Why has this one tragedy become the archetypal Shakespeare play in modern times? Although Hamlet met with success when it was first performed, it was rarely regarded as Shakespeare's most note-worthy play in the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and many readers found it deeply flawed: as Abraham Wright put it in the 1630s, Hamlet was “an indifferent play, the lines but mean”. The story of death and intrigue at the Danish court was not new – as with nearly all of Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet was adapted from other sources. The Norse folk tale of Amleth – recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus (c.1200), the French writer Belleforest in Histoires tragiques (1559-8…

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Citation: Roberts, Sasha. "Hamlet". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 June 2002; last revised 10 September 2019. [https://staging.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=4833, accessed 26 February 2024.]

4833 Hamlet 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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