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Hamlet: Plot Overview of Hamlet

Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.

Hamlet and the Ghost

Hamlet and the Ghost

Appearance of Ghost

The play opens at Elsinore with Francisco at his post on a platform before the castle. Bernardo comes to relieve him of guard duty. It is twelve O’clock at night. Horatio and Marcellus also arrive there. They see the ghost of the dead king of Denmark. Horatio speaks to the ghost but the ghost disappears without having any conversation with him. Horatio is of the view that the appearance of the ghost of the dead king is not a good omen for the state of Denmark. He says that it “bodes some strange eruption to our state.” Horatio updates Hamlet about this strange incident and tells him to see the ghost himself. He is sure that the ghost will speak to him.

Hamlet Talks to the Ghost

Prince Hamlet is very curious to see the ghost. He comes to the spot and waits for the re-appearance of the ghost. The ghost re-appears before them and Hamlet has a conversation with him. The ghost informs him about the murder of his father, King Hamlet, the king of Denmark. The ghost reveals to him that it was “murder most foul, strange and unnatural.” There was a rumour in the air that the father of Prince Hamlet occurred due to a serpent’s sting. But the ghost reveals to the Prince Hamlet that his father, Hamlet, was killed by his brother, Claudius, who now wears his crown and has wedded his wife, by pouring poison into his ear as he slept in the orchard. The ghost orders him to take the revenge upon Claudius. Hamlet is shocked and stunned by the strange disclosure. He informs Horatio and Marcellus about what the ghost said to him. He also tells them he will put on “an antic disposition” to find out whether the revelation made by the ghost is true. Thereafter, he will avenge the death of his father.

Hamlet Talks to The Ghost

Hamlet Talks to The Ghost

Claudius Spies on Hamlet

Claudius and the Queen, Gertrude, are worried about the strange behavior of Prince Hamlet. They want to know about the madness of Hamlet. For this purpose, Claudius calls the two former school fellows of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Claudius tells them to find out whether Prince Hamlet has really gone made or he is just acting. The Queen also endorses the point of the King. Meanwhile, Polonius enters and he informs the King that Cornellius and Voltimand have returned from Norway with good news. The two envoys inform the King that the King of Norway has prevented Fortinbras from waging war with Denmark. Polonius try to convince the King that the madness of Hamlet is due to his daughter, Ophelia, who has rejected the love of Hamlet. He also explains that he has forbidden his daughter to encourage Hamlet’s advances and now she acts upon his advice.

Hamlet's Summary

Hamlet's Summary

Hamlet Stages a Play

Hamlet, who is very confused and seems to be really made, hears the news of arrival of actors at Elsinor. An idea crosses his mind and he wants to test the veracity of the words of the ghost and guilt of his uncle, Claudius, through a play. He calls the play “The Murder of Gonzago”. The play will bear a resemblance to the events told by the ghost. Prince Hamlet will closely watch the King. If the King is guilty, he will definitely react. It will certainly prove the guilt of the King. The actors perform the play before the King. Prince Hamlet and Horatio are sitting over there to catch the conscience of the King. When the murder of Priam by Pyrrhus takes place, the King is so startled and bewildered that he leaves the place. It proves the guilt of the King. Hamlet and Horatio are now convinced about the guilt of the King. Thereafter, Hamlet resolves to kill Claudius. Once, he finds an opportunity to Kill Claudius while he is praying, but he suspends his decision on the plea that killing of Claudius in such a situation will send him to heaven instead of hell.

Play Scene in Hamlet

Play Scene in Hamlet

Hamlet Sees His Mother

Polonius suggests the King that the Queen should have a talk with her son in an effort to find out the cause of his distraction, while he, Polonius, will hide himself and overhear the talk. The King agrees with them. The Queen calls Hamlet to her bedchamber. Polonius informs the Queen that Hamlet is coming. Hamlet calls out to his mother, and Polonius hides himself behind a tapestry. Hamlet speaks rudely to his mother. She thinks that he is going to murder her. That’s why; she shouts for help. Hamlet passes his sword through the tapestry and kills Polonius, who was hiding there.

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Claudius Sends Hamlet to England

The King is so shocked at the murder of Polonius that he immediately makes arrangements to send him to England. He secretly orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to kill him as soon as he reaches England. The King is now surely convinced about the madness of Hamlet.


Laertes Fights with Hamlet

Due to the death of her father by Hamlet, Ophelia is so steeped in grief that she drowns in a river. Laertes, the son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia, who was residing in France, comes to Denmark to mourn the death of his father. Claudius informs him that Hamlet is the one who killed his father. Meanwhile, the King receives a letter wherein the Prince Hamlet is supposed to return from England due to attacks of pirates on the ship bound for England. The King now plans to kill Hamlet through Laertes during a duel. He augments the rage of Laertes to such an extent that he is prepared to Kill Hamlet as and when he faces him. The King will poison the sword of Laertes so that it may kill Hamlet immediately. He will also poison the goblet and will give him to Hamlet. If he takes the goblet, he will die. If he refuses, then he will be killed through the poisoned sword of Laertes. Hamlet comes straight to the place wherein the funeral of Ophelia is taking place. Hamlet attacks Laertes and tells him that he loves Ophelia very much. Meanwhile, the King sends his courtier, Orsic, to arrange a fence for the fight. The fight begins. The King offers him a goblet, but Hamlet refuses to drink the goblet. The Queen, who was not aware of the Claudius plan, takes that poisoned goblet and she dies at the spot. Laertes succeeds in hurting Hamlet, but he does not die swiftly due to the poison. Rather, Laertes is killed through his own sword. Laertes informs Hamlet that it was Claudius who did all this. Knowing the truth, Hamlet takes the sword from Laertes and stabs the King and compels him to drink the rest of the poison. The King dies on the spot along with Hamlet. Thus, Hamlet takes revenge upon Claudius but at the cost of his life.

Hamlet and Laertes Duel

Hamlet and Laertes Duel


For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Is Hamlet a Tragic Hero?
    • Yes.
    • No.

Answer Key

  1. Yes.

Arrival of Fortinbras

Thereafter, Fortinbras enter Denmark with an Army along with ambassadors from England who reveals that the Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are dead. Fortinbras controls the state affairs of Denmark. He is deeply grieved at the tragic events of the state. Horatio tells him the whole story. Fortinbras issue orders that Hamlet be given full honour like a soldier.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Muhammad Rafiq

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