SparkNotes Blog

Shakespearean Characters’ College Majors

Hamlet: Philosophy. Favorite course: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life.

To be or not to be? Hamlet wants answers! Known by professors to read more than what was assigned to the class, Hamlet is the handsome, elusive smarty-pants brooding in the corner of the classroom. Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger—piece of cake. Favorite book: The Stranger by Albert Camus.


Ophelia: Women’s Studies. Favorite course: The Creation of Patriarchy.

Ophelia’s thesis argues that male dominance over women is not natural or biological, but the product of a practice of sexism dating back to… the beginning of time? Yes, it was a very, very long thesis. Known for never backing down from a debate. Known for winning the debates from which she doesn’t back down. And if she could go back in time and tell her dad to shove it, she would! Favorite book: Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.


Falstaff: Philosophy. Favorite course: Moralities of Everyday Life.

Unlike Prince Hamlet, Falstaff isn’t looking for answers—because he has them all. He’s just looking for other philosophers (yes, he is a philosopher) to back him up. Known to skip class to hit the dining hall, Falstaff can eat you under the table. He’s fond of calling his classmates “nerds” and “eggheads” and heckles students, faculty—whoever’s blathering on at the chalkboard cutting into meal time. (This dude LOVES meals!). Favorite book: Machiavelli’s The Prince, (‘cause kindness gets you nowhere).


Richard III: Psychology. Favorite course: Developmental Psychopathy.

Richard III somehow got a hold of the psychopath test, which actually exists. He passed with flying colors—obviously! So he thought why not become better acquainted with what makes him tick. You know, really get down into the nitty gritty of his wickedness. When Richard III finishes his homework he spends a large portion of his days trolling online support groups and any Facebook post that depicts people appearing to be happy. Favorite book: Freud’s The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense.


Caliban: Anthropology. Favorite course: Imperialism and Decolonization.

He may be a little rough around the edges, but this guy is smart. He goes to class, but he’s more interested in his work as an activist. Caliban heads an advocacy group for marginalized members of his academic community. He pushes the administration at school to expand the canon taught in the English department to include writers that are not strictly men—usually white men—writing out of western civilization. He also has that cool “coexist” bumper sticker on his car. Favorite book: Walter D. Mignolo’s The Darker Side of Western Modernity.

Do you think Hamlet is That Guy in discussion section? Totally, right?