William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" was written in London around 1601 and 1602. The famous English author did not invent the story of Hamlet from scratch. He used a variety of different sources, for example a Norse legend composed by Saxo Grammaticus in Latin around 1200 AD and "Ur-Hamlet", a play by an unknown author. The play contains clear autobiographical references.

The drama is not only about the characters appearing in the play, but reflects the political and cultural dimensions of its time. The values of the Renaissance and humanism are artistically processed by Shakespeare in the drama. The drama celebrates the discovery of individuality, and uses antiquity as its opposition. 

This chapter will give an overview of the Renaissance and Humanism, to better understand the sources and to be able to recognize personal and political connotations in the work. We will also discuss "Hamlet" as a revenge drama. A description of the reception and adaptation of Hamlet concludes our chronological presentation.

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