The play, Hamlet, begins with the news of King Hamlet of Denmark's recent death and Denmark preparing for a possible war with Fortinbras of Norway. A ghost is spotted, resembling the late King, near Elsinore Castle by two guards. King Claudius has married Queen Gertrude, the late King's wife, quickly after the King's death. Polonius warns his daughter, Ophelia, against falling in love with Hamlet, saying he will only break her heart.
Hamlet, son of the late King of Denmark, meets the Ghost who reveals he was poisoned by King Claudius, telling him to avenge his death but to not punish the queen. Polonius learns of Ophelia's meeting with Prince Hamlet, who studied her face and promptly left, leaving Polonius to think his odd behavior was because Ophelia rejected him. King Claudius instructs courtiers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to spy on Hamlet, Queen Gertrude believes it is because of her recent marriage and the death of her husband.
Hamlet suspects Ophelia is spying on him, so he increases his hostility towards her. Hamlet then creates a play depicting the death of his father, as the Ghost told him, to see if the Ghost's words were true. A mime preceding the play mimics the Ghost's description of the death, but goes unnoticed. After, the play The Murder of Gonzago is performed, causing King Claudius to act in a suspicious way as if the Ghost's words were true. During a monologue, King Claudius reveals his guilt. Meanwhile, Queen Gertrude tries to scold her son for the play, but in turn is scolded for her quick remarriage. She cries out of fear, leaving a man hiding behind the curtains to do the same. Hamlet reacts and stabs him, killing him not knowing it was Polonius. Hamlet continues to scold his mother until the Ghost reappears and tells him to be kind to the Queen. She agrees to stop living with King Claudius.
King Claudius is shocked by the death of Polonius, thinking it could have easily been him. Queen Gertrude lies for her son, saying that he went mad. King Claudius in turn gets scared, forcing him to send Hamlet away to England, planning to kill him there. Fortinbras marches Denmark as Hamlet wishes he could be more like him while questioning about how he cannot fight when his father was murdered and mother made a whore he returns to Denmark. Ophelia goes mad from grief after learning of her father's death. King Claudius meets with Laertes, Ophelia's brother, telling him that Hamlet killed his father and plans for the two to fight in a fencing match, plotting to kill Hamlet.
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At the burial of Ophelia, Hamlet and Laertes fight over her grave, each believing they love her more. Hamlet tells his friend Horatio of his escape in England and had Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed instead, revealing his desire to kill the King. Meanwhile, Queen Gertrude drinks a poisoned cup which was meant for her son, as she dies, she reveals of her poisoning. Hamlet fences against Laertes and is cut by his sword. During the duel, the two switch swords. Having cut Laertes with his sword, Laertes tells of the poison tip. As Hamlet is dying, he stabs King Claudius with the sword, killing him. He tells Horatio to not commit suicide and as his final wish to have Fortinbras as the next King of Denmark. Fortinbras arrives, leaving Horatio to tell his dear friend's story.Return to William Shakespeare biography
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