Hamlet: The Facts

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Here are a few facts on the Tragedy of Tragedies:

  • Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play with 4,042 lines and up to five hours of running time (but not in our version of the play). 
  • Hamlet has the most lines of any of Shakespeare’s characters with 1530 lines. 
  • Hamlet is the second most filmed story in the world, coming second only to Cinderella.
  • Hamlet was the most popular work during Shakespeare’s own time and has remained his most produced play to this day 
  • Disney’s The Lion King is an adaptation of Hamlet 
  • Also Hamlet is the most produced play in the world. It has been estimated that Hamlet is being performed somewhere every single minute of every single day 
  • It is believed that Shakespeare played the Ghost in Hamlet when it was first performed at the Globe.
  • Shakespeare advertises his own work in the play.  When Polonius interrupts the players and proclaims that he enacted Julius Caesar and was ‘accounted a good actor’ in Act 3 scene 2, he is reminding the audience that he will soon be starring in Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar.
  • At the end of every play performed at the Globe, four dancers, two dressed as women, would perform an upbeat, bawdy song and dance routine called a jig – even if the play was a tragedy like Hamlet.
  • The first actor to ever play Hamlet was Richard Burbage, the leading actor of Shakespeare’s troupe, The King’s Men. 
  • The castle in which the play is set really exists. It is called Kronborg Castle and was built in the Danish port of Helsingør in 1420s by the Danish king, Eric of Pomerania.
  • In the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2009 production of Hamlet, leading actor David Tennant used a real skull in the gravedigger scene. The skull had been bequeathed to the theatre in 1982 by André Tchaikowsky after his death. Tchaikowsky said he wanted his skull used “in Theatrical Performance.” Tennant was the first actor to use the skull onstage. 
  • Works which have been influenced by Hamlet, or in which Hamlet is mentioned or otherwise utilized as a story device, include novels ( Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince, and John Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius), plays (such as Sir Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead), and as well as over 50 films. 
  • One possible source for Hamlet is a 13th-century legend called Amleth, chronicled by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus. Although it is unlikely that Shakespeare would have known the original story of Amleth, it is quite possible that he discovered it in an adaptation by François de Belleforest.
  • Hamlet is one of two Shakespeare plays to be translated into Klingon ( the other is Much Ado About Nothing). 
  • Shakespeare may have been inspired to write Hamlet after the death of his only son in 1596. His son’s name was Hamnet and he was 11 years old at the time of his death.