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A Hamlet timeline – chronicle of events

      Setting the Timeline – considerations

Claudius – planning my foul murder

King Hamlet's funeral – where was Hamlet?

Gertrude & Claudius – adultery or not?

Horatio – Hamlet's friend?

Horatio – is he passion's slave?

Polonius – the evil that men do

Ophelia's love? – did she love Hamlet?

Ophelia closetted – Polonius on love

      O help xxx ....... – Olivier's version

Ophelia's change – is Hamlet suspicious?

Hamlet feigns madness – protective "cover"

Is Hamlet mad? – Polonius's opinion

The Trial of Claudius – Hamlet's prosecution

Hamlet kills Polonius – stabs the "Voice"

Laertes v Hamlet – poisoned foil

Ophelia's death – a recipe

Hamlet's age – digging up the past

Yorick – something rotting in Denmark

Betting on Hamlet – the fencing match

Hamlet's fencing skill – better than Laertes

Hamlet's revenge – the rest is silence

Considerations in setting the Timeline

Hamlet was born on the day King Hamlet defeated Fortinbras of Norway. The question is: What day of the year was it? After examining and linking the timing of other events, the 15th December has been backfitted to suit. Because that is the beginning of winter, it might seem unlikely Denmark and Norway fought at that time. But King Hamlet's army was very strong with a victory over the English. He had also defeated the Polacks but, significantly, he had defeated them on the ice, so fighting in winter could have been his winning strategy.
Horatio: He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
It is likely King Hamlet was killed in the spring (~15 March).
Ghost: 'Tis given out, that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; ......
...... Sleeping within mine orchard,
My custom always in the afternoon.
Because this is his regular daily habit, then it is unlikely to be winter but far more likely to be spring. The king would hardly choose to sleep in a leafless orchard but rather in spring when orchard trees come into leaf.

Claudius wants to murder the king, but needs a plan. He sees the King having his daily afternoon nap in the orchard. Within a day or two, he dreams up his murderous plan of pouring poison into the King's ear. He says it was a serpent that killed the King. Serpents (adders) hibernate through October to spring. So, even if he wanted to commit the murder as soon as possible, he had to wait a few days into the spring otherwise the serpent-bite story would not be believed.

Laertes was recalled from France for Claudius's coronation. The recall message would be sent by ship and he would have returned to Denmark by ship. Presumably, it would have been post winter, for in winter there is bad weather, storms and frozen seas around Denmark and only a few hours of daylight and thus difficult, or impossible, for ships to get through.

Fortinbras had been training his army which he could hardly have done in the middle of winter in Norway. It is likely he trained them in the spring in preparation for an invasion of Poland in the summer.

The star Bernardo mentions is not given a name but it seems unlikely Shakespeare would set his play in a real place, Elsinore, and then put a fictitious star in the sky. A star that fits the action of the play is Capella, the 6th brightest star in the total sky and the brightest star when looking north from Elsinore. Bernardo's star was seen west of the pole at 1 am. This fits in with Capella on any date from 27 February until 27 May. Between those dates it is visible west of the pole from the moment if gets dark and is still west of the pole at 1 am.

"The Mousetrap" was performed four months after the King's death. This would place it about 15 July (midsummer).
Hamlet:... My father died within these two hours.
Ophelia: Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.
That night Hamlet kills Polonius. Hamlet is immediately sent to England by ship. Just prior to sailing he meets Fortinbras's Norwegian army heading across Denmark to attack Poland – this is likely to be a summer campaign – following on from the training Fortinbras had been giving his troops over the past few months.

Hamlet's ship is attacked by pirates – for pirates to be in the Baltic sounds as though it would be summer-time – pirates would not be active in winter-time in the Baltic. In winter, bad weather, ice floes, very few hours of daylight, extremely dangerous sailing conditions and few potential prizes would divert the pirates to warmer waters and better prospects, for example, the Mediterranean.

Polonius was buried the morning following his death. Ophelia wrote a letter to Laertes telling him of the disgraceful way their father had been buried; without ceremony or monuments befitting his important status. It would have taken about a month for the letter to reach Laertes. He returned in secret, raised a small army with the object of deposing Claudius – all this would have taken about another month.

During these two months, Ophelia repeatedly visited her father's grave and suffered the anguish of nothing being done to it, such as a monument, hatchment and a mausoleum being built to honour her father. The torment of this neglect upset her mind and drove her mad.

In her madness Ophelia hands out a variety of flowers. These flowers bloom in summer. She may also have retained some of the flowers from her father's burial. Shortly after handing out the flowers Ophelia drowns. When she is buried the next day Gertrude puts flowers on her grave – they are summer flowers.

Hamlet's age gives further reasoning for the dating of the Timeline.
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