Hamlet Summary

The story begins on the rooftops of Castle Elsinore, where the guards are posted. On a dark, dreary winter night a couple of watchmen encounter a ghost wearing armor. The ghost appears for many consecutive nights, therefore the guards decide to ask for help. Horatio, a scholar and a friend of Prince Hamlet, first assured the guards that ghosts did not exist. The scholar, along with the guards, finally see the ghost and are terrified. Not only did they encounter an ethereal being, but the ghost had an uncanny resemblance to Hamlet’s deceased father.

Prince Hamlet was asked to stop attending school at Wittenberg, Germany and return to Denmark so that he could attend his father’s funeral. His father’s death had impacted Hamlet greatly and had left him depressed. Since Hamlet’s father had died very recently, he is shocked to find his mother, Gertrude, getting married to his uncle, Claudius. Claudius was the deceased king’s brother. Hamlet considered this to be disgusting and an incestuous, unholy union. Since Claudius married the Queen, he managed to crown himself as King, even though the heir to the throne should have been Hamlet. This makes Hamlet suspicious of the whole situation. Claudius tried to comfort Hamlet by complimenting him and also by advising to not be depressed about his father’s death. His kind words did not affect Hamlet as his father’s death was too sudden and he could not be there in his final moments.

Horatio approached Hamlet and told him that the Ghost they have spotted resembles his father. Hamlet took interest in this and decided to tag along with the guards and Horatio to search for the Ghost. Hamlet is eager to find out if it truly is his father, therefore he leaves Horatio and the guards behind and chases the Ghost when it appears. When Hamlet finds himself isolated and alone, the Ghost appears and communicates with him. The Ghost tells Hamlet about his foul and unnatural death at the hands of his brother Claudius. He tells Hamlet that the cause of his death was poison and Claudius had poured poison into his ear while he was napping. Because of this betrayal, he is unable to rest in peace and asks Hamlet to avenge him. Since he cannot find salvation as he is unable to confess, King Hamlet roams the realm of Purgatory and can only visit the world of the living during the night. He wants Hamlet to spare his mother Gertrude as he wants heaven to decide her fate.

In this story, Hamlet’s love interest is a girl named Ophelia. She is the daughter of Polonius, a courtier. Since Ophelia is Hamlet’s primary love interest, Laertes and Polonius, her brother and father respectively, advise her to stop talking to Hamlet. Since he is a prince, he will not be able to marry her.

decides to enter a great melancholic state where he is in deep thought on how to evaluate the matter at hand. He came to the conclusion that he will act mad in front his relatives and acquaintances. Gertrude and Claudius become worried about Hamlet’s mental health. Polonius approaches Claudius and tells him he suspects Hamlet to be “mad in love”. Claudius decides to employ Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern so that they would keep an eye on him. Hamlet was ecstatic when he met his friend, but he quickly realized that they were sent to spy on him. This leaves him distinctly miffed.

Hamlet is extremely confused about what he must do. He does not know if the words of the Ghost are trustworthy enough. Questions in his mind arise. Could the Ghost be an angel in disguise and or is he truly a devil who is just trying to tempt him into murdering Claudius? If he killed Claudius, would that result in him having to relive his memories for all eternity? Cowardice rules Hamlet’s mind and he becomes agonized by it.

Hamlet is notified that a group of traveling actors is passing through, therefore he gets an idea to test the words of the Ghost. Hamlet asks the groups of actors to perform the play called The Murder of Gonzago. He specifically asked them to put a scene in the play, which was the reenactment of Claudius murdering his father. Hamlet had assigned Horatio to aid him in his quest to find the truth. Horatio and Hamlet were stationed strategically so that they could observe any subtle change in Claudius’s behavior. The murder scene was called The Mousetrap by Hamlet. The Mousetrap proved to be a success. Claudius had given Hamlet the exact response he wanted. The King was conscience-stricken by the scene and had to leave the room immediately and it seemed like he was unable to breathe. Hamlet and Horatio had confirmed that Claudius was the villain and this had strengthened the prince’s resolve to kill him. Hamlet locks himself in a room where he takes part in soliloquy and realizes that "conscience doth make cowards of us all."

Hamlet finds Claudius confessing his sins in the chapel. Hamlet sees a golden opportunity for him to stab Claudius but realizes that if the villain dies whilst praying, his soul might get sent to heaven. Hamlet, therefore, refrains from his action. Gertrude has a serious talk with Hamlet as it seemed like he had traumatized Claudius. Hamlet convinces himself not to stab her during their conversation. He confronts his mother and tells her that marrying Claudius was completely disrespectful to his father’s memory. Polonius was hidden behind the tapestry in the bed-chamber. Hamlet becomes engulfed in rage when he hears noise from the tapestry and believes that the King was hidden there. He quickly draws his knife and leaps on the tapestry and stabs it repeatedly. Even though Polonius had died in the bed-chamber, Hamlet continues the argument with his mother. He finally convinces that her way was full of errors and should not have married Claudius. Hamlet then proceeds to hide Polonius’s body.

The King is convinced that Hamlet is mad and is too dangerous to have around, therefore, punishes him with exile. Hamlet gets exiled to England. Claudius employs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern once again to spy on Hamlet. These two were ordered to give a letter to the English King which had asked to execute Hamlet. This was incredibly shocking to Hamlet when he finds out that his friends had agreed to such terms. Hamlet decides to alter the letter. The letter now instructed the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Ophelia did not take the death of her father well, in fact, she later becomes mad. She begins to sing inappropriate songs and makes everyone uncomfortable. Laertes, her older brother, returns to Denmark from France after hearing about his father’s death. He is full of rage and is determined to avenge his father's death. Laertes witnesses Ophelia's descent into madness due to Polonius’s death. Soon Ophelia drowns herself in a river while singing sad love songs.

Claudius has convinced Laertes that Hamlet had killed his father. The King soon receives a letter saying that Hamlet was on his way back and that he had survived a pirate attack. Claudius plans with Laertes about how to kill Hamlet. They came to the conclusion that there would be a fencing match where Laertes would have the upper hand as his sword will have poison on the tip. Gertrude soon enters the room and notifies Laertes and Claudius that Ophelia had drowned.

Hamlet and Horatio soon find themselves in a graveyard where they encounter two comical gravediggers having a conversation with each other. Soon they hear that the funeral is about to start so Hamlet and Horatio hide and watch it from afar. Hamlet soon realizes that the ceremony was for Ophelia. Laertes finds Hamlet attacking him out of nowhere. They start a fistfight, while debating on who loved Ophelia more. Laertes vows to punish Hamlet for her death as well.

During the fencing match, Hamlet manages to outclass his opponent. Unfortunately, Laertes drops the poison sword in the middle of the duel. Hamlet somehow manages to pick up Laertes’s sword and cuts him. Laertes dies due to the lethal poison. Before his death, Laertes tells Hamlet that he will share the same fate as he too was cut with the poison tip.

Gertrude thought that Hamlet had achieved victory. She decides to drink a toast on her son’s victory, but mistakenly consumes the poisoned wine that was meant for Claudius. The Queen dies.

Laertes’s words hit Hamlet and rage shrouds his mind. Hamlet leaps and stabs the King with the poisoned sword and pours the last bit of the poisoned wine into Claudius’s throat. Before his death, Hamlet declares that the Prince Fortinbras of Norway shall become the new King. Hamlet implores his true friend, Horatio, to accurately explain the events that have led to the bloodbath at Elsinore. Hamlet dies.

The story ends with Prince Fortinbras ordering a funeral with full military honors for Prince Hamlet.