Cover image for Understanding Hamlet : a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents
Understanding Hamlet : a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents
Corum, Richard.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xxi, 271 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1580 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR2807 .C67 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Shakespeare's Hamlet , regarded by many as the world's most famous play by the world's most famous writer, is one of the most complex, demanding, discussed, and influential literary texts in English. As a means of access to this play, this unique collection of primary materials and commentary will help student and teacher explore historical, literary, theatrical, social, and cultural issues related to the play. In an approach unique for this series, Corum guides the reader through a literary analysis of Hamlet's options. He examines the popular theatres of the day in which Shakespeare and his company first produced Hamlet and discusses the genre of tragedy in which it is written. Through judicious selection of primary historical documents, the work provides contexts for understanding Hamlet's melancholy, the ghost of Hamlet's father, the theme of revenge, and Hamlet's feigned madness. Chapters on Gertrude and Ophelia illuminate these characters in the context of the play and early modern English culture.

Each chapter contains a variety of materials, many of which are not readily available elsewhere: essays, poems, histories, treatises, official documents, stories, religious tracts, homilies, memoirs, engravings, village records, and fifteen illustrations. An explanatory introduction precedes each document. Each chapter concludes with study questions, topics for written and oral exploration, and a list of suggested readings. This casebook will enrich the reader's understanding of the play and the context in which it was written.

Author Notes

RICHARD CORUM teaches English at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His field of expertise is English Renaissance literature, especially Shakespeare, on which he published essays on Henry V and Love's Labour's Lost . He has also published an essay on Milton's Paradise Lost .

Table of Contents

Niccolo MachiavelliPhillip StubbesThomas NasheReginald of PipernoNoel TaillepiedPierre la PrimaudayeJames VI of ScotlandPierre le LoyerLucius ApuleiusSir William SegarStephen HawesAnthony CopleySir John HarringtonSir William SegarThomas BeconJohn KnoxMichael MacDonald and Terence R. MurphyCarolus Musitanus
Illustrationsp. xiii
Introductionp. xv
1. Method and Social Geographyp. 1
from The Prince (1532)p. 2
2. Theatre and Tragedyp. 17
from The Anatomie of Abuses: Contayning a Discoverie, or briefe Summarie of such Notable Vices and Imperfections, as now raigne in many Christian Countreyes of the Worlde (1583)p. 36
from An official petition submitted by the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen of the City of London to Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council, 28 July 1597p. 38
from Pierce Penilesse his supplication to the Diuell (1592)p. 40
3. Literary Analysis: Hamlet's Optionsp. 45
4. Man, Melancholy, and Suicidep. 95
5. Enter Ghost ... Exit Ghostp. 113
from Supplementum to Aquinas's Summa Theologica, Question LXIX (c. 1274)p. 119
from Ordinances of the Gild of the Palmers (1284)p. 120
from A Treatise of Ghosts, Being the Psichologie, or Treatise upon Apparitions and Spirits, of Disembodied Souls, Phantom Figures, Strange Prodigies, and of Other Miracles and Marvels (1588)p. 120
from The French Academie (1594)p. 121
from The Geneva Bible, Deuteronomie XVII:10-12 and Iohn IIII:1 (1560)p. 123
from Ludwig [Lewes] Lavater, Of ghostes and spirites, walking at nyght, And of straunge noyses, crackes, and sundrie forewarnings (1570)p. 124
from The Thirde Booke of Daemonologie (1597)p. 126
from IIII Livres des spectres ou apparitions (1586)p. 127
from Euripides, Hecabe (425 B.C.)p. 130
from Seneca, Troades (A.D. 65)p. 132
from Jasper Heywood's Troas, a translation of Seneca's Troades (1559)p. 135
6. Revenge (,) the Crimep. 139
from The Golden Ass being the Metamorphoses (c. A.D. 150)p. 142
from The Hystorie of Hamblet (1608)p. 147
from The Book of Honor and Armes (1590)p. 152
from Pastime of Pleasure (1509)p. 154
from A Fig for Fortune (1596)p. 156
from "Breefe Notes and Rembraunces," Nugae Antiquae (c. 1600-1601)p. 160
7. Antic Dispositions: The Hero as Foolp. 165
from The Geneva Bible, The First Boke of Samuel XXI: 10-15; XXII:1 (1560)p. 166
from The Roman History written in Latine by Titus Livius [Livy], II, lvi-lix (A.D. 17)p. 167
from The Hystorie of Hamblet (1608)p. 171
8. Gertrude, Thy Name Is Womanp. 183
from Honor Military and Civill (1602)p. 195
from Durham Ecclesiastical Court Records (c. 1560)p. 197
from The Geneva Bible, The Third Boke of Moses, called Leuiticus XVIII:6, 16; XX:21 (1560)p. 198
from "Of the Office of Widows," Catechism (1564)p. 202
from An Homily on the State of Matrimony (1563)p. 206
from The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558)p. 207
from Jane Anger her Protection for Women (1589)p. 213
9. Over Ophelia's Dead Bodyp. 219
from Sleepless Souls: Suicide in Early Modern England (1990)p. 237
from Minutes and Accounts of the Corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon, Vol. III (1577-1586)p. 239
from De Morbis Mulierum (1709)p. 242
Conclusionp. 249
Indexp. 263