Hamlet Summary provides a quick review of the play's
plot including every important action in the play. Hamlet
Summary is divided by the five acts of the play and
is an ideal introduction before reading the original
Shakespeare's longest play and the play responsible
for the immortal lines "To be or not to be: that
is the question:" and the advise "to thine own
self be true," begins in Denmark with the news that
King Hamlet of Denmark has recently died.
Denmark is now in a state of high alert and preparing
for possible war with Young Fortinbras of Norway. A
ghost resembling the late King Hamlet is spotted on
a platform before Elsinore Castle in Denmark. King Claudius,
who now rules Denmark, has taken King Hamlet's wife,
Queen Gertrude as his new wife and Queen of Denmark.
King Claudius fearing Young Fortinbras of Norway may
invade, has sent ambassadors to Norway to urge the King
of Norway to restrain Young Fortinbras. Young Hamlet
distrusts King Claudius. The King and Queen do not understand
why Hamlet still mourns his father's death over two
months ago. In his first soliloquy, Hamlet explains
that he does not like his mother marrying the next King
of Denmark so quickly within a month of his father's
Laertes, the son of Lord Chamberlain Polonius, gives
his sister Ophelia some brotherly advice. He warns Ophelia
not to fall in love with Young Hamlet; she will only
be hurt. Polonius tells his daughter Ophelia not to
return Hamlet's affections for her since he fears Hamlet
is only using her...
Hamlet meets the Ghost of his father, King Hamlet and
follows it to learn more...
Hamlet learns from King Hamlet's Ghost that he was
poisoned by King Claudius, the current ruler of Denmark.
The Ghost tells Hamlet to avenge his death but not to
punish Queen Gertrude for remarrying; it is not Hamlet's
place and her conscience and heaven will judge her...
Hamlet swears Horatio and Marcellus to silence over
Hamlet meeting the Ghost.
Polonius tells Reynaldo to spy on his son Laertes in
Paris. Polonius learns from his daughter Ophelia that
a badly dressed Hamlet met her, studied her face and
promptly left. Polonius believes that Hamlet's odd behaviour
is because Ophelia has rejected him. Polonius decides
to tell King Claudius the reason for Hamlet's recently
King Claudius instructs courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
to find out what is causing Hamlet's strange "transformation,"
or change of character. Queen Gertrude reveals that
only King Hamlet's death and her recent remarriage could
be upsetting Hamlet.
We learn more of Young Fortinbras' movements and Polonius
has his own theory about Hamlet's transformation; it
is caused by Hamlet's love for his daughter Ophelia.
Hamlet makes his famous speech about the greatness of
man. Hamlet plans to use a play to test if King Claudius
really did kill his father as King Hamlet's Ghost told
The King's spies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report
to King Claudius on Hamlet's behaviour. Hamlet is eager
for King Claudius and Queen Gertrude to watch a play
tonight which Hamlet has added lines to.
King Claudius and Polonius listen in on Hamlet's and
Ophelia's private conversation. Hamlet suspects Ophelia
is spying on him and is increasingly hostile to her
King Claudius decides to send Hamlet to England, fearing
danger in Hamlet since he no longer believes Hamlet
is merely lovesick. The King agrees to Polonius' plan
to eavesdrop on Hamlet's conversation with his mother
after the play to hopefully learn more from Hamlet.
The play Hamlet had added lines to is performed. The
mime preceding the play which mimics the Ghost's description
of King Hamlet's death goes unnoticed.
The main play called "The Murder of Gonzago"
is performed, causing King Claudius to react in a way
which convinces Hamlet that his uncle did indeed poison
his father King Hamlet as the Ghost previously had told
him... Hamlet pretends not to know that the play has
offended King Claudius. Hamlet agrees to speak with
his mother in private...
King Claudius admits his growing fear of Hamlet and
decides to send him overseas to England with Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern in order to protect himself. Alone,
King Claudius reveals in soliloquy his own knowledge
of the crime he has committed (poisoning King Hamlet)
and realizes that he cannot escape divine justice...
Queen Gertrude attempts to scold her son but Hamlet
instead scolds his mother for her actions. Queen Gertrude
cries out in fear, and Polonius echoes it and is stabbed
through the arras (subdivision of a room created by
a hanging tapestry) where he was listening in. Hamlet
continues scolding his mother but the Ghost reappears,
telling Hamlet to be gentle with the Queen. For her
part, Queen Gertrude agrees to stop living with King
Claudius, beginning her redemption....
King Claudius speaks with his wife, Queen Gertrude.
He learns of Polonius' murder which shocks him; it could
easily have been him. Queen Gertrude lies for her son,
saying that Hamlet is as mad as a tempestuous sea. King
Claudius, now scared of Hamlet, decides to have Hamlet
sent away to England immediately... He also sends courtiers
and spies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to speak with
Hamlet to find out where Hamlet has hidden Polonius'
body so they can take it to the chapel.
Hamlet refuses to tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
where Polonius' dead body is hidden. He calls Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern lapdogs revealing his true awareness
that they are not his friends. Hamlet agrees to see
Hamlet continues to refuse to tell Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern where Polonius' body is. Hamlet is brought
before the King. The two exchange words, clearly circling
each other, each aware that the other is a threat. Hamlet
tells King Claudius where Polonius body is. King Claudius
ominously tells Hamlet to leave for England supposedly
for Hamlet's own safety. With Hamlet gone, King Claudius
reveals his plans for Hamlet to be killed in England,
freeing King Claudius from further worry from this threat...
Young Fortinbras marches his army across Denmark to
fight the Polish. Hamlet laments that he does not have
in him the strength of Young Fortinbras, who will lead
an army into pointless fighting, if only to maintain
honor. Hamlet asks himself how he cannot fight for honor
when his father has been killed and his mother made
a whore in his eyes by becoming King Claudius' wife.
The death of Polonius leaves its mark on Ophelia who
becomes mad from the grief of losing her father. Laertes
storms King Claudius' castle, demanding to see his father
and wanting justice when he learns that his father,
Polonius has been killed. King Claudius remains calm,
telling Laertes that he too mourned his father's loss...
Horatio is greeted by sailors who have news from Hamlet.
Horatio follows the sailors to learn more... King Claudius
explains to Laertes that Hamlet killed his father, Polonius.
Deciding they have a common enemy, they plot Hamlet's
death at a fencing match to be arranged between Laertes
and Hamlet. Laertes learns of his sister Ophelia's death
Hamlet and Horatio speak with a cheerful Clown or gravedigger.
Hamlet famously realizes that man's accomplishments
are transitory (fleeting) and holding the skull of Yorick,
a childhood jester he remembered, creates a famous scene
about man's insignificance and inability to control
his fate following death.
At Ophelia's burial, the Priest reveals a widely held
belief that Ophelia committed suicide, angering Laertes.
Hamlet fights Laertes over Ophelia's grave, angered
by Laertes exaggerated emphasis of his sorrow and because
he believes he loved Ophelia much more than her brother.
Hamlet explains to Horatio how he avoided the death
planned for him in England and had courtiers' Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern put to death instead. Hamlet reveals
his desire to kill King Claudius.
Summoned by Osric to fence against Laertes, Hamlet
arrives at a hall in the castle and fights Laertes.
Queen Gertrude drinks a poisoned cup meant for Hamlet,
dying but not before telling all that she has been poisoned.
Hamlet wins the first two rounds against Laertes but
is stabbed and poisoned fatally in the third round.
Exchanging swords whilst fighting, Hamlet wounds and
poisons Laertes who explains that his sword is poison
Now dying, Hamlet stabs King Claudius with this same
sword, killing him.
Hamlet, dying, tells Horatio to tell his story and
not to commit suicide. Hamlet recommends Young Fortinbras
as the next King of Denmark. Young Fortinbras arrives,
cleaning up the massacre. Horatio promises to tell all
the story we have just witnessed, ending the play.