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Hamlet starts with soldiers changing the guard outside of Elsinore Castle in Denmark.

The new guards have brought along a scholar named Horatio because they claim to have
seen a ghost. Horatio is skeptical of their story until the ghost actually appears. He then
tries to speak to it, but the ghost remains silent until it stalks away.
Horatio tells the guards that the ghost was dressed the same way Old Hamlet the former
!ing of Denmark and Hamlet"s father# was dressed when he defeated !ing $ortinbras of
%orway. He further tells them that young $ortinbras, the son, has gathered together an
army to attack Denmark. &t this point the ghost reappears and Horatio again begs it to
speak to him. The ghost seems about to say something but at that moment a cock crows
and the ghost vanishes. The guards and Horatio decide to tell Hamlet what they have
seen.
!ing Claudius, who is Hamlet"s uncle and who assumed the throne after Hamlet"s father
died, is in the castle. He has recently married 'ueen (ertrude, who is Hamlet"s mother
and the widow to Old Hamlet. Claudius is worried about the fact that young $ortinbras
has raised an army against Denmark, and so he sends out messengers to the uncle of
young $ortinbras asking him to stop his nephew. Claudius then turns to )aertes, the son
of *olonius, and asks him why he re+uested an audience. )aertes asks the king for
permission to return to $rance, which he is granted.
Claudius finally turns his attention to Hamlet, who is standing in black robes of mourning
for his father. He tells Hamlet that it is unnatural for a man to mourn for such a long
period of time. 'ueen (ertrude agrees, and asks Hamlet to wear normal clothes again.
,oth the king and +ueen then beg Hamlet to stay with them at the castle rather than return
to his studies in -ittenberg. Hamlet agrees to stay, and both his mother and uncle rush
out of the palace to celebrate their new wedding.
Horatio arrives with the guards and tells Hamlet that they have seen his father"s ghost.
Hamlet is e.tremely interested in this, and informs them that he will /oin them for the
watch that night.
)aertes is finishing his packing and is also giving his sister Ophelia some brotherly
advice before he leaves. He warns her to watch out for Hamlet whom he has seen wooing
her. )aertes tells Ophelia to ignore Hamlet"s overtures towards her until he is made king,
at which point if he still wants to marry her then she should consent. *olonius arrives and
orders his son to hurry up and get to the ship. *olonius then gives )aertes some fatherly
advice, telling him to behave himself in $rance. )aertes departs, leaving Ophelia with
*olonius. *olonius then turns to her and asks what has been going on between her and
Hamlet. 0he tells him that Hamlet has professed his love to her, but *olonius only laughs
and calls her ignorant. He then orders her to avoid Hamlet and to not believe his
protestations of love. Ophelia promises to obey her father.
Hamlet, Horatio and a guard meet outside to see whether the ghost will appear. 1t soon
arrives and silently beckons Hamlet to follow it. Hamlet pushes away Horatio, who is
trying to hold him back, and runs after the ghost. The guard tells Horatio that they had
better follow Hamlet and make sure he is alright.
The ghost finally stops and turns to Hamlet. He tells Hamlet that he is the ghost of Old
Hamlet, who has come to tell his son the truth about how he died. He tells Hamlet that he
was sitting in the garden one day, asleep in his chair, when Claudius came up to him and
poured poison into his ear. He was killed immediately, and because he was not allowed to
confess his sins, he is now suffering in *urgatory. The ghost of Old Hamlet then orders
his son to seek revenge for this foul crime before departing.
Hamlet is confused about whether to believe the ghost or not, but he makes Horatio and
the guard swear to never reveal what they have seen. He decides that he will pretend to be
mad in order to fool Claudius and (ertrude until he is able to know whether Claudius
really killed his father or not.
*olonius sends his servant 2eynaldo to $rance in order to spy on )aertes. He order
2eynaldo to ask the other Danes what sort of reputation )aertes has in order to make sure
his son is behaving. 2eynaldo promises to do this and leaves for $rance. Ophelia enters
looking e.tremely frightened and informs her father that Hamlet has gone mad. 0he tells
him that Hamlet entered the room where she was sewing and took her wrist. &fter staring
into her eyes for a long while he walked out of the room without ever taking his eyes off
of her. *olonius concludes that Hamlet must have gone mad because he ordered Ophelia
to re/ect Hamlet"s affections.
Claudius and (ertrude have invited two friends of Hamlet to come and spy on Hamlet.
They are aware that Hamlet is acting strangely and want the friends to figure out what the
problem is. 2osencrant3 and (uildenstern, eager to please !ing Claudius, agree to try
and find out what is wrong with Hamlet. They leave, and *olonius enters with news that
the messengers are back from %orway. Claudius tells him to bring the messengers in.
The messengers inform Claudius that after they arrived, the uncle of $ortinbras sent his
nephew a summons. 4oung $ortinbras obeyed, and the uncle chastised him for attempting
to attack Denmark. $ortinbras apologi3ed for his behavior and received an annual
allowance from his uncle as a token of goodwill. $urther, the uncle gave $ortinbras
permission to attack *oland. 0ince $ortinbras would have to march through Denmark in
order to reach *oland, the uncle sent Claudius a letter asking for safe passage. Claudius,
over/oyed by this news, assents to give permission.
*olonius then tells him that he knows the reason for Hamlet"s madness. He reads
Claudius and (ertrude one of the letters Hamlet sent to Ophelia in which Hamlet
professes his love for her. Claudius is not entirely convinced, and so he and *olonius
agree to set up a meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia that they will be able to spy on.
Hamlet enters the room and cuts their plotting short. *olonius asks the king and +ueen to
leave him alone with their son, to which they assent. *olonius then tries to talk to Hamlet,
who, feigning madness, calls him a fishmonger and asks him if he has a daughter. Hamlet
continues to insult *olonius until *olonius finally gives up in frustration.
2osencrant3 and (uildenstern arrive and Hamlet recogni3es them. He greets them
warmly and asks what brings them to Denmark. They only give an ambiguous answer,
from which Hamlet infers that Claudius asked them to come. Hamlet then reveals to them
that he has been very melancholic lately, and gives that as the reason he has been acting
mad. They try to cheer him up by telling him some actors arrived with them on their ship.
Hamlet is over/oyed to hear this news, and he immediately goes to find the actors.
He succeeds in finding the players and asks them to perform a speech from Dido and
&eneas for him. One of them agrees and performs the part where *riam, the father of
&eneas, is killed. He then continues with the part where Hecuba, *riam"s wife, sees her
husband being murdered and lets out a cry that rouses even the gods. Hamlet tells him it
is enough when *olonius begs the actor to stop. He then asks the actors if they can
perform the murder of (on3ago as well some e.tra lines that he will write for them. They
agree and leave to rehearse their parts. Hamlet meanwhile has compared the murder of
*riam to his own father"s murder and has become outraged with Claudius, whom he
hopes to reveal as the murderer through the play that he asked the actors to perform that
night.
2osencrant3 and (uildenstern tell Claudius and (ertrude that they really do not know
what the matter with Hamlet is. They can only say that he seems distracted, but that the
arrival of the actors made him happier. *olonius then tells Claudius that Hamlet is putting
on a play that night and re+uested that they attend. Claudius agrees to go.
*olonius hears Hamlet coming and he and Claudius +uickly made Ophelia stand in clear
view while they hide themselves. Hamlet enters and gives his 5To be or not to be6 that is
the +uestion5 7.8.9:# speech. He stops when he sees Ophelia and goes over to speak with
her. Hamlet rudely tells her that he never loved her and orders her to go to a nunnery.
&fter he leaves, Claudius tells *olonius that Hamlet does not seem to be mad because of
Ophelia, but *olonius still believes that she is the real reason for his melancholic
madness.
Hamlet puts on a play called The ;ousetrap for Claudius and (ertrude, as well as other
attendants in the castle. The play involves a king who is murdered by his nephew while
sleeping in the garden. &s the nephew pours poison into the king"s ears, !ing Claudius
becomes so outraged that he stands up, thereby forcing the play to end. He orders light to
be shone on him and stalks angrily out of the room.
Hamlet is delighted by this and is convinced that the ghost was telling the truth. Horatio
agrees with him. 2osencrant3 and (uildenstern then arrive and tell Hamlet that his
mother wants to see him in her private chambers immediately. *olonius soon arrives with
the same news. Hamlet sends them all away and plans to reveal what he knows to his
mother in order to see if she was part of the plot to kill his father.
Claudius, overcome with emotion, prays to heaven to forgive him his sin. He admits to
committing the murder of his brother. Hamlet enters silently with his sword and is about
to kill Claudius when he reali3es that Claudius is praying. 0ince that would mean that
Claudius would be absolved of his sins if he died right then, Hamlet stops and decides to
wait until he can kill Claudius when his 5soul may be as damned and black as hell5
7.7.<=><9#.
Hamlet then goes to see his mother. He immediately insults her for having married
Claudius so soon after his father"s death. 0he gets scared and calls for help, causing
*olonius who is hidden behind a curtain spying on them# to make a sound. Hamlet pulls
out his dagger and kills *olonius through the curtain, but he is disappointed when her
reali3es it is not the king. Hamlet then shows his mother two pictures of both Claudius
and Old Hamlet, comparing them for her. 0he is almost at the point where she believes
him when the ghost appears and Hamlet starts to speak to it. (ertrude, unable to see the
ghost, concludes that Hamlet must be truly mad and starts to agree with everything he
says in order to get him out of her room.
Claudius, once (ertrude tells him what has happened, orders 2osencrant3 and
(uildenstern to prepare to take Hamlet with them to England. He then orders the body of
*olonius to be found since Hamlet has hidden it. Hamlet eventually reveals the location
of the body and then leaves the castle that night.
-hile traveling away from Elsinore, Hamlet encounters $ortinbras" army. $ortinbras has
/ust send Claudius a message telling him that the %orwegian army is there and re+uesting
safe passage. Hamlet asks one of the captains what part of *oland they are attacking. The
captain refuses to reveal the e.act location, and there remains the possibility that
Denmark is the true target, although this is not revealed in the play.
Ophelia has meanwhile gone mad at the death of her father. Horatio tries to take care of
her, but finally asks (ertrude to help him. Claudius and (ertrude order Horatio to keep
an eye on her. 0oon thereafter )aertes arrives with a mob. He has returned from $rance
once he learned of *olonius" death and is intent on killing the murderer of his father.
Claudius calms him down and tells him that Hamlet is the murderer, and since Hamlet
has been sent to England there is no one there to kill. )aertes then sees Ophelia, who fails
to recogni3e him and instead gives him a flower.
Hamlet sends letters back to Denmark. He tells Horatio that the ship was attacked by
pirates and that he managed to escape in the process by /oining the pirates for a short
while as their prisoner. He also tells Horatio that he sent 2osencrant3 and (uildenstern on
to England, but that he will be returning shortly. Claudius also receives a letter from
Hamlet informing him that Hamlet will soon return home. Claudius immediately plots a
way to kill Hamlet by having )aertes fight him in a fencing match. )aertes decides to put
poison on the tip of his rapier so that any small scratch will kill Hamlet, and Claudius
tells him he will also poison a cup of wine and give it to Hamlet as a backup measure. &t
that moment (ertrude enters and tells the men that Ophelia has drowned herself in a
brook. 0he and Claudius follow )aertes, who is once more grief>stricken.
Hamlet and Horatio come across two gravediggers who are digging a fresh grave. They
are engaged in wordplay until one of the men sends the other away to fetch him some
li+uor. Hamlet watches as the remaining man tosses up skulls and sings while he works.
He finally approaches the man and asks who the one skull belonged to. The gravedigger
tells him it was 4orick"s, a court fool whom Hamlet knew from his youth. Hamlet is
shaken by the skull and ponders the fact that all of them return to the earth. He and
Horatio are forced to run and hide when )aertes, Claudius and (ertrude arrive with the
coffin.
They place the coffin into the ground, but the priest refuses to say any prayers for the
dead because Ophelia committed suicide rather then die a natural death. )aertes argues
with him, but finally gives up and /umps into the grave in grief. Hamlet, when he reali3es
who is dead, comes out of hiding and also /umps into the grave. )aertes grabs him by the
throat and Claudius is forced to order the other men to intervene and separate them.
,ack in the castle Hamlet tells Horatio that before he got off the ship he stole the letters
Claudius had given to 2osencrant3 and (uildenstern. The letters asked the English king
to kill Hamlet. Hamlet, furious at this betrayal, wrote new letters in which he asked the
king to kill the messengers, namely 2osencrant3 and (uildenstern.
& lord named Osric enters the room and informs Hamlet that )aertes has challenged him
to a fencing match. Claudius has bet )aertes that he cannot defeat Hamlet by more than
three hits during twelve engagements. Hamlet agrees to the dual even though Horatio
tells him he cannot win. They enter the match room, and Claudius announces that if
Hamlet scores a hit during the first, second, or third bout, then he will drop a valuable
pearl into a cup of wine and give it to Hamlet.
)aertes and Hamlet choose their foils and proceed to fight. Hamlet scores a hit which
Osric upholds, and Claudius drops his pearl into some wine which he offers to Hamlet.
Hamlet, e.cited by the match, refuses to drink it and asks for the ne.t round. They fight
again, and Hamlet wins the ne.t hit as well. (ertrude, thrilled at how well her son is
fighting, takes the cup of wine from Claudius and drinks it to celebrate Hamlet"s hit.
Claudius turns pale when he reali3es that she has drunk the poisoned wine, but he says
nothing.
They fight again, and )aertes slashes Hamlet out of turn with his poisoned foil, causing
Hamlet to bleed. Hamlet is infuriated and attacks him viciously, causing him to drop the
foil. Hamlet gets both rapiers and accidentally tosses his rapier over to )aertes. He then
slashes )aertes with the poisoned foil, drawing blood as well. They stop fighting when
they reali3e that 'ueen (ertrude is lying on the ground.
(ertrude reali3es that she has been poisoned and tells Hamlet that it was the drink. 0he
dies, and )aertes tells Hamlet that he too is going to die from the poisoned tip. Hamlet,
even more furious than before, slashes Claudius with the poisoned tip. He then takes the
wine chalice and forces the poison into Claudius" mouth until Claudius falls dead onto the
ground. )aertes is also on the ground at this point and he forgives Hamlet for killing
*olonius before he too dies.
Hamlet sees Horatio about to drink the remaining poisoned wine and orders him to stop.
He tells Horatio that only he can tell the people what really happened and thus reveal the
truth. Osric comes in at that moment and informs them that $ortinbras and some
ambassadors from England have arrived. Hamlet"s final words are to give $ortinbras his
vote to become the ne.t !ing of Denmark.
$ortinbras arrives and looks over the scene of dead bodies. The ambassadors also enter
the room and inform Horatio that 2osencrant3 and (uildenstern have been put to death.
Horatio asks $ortinbras to order the bodies placed in the public view so that he can tell
the people what happened. $ortinbras" final act is to order his soldiers to give Hamlet a
military salute by firing their guns.
ClassicNote on Hamlet
,iography of -illiam 0hakespeare
&bout Hamlet
Character )ist
0hort 0ummary
$ull 0ummary and &nalysis
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0ummary and &nalysis of &ct ?
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0ummary and &nalysis of &ct =