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The Motifs of Hamlet make a rather long list, since Shakespeare repeated many concepts in the play, in creative ways. More might be found, but I've drawn the line at those concepts which appear most significant, which is a judgment call. The Motifs are often interrelated, for example, horses and dogs are in the category of "beast," certainly. I call something a Motif only when it appears to merit attention on its own, even if it could be placed in a more general category. A presentation of the Motifs in categories, in outline format, may be a project for the future.

Within the play, the essential purpose of the Motifs is to establish communication with the audience, and thereby make the play realistic, and familiar, at least in the ideas it presents. People can relate to ideas of birds, colors, dogs, fire, disease, horses, etc.

Please note that because the play is so complex, these are not necessarily my final choices for the Motifs. It takes a lot of thought, and time, to pin them down and sort them out. I "reserve the right" to change this listing, is what I mean.

Adhesion Appetite Bird Friend Hearing Heart
Hold Horse Imprisonment Memory Mice & Rats Money
Omen Stir Strangeness Sword Truth Vision
age ambition beast color dog dream
edge fire flaw gardening good & evil
disease humors knowledge & reason magic manner/manners
mirror mouth poison proof secrecy
sense/senses serpent spy star talk time
touch trap war desire dirt/earth/ground

The individual pages include a very brief introduction, and links to lines of dialogue, to show the existence of the Motif and demonstrate its prominence in the play.

© 2014 Jeffrey Paul Jordan

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