The King of Denmark
has died and Prince Hamlet returns home from his school in Germany to attend
his father?s funeral.
He is surprised and
shocked to find out that his mother, Gertrude, has already remarried his
Uncle Claudius, who has assumed the crown, although Hamlet was his father?s
Hamlet is suspicious
that there has been foul play, especially seeing that his mother does not
mourn and is very passionate with his uncle.
Hamlet is advised by the watch that they have seen a ghost, so
he decides to investigate, and he meets the ghost, which is his father. The
ghost is unable to find peace because he was murdered and was unable to
confess his sins. He is, therefore, doomed to wander in the night for an
unspecified period of time. He asks his son to seek revenge. The ghost gives
him details regarding the murder, saying that Hamlet?s uncle poured poison in
his ear while he was asleep. The ghost does not wish Gertrude to be
harmed. It will be up to heaven to decide her fate.
Hamlet decides to pretend that he has gone mad with grief, which
hopefully will enable him to observe what is going on in the castle.
However, he starts to have doubts regarding the apparition he
has seen and questions that it might be the devil in disguise, trying to tempt
Hamlet is also torn by the thought that he may be a coward
wishing to shy away from the request of his father.
A troop of traveling players arrives at the castle, and Hamlet
decides to enlist the help of the players by having them perform a play,
which will mirror his father?s death. He will watch closely the reaction of
his mother and uncle. The play is called ?The Mousetrap?, which is an
adaptation of ?The Murder of Gonzago?.
Hamlet?s plan is successful. Claudius? reaction to this staged
murder shows him to be guilty. He has to leave the room because he
cannot breathe. Hamlet is now convinced that his uncle is a villain and
resolves to have his revenge.
Although he does not intend to harm his mother, Hamlet wishes to
establish what her guilt is.
The Lord Chamberlain of the castle and chief adviser to
Claudius, Polonius, hides behind a tapestry while Hamlet quizzes his mother.
He suspects they are being watched, perhaps by Claudius, and he stabs at the
tapestry killing Polonius instantly. Because the people of Denmark love
Hamlet, Claudius decides not to kill him over the death of Polonius, but to
exile him to England.
Claudius has brought two of Hamlet?s school colleagues,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, from Germany to act as spies on his nephew, and
now to escort him into the hands of the English King for execution.
Hamlet is aware of the plot, and arranges for the sealed note to
the King of England to be substituted, and on arrival it is not Hamlet who is
executed, but the two spies.
There have now been three deaths as by-products of Hamlet?s
revenge. The fourth death is that of Ophelia, daughter of Polonius and who is
in love with Hamlet. Not only is she distraught at her father?s death,
but also over Hamlet?s assumed madness. She drowns whilst singing sad
love songs. At Ophelia?s funeral, Laertes, Ophelia?s brother, who has
returned to Denmark from France to avenge his father?s death, meets with
Hamlet, who has returned from England. The two argue concerning who loved
Ophelia the most. Laertes vows to punish Hamlet for her death as well
as the death of his father.
Claudius sees a way
to kill Hamlet yet again, and involves Laertes in a plot. There is to
be a challenge, not to the death, between Laertes and Hamlet, and the winner
will be the swordsman who obtains three strikes. However, Laertes is to
use a poisoned sword, which will cause death to Hamlet if he is able to cut
says that in the event of Hamlet winning, he will arrange for thecup of
victory to be poisoned.
The fight commences and Hamlet is soon two strikes ahead.
His mother is so delighted that she toasts her son?s health from the poisoned
chalice before Claudius can stop her. As the fight continues she starts
to feel unwell. Both duelists receive cuts from the poisoned sword, but
Laertes dies first. Before dying he reveals to Hamlet the plot.
Just then, the Queen dies and Hamlet perceives that it is
Claudius? fault. He attacks Claudius and cuts him with the poisoned sword and
then pours the last of the poisoned wine into the King?s mouth. He then dies.
Hamlet knows that he is dying and tells Horatio, his only true
friend that the throne should now pass to Norway. He asks Horatio to
explain the events to Prince Fortinbras of Norway so that the bloodbath at
Castle Elsinore can be justified.
The play ends
with the new King of Denmark ordering the funeral of Prince Hamlet to be
given fully military honors.