marries his brother's wife. Interpretations vary as to how complicit Gertrude is in the plot.
  • Sleazy Politician: Murder seems to be the one political tool he has in his repertoire.
  • Succession Crisis: With King Hamlet dead and Prince Hamlet too young to take the throne, Claudius graciously accepts the crown of Denmark.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Claudius is generally beloved by his court and the populous, all of whom are unaware that he usurped the crown by killing his brother.

    Polonius 

Polonius

Polonius gave us the wisdom that Brevity Is Wit, but we should give it back, because he will never, ever stop talking. It doesn't matter if he has anything to say or if he'll actively make the situation worse, he'll yap on until whoever he's talking to gets fed up and shuts him up. Problem is, a daughter can't shut up her father, so Ophelia has to take Polonius's advise and live by it. Naturally, all it does is piss off her boyfriend, Hamlet, which ends up pissing off Polonius right back when Hamlet accidentally stabs the old geezer.
  • Abusive Parents: Certain interpretations of Polonius show him as this towards Ophelia, manipulating her and keeping her emotionally stunted.
  • Captain Obvious: Polonius is the master of this trope. Appropriately enough, his last words are, "O! I am slain!" It has been assumed he says that due to the difficulty the audience would have had confirming the death of a character behind a curtain, but still....
  • The Consigliere: Certain interpretations, like the Royal National Theatre's 2001 production, see him even as The Man Behind the Man regarding Claudius.
  • Famous Last Words: O, I am slain!
  • Hurricane of Aphorisms: He delivers one to Laertes as his final advice before he sends him off to study. It sounds like good advice on its face, until you remember that Polonius is the source.
  • Hypocritical Humor: He claims that brevity is the soul of wit... while being one of the most talkative and least witty characters in the play.
  • Idiot Ball: For a man who claims to be so wise, every single one of his decisions ends badly for him. Driving a wedge between Ophelia and Hamlet drives the former insane and the latter off the deep end, the advice he gives to Claudius and Gertrude about Hamlet's madness goes completely awry, and his final attempt to spy on Hamlet gets him killed.
  • Lack of Empathy: He may try to look like he has empathy, but would anyone who has empathy try and test if a relationship is real by making his daughter pretend to dump the guy?
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Abides by this philosophy regarding Hamlet and Ophelia.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: One interpretation of his character is that he's much smarter than he appears, but plays the part of the fool in order to stay in the good graces of the king and hide his devious social climbing.
  • Old Windbag: He'll go on and on with sententious displays of his "wisdom" to anyone who will listen. Hamlet calls him a "Tedious old fool."
  • Overprotective Dad: To both of his children. He sends a spy to monitor Laertes while he studies in Paris, and drives himself between Ophelia and her love Hamlet.
  • Purple Prose: His standard manner of speaking, played for laughs with the advice given to his son, as well as the scene where he claims that "brevity is wit" and then fails to explain briefly what he's on about.
  • Sleazy Politician: Ostensibly, he's the King's chief counselor, but he's really just a sycophant willing to scheme and connive to maintain his status.
  • Upper-Class Twit: One interpretation is that he's a parody of the Renaissance novus homus: an over-educated commoner living the good life because he's impressed enough nobles.
  • Windbag Politician: Polonius is prone to being long winded. Lampshaded when he says "Brevity is the soul of wit," at the end of one of his rambling speeches.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Seems to think he's in a Star-Crossed Lovers play rather than a revenge tragedy.

    Horatio 

Horatio

Hamlet's loyal and constant companion, Horatio is a skeptical college student who doubts the existence of ghosts at first. This only makes it all the more shocking when Horatio comes to Hamlet with news that the ghost of the King is haunting Denmark. From there, if Hamlet needs to talk to anyone about ghosts or regicide, Horatio is right there to hear him out.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: He and Hamlet seem quite close, to the point of Horatio being willing to commit suicide upon Hamlet's death (effectively forsaking his own salvation). Horatio is the only person Hamlet truly trusts enough to impart his plans to him, the only one who doesn't betray him in some fashion. Some productions do add a homoerotic element to their relationship (or, in one case, they cast Horatio as a woman in love with Hamlet).
  • Informed Ability: Horatio is called in to confirm or deny the apparition of King Hamlet supposedly because he is a scholar. However, he never demonstrates that he's any smarter or more educated than Hamlet or Laertes.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Hamlet commands him to keep his memory alive after he is dead, and it is implied that Horatio becomes the narrator of the story.
  • Morality Pet: Probably the only person Hamlet is consistently nice to.
  • Odd Friendship: Him and Hamlet.
  • Only Sane Man: That's probably why he's the only main character alive at the end.
  • Secret Keeper: Swore an oath with Hamlet concerning the Ghost of Old Hamlet.
  • Together in Death: Attempted at the end, but a dying Hamlet stops him.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Hamlet.

    Laertes 

Laertes

The brother of Ophelia, who comes back from his studies in France for King Hamlet's funeral, only to leave soon after advising his sister to be careful with her boyfriend. He only returns upon hearing news of his father's death, at which point he nearly leads an uprising against the Kingdom of Denmark in a rage, only to turn her aggression upon his father's murderer and Ophelia's boyfriend, the son of King Hamlet. As complicated as all the is, it doesn't stop Hamlet the younger from apologizing to Laertes and reconciling before they both die from Claudius's manipulation.
  • Anti-Villain: While he sides with Claudius in conspiring to poison Hamlet, his motivations in doing so are thoroughly understandable. His desire to avenge his father and sister is no different from Hamlet's goal of avenging the dead king.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Before leaving for France, Laertes warns his sister Ophelia from getting involved with Hamlet.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Implied in some productions.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: He is introduced in the first act and appears briefly in two scenes before departing for most of the play. He returns to play a major role in the final act.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Only when he knows he is dying does Laertes reconcile with Hamlet, absolving him of his father and sister's deaths and urging him to kill Claudius,
  • Defeat Means Friendshipnote : When it is clear that they are both dying, he and Hamlet reconcile and he reveals all of Claudius' plot. This knowledge of his impending death is the final impetus that Hamlet needs to carry out his revenge.
  • Foil: For Hamlet, who Lampshades it in the final scene. Both seek to avenge their fathers' deaths, but while Hamlet is extremely cautious to establish his uncle's guilt, Laertes almost commits regicide based on nothing but a hunch.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Killed by the same poisoned blade he uses to kill Hamlet.
  • Hot-Blooded: He re-enters the play in Act IV in a rage over the death of his father, and comes very close to killing Claudius. He later brawls with Hamlet in his sister's grave, despite having already agreed to a more formalised duel.
  • You Killed My Father: His reaction to his father's death stands in stark contrast to Hamlet's behaviour. While Hamlet's hesitation to seek revenge proves to be his undoing, Laertes is quite the opposite. After hearing that Polonius has been killed, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that Claudius is responsible. He returns to Denmark with an army of supporters, bent on committing regicide.

    Ophelia 

Ophelia

A noblewoman who's dating Prince Hamlet at the start of the play, although the disapproval of her overprotective brother and her pretentious father are putt an end to that. Hamlet takes the break-up poorly and bullies Ophelia with innuendos, which does hurts her just enough that the murder of her father pushes her over the edge. After that, Ophelia goes mad, barely able to finish a coherent sentence. It's unclear whether she was even stable enough to keep herself breathing, which becomes important when Gertrude finds her drowned body. Gertrude chooses to call it an accident, but if gravedigger and priests know anything about death, Ophelia may just have killed herself.
  • Barefoot Loon: In many adaptations — theatrical productions, films, paintings, etc. — Ophelia is barefoot during the mad scene.
  • Break the Cutie: Her Trauma Conga Line of her brother leaving, her lover rejecting her, her father dying, and her lover leaving hits her hard.
  • Broken Bird: The audience gets a front row seat to Ophelia's breakdown over the course of the play, as her father uses her as a political tool, her brother jaunts off to foreign lands, her boyfriend abuses her and then murders her father, and finally Ophelia cracks.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Hamlet and Ophelia could be seen as a deconstruction. Ophelia is gentle, sweet, and fragile, whereas Hamlet is brooding and angst-ridden, yet both of them are given much more complexity than the simplicity of this trope entails. They are alike in many ways; they both have a fragile mental state, and yet act out in different ways.
  • Butt-Monkey: She ends up getting the worst of the scheming of Hamlet, Polonius, and Claudius.
  • Dishonored Dead: As her death was likely a suicide, Ophelia's burial is rather low-key. When Laertes complains about this, the priest replies that she's only getting a cemetery plot at all on the orders of the king.
  • Driven to Suicide: Queen Gertrude reports Ophelia's death to have been an accident, but the man who digs her grave says she shouldn't be buried in holy ground, because she drowned herself.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Some productions have her start out with her hair up (as typical for women of her time) and have it get more and more unkempt throughout the play until it's completely loose, to signify her becoming more unhinged.
  • Flower in Her Hair: Her "mad scene" has her come out with flowers weaved in her hair.
  • Flower Motifs: As part of her trope-naming Ophelia-sequence, she scatters flowers and hands different ones to different characters. The meaning behind each of the flowers remains open to interpretation.
  • Kill the Cutie: Ophelia, a sweet girl with no enemies, is found drowned in a pool at the end of Act IV, possibly either in an act of insanity or suicide.
  • Love Hurts: Her love of Hamlet is the cause of a great deal of grief. A combination of her father's meddling and Hamlet's ill-conceived rejection drives her insane.
  • Love Martyr: Ophelia is utterly devoted to Hamlet, despite his cold rejection and abusive treatment of her. This, among several other tragic circumstances eventually leads her to make the ultimate sacrifice: her life.
  • Mad Oracle: Possibly in her mad scene (Act 4 Scene 5).
  • Neutral Female: She shows very little independence and simply acts as a pawn to her father, and then as then motivator for Laertes' revenge after her death.
  • The Ophelia: Ophelia becomes the Ophelia after going mad in Act IV — after her boyfriend stabs her dad through a curtain, her sanity quickly decays. Her brother, Laertes, returns to Elsinore from Paris in a rush, but by the time he gets there, Ophelia doesn't even recognize him. Her famous "mad scene" consists of singing filthy, bawdy songs that are out of place with her demure mien, strewing flowers, and sobbing over her father's death. The Queen later reports Ophelia drowned, saying she was collecting flowers by the riverbank and was so distracted she didn't even recognize the danger when she fell in and sank, but kept singing. Her gravediggers darkly assert she was Driven to Suicide, and is now damned.
  • Speech Impediment: In certain interpretations, Ophelia does have a lisp, and some of her lines actually reflect this (for example, "twice two months" is understood as "two-es...two months). This gives Hamlet's line ("...you lisp, you nickname God's creatures...") a second, literal meaning.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: At least as far as her father is concerned.
  • Suicide by Sea: Drowns herself (if it wasn't accidental) after everything in her life goes to hell.
  • Talkative Loon: In her final scenes, she is reduced to rambling vaguely prophetic-sounding nonsense.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Likely a case of an Unbuilt Trope. Her relationship with Hamlet fits the requirements, but her departure from the story is very significant.

    Gertrude 

Queen Gertrude

The Queen of Denmark is bound to love the King 'til death do them apart, but it's also polite to delay re-marriage after death, to not marry the King's brother, and to make sure that brother didn't murder the King. Gertrude only knows about the first half of that sentence, apparently, and that turns all the love her son Hamlet has to her into hatred. Still, he doesn't want to kill her, but that doesn't stop him from chewing her out until her death by a poison goblet her husband/brother-in-law intended for her son.
  • Evil Matriarch: Hamlet sees her as this. Whether or not she is one depends on interpretation.
  • Guess Who I'm Marrying?: Hamlet is deeply shocked that she marries her former brother-in-law so soon after her husband's death.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Some interpretations hold that she knowingly drinks the poisoned drink intended to kill her son.
  • Parent with New Paramour: She marries Claudius after the elder Hamlet's death. Whether or not she was complicit in the murder varies depending on interpretation.
  • Remarried to the Mistress: Some adaptations imply she was involved with Claudius before her husband's death.

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Two old friends of Hamlet that care more for humor, money, and power than loyalty to the Danish Prince, as evidenced when they agree to spy on him for Hamlet's father's murderer. He does manage to get back at them by tricking them into execution, to be fair, but it's still hard to see Timon and Pumbaa stray so far.

    Fortinbras 

Prince Fortinbras

The crown prince of Norway doesn't play much of a part in Hamlet, since he's only marching through Denmark to conquer a small piece of land of little importance to anyone. He only gets a line in the last scene of the play, where he strolls into Denmark after everyone dies and prepares to put the kingdom back together after all the damage those crazy guys did to it.
  • The Ace: Young Fortinbras is both an accomplished student and a successful military commander. His arrival to take the throne of Denmark is shown in a very positive light, as there's every indication that he will be a superior king to both Claudius and Hamlet.
  • Birds of a Feather: With Hamlet. Despite having every reason to hate each other, Hamlet and Fortinbras actually share a mutual respect for each other due to their similarity.
  • Foil: To Hamlet. Whereas Hamlet is indecisive, moody, and prone to long-winded introspective speeches, Fortinbras is impulsive, passionate, and active.
  • Hero of Another Story: Fortinbras, who has his own revenge plot (directed against Hamlet's father/the Danes), and whose movements are referenced throughout the play, although he only appears in person at the end, wherein his revenge completely succeeds and he conquers Denmark (aided by almost everyone else being dead).
  • Hot-Blooded: An unusual example, because he's very conniving, yet he still goes to war over a valueless piece of land.
  • Karma Houdini: Arguably - some readings of the text and some adaptations have him attempting to conquer Denmark underhandedly rather than just passing through with his army as he claims, and the ending for him is Hamlet supporting him to be the next king. If this was his plan, then he's not only not made to pay for his treacherous actions, he ends up being rewarded for it.
  • Not So Different: From Hamlet, which Hamlet later points out.
  • Only Sane Man: Out of the Hamlet/Laertes/him trio, he's the only one that gets things done and doesn't end up dead.
  • Red Herring: All that talk of Fortinbras' invasion and time devoted building up is his character? He ends up being a tertiary character at best and just ends up invading Poland, instead. He has nothing to do with the tragedy of the play, despite his desire to avenge his father old Fortinbras at the hands of old King Hamlet, and he and Hamlet seem to form a mutual respect for one another. Circumstances not being what they were, they probably would have been great friends. Hamlet even gives him the Danish crown in the final act to avoid a succession crisis after the royal line is wiped out, which also ties Denmark and Norway closely together and will end a great deal of potential conflict between the two kingdoms. Fortinbras also proclaims that they will honor Hamlet with a full military funeral and says he would have made an excellent king, in his opinion.
  • You Killed My Father: He planned to attack Denmark, because Hamlet's father killed his, the Old King Fortimbras in battle.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Characters/Hamlet