Summary of “Hamlet”

The tragedy of William Shakespeare “Hamlet” was written in 1600 – 1601 years and is one of the most famous works of world literature. The plot of the tragedy is based on the legend of the ruler of Denmark, dedicated to the story of the revenge of the protagonist for the death of his father. In “Hamlet” Shakespeare raises a number of important topics relating to issues of morality, honor and duty of heroes. The author pays special attention to the philosophical theme of life and death.

Read the summary of “Hamlet” for the chapters will be useful for students and students to get acquainted with the plot of the work, as well as in preparation for testing works.

Main characters

Hamlet – Prince of Denmark, son of the former and nephew of the present king, was killed by Laertes.

Claudius – the Danish king, killed Hamlet’s father and married Gertrude, was killed by Hamlet.

Polonius – the chief

royal adviser, the father of Laertes and Ophelia, was killed by Hamlet.

Laertes son of Polonius, brother of Ophelia, a skilled fencer, was killed by Hamlet.

Horatio is a close friend of Hamlet.

Other characters

Ophelia – the daughter of Polonius, Laertes sister, after her father’s death went insane, drowned in the river.

Gertrude – the Danish queen, Hamlet’s mother, Claudia’s wife, died drinking the wine poisoned by the king.

Phantom of Hamlet’s father

Rosenkrantz, Guildenstern – Former university comrades of Hamlet.

Fortinbras is a Norwegian prince.

Marcellus, Bernardo – Officers.

Act 1
Scene 1

Elsinore. The area in front of the castle. Midnight. Officer Bernardo replaces the soldier Fernardo, standing on the post. Officer Marcellus and friend of Hamlet Horatio appear on the square. Marcellus asks Bernardo if he saw a ghost, which the castle guards had already twice observed. Horatio finds this just a game of imagination.

Suddenly, a ghost appears, like a

late king. Horatio asks the spirit of who he is, but he, insulted by the question, disappears. Horatio believes that the appearance of a ghost is “a sign of the shocks threatening the state.”

Marcellus is interested in Horatio, why recently in the kingdom are actively preparing for war. Horatio says that Hamlet killed “the ruler of the Norwegians Fortinbras” in battle and received the lands of the vanquished under the treaty. However, “Junior Fortinbras” decided to repel the lost lands, and this is “a pretext for confusion and commotion in the province.”

Suddenly, the ghost appears again, but with the screams of the cock disappears. Horatio decides to tell about what Hamlet saw.

Scene 2

Hall for receptions in the castle. The king reports his decision to marry the sister of the late brother Gertrude. Outraged by the efforts of Prince Fortinbras to return power to the lost lands, Claudius sends the courtiers with a letter to his uncle, the king of the Norwegians, to prevent the nephew’s intentions at the root.

Laertes asks the king for permission to go to France, Claudius allows. The Queen advises Hamlet to stop grieving for her father: “So the world is created: what is alive, it will die / And after life in eternity will depart.” Claudius reports that they are with the queen against the return of Hamlet to the teachings in Wittenberg.

Remaining alone, Hamlet is outraged that his mother, a month after her husband’s death, ceased to mourn and married Claudia: “O woman, you name is treachery!”.

Horatio tells Hamlet that for two nights in a row he, Marcellus and Bernardo saw the ghost of his father in lats. The prince asks to keep this news a secret.

Scene 3

Room in the house of Polonius. Saying goodbye to Ophelia, Laertes asks the sister to avoid Hamlet, not to take seriously his courtship. Polonius blesses his son on the road, instructing him how to behave in France. Ophelia tells her father about the courtship of Hamlet. Polonius forbids his daughter to see the prince.

Scene 4

Midnight, Hamlet and Horatio and Marcellus are on the court in front of the castle. A ghost appears. Hamlet turns to him, but the spirit, not answering, beckons the prince behind him.

Scene 5

The ghost tells Hamlet that he is the spirit of his deceased father, reveals the secret of his death and asks to take revenge on his son for his murder. Contrary to popular belief, the former king did not die from a snake bite. He was killed by Claudius’s own brother, pouring the King in his ear infusion of bleached, when he slept in the garden. In addition, even before the death of the former king, Claudius “carried away the queen to shameful cohabitation.”

Hamlet warns Horatio and Marcellus that he will deliberately behave like a madman and asks them to swear that they will not tell anyone about their conversation and that they saw the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

Act 2
Scene 1

Polonius sends his approaching Reinaldo to Paris to take a letter to Laertes. He asks to find out as much as possible about the son – about how he behaves and who is in the circle of his communication.

Frightened Ophelia tells Polonia about Hamlet’s insane behavior. The counselor decides that the prince has gone mad from the love of his daughter.

Scene 2

The king and the queen prick Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find out the reason for the madness of the prince. Ambassador Voltimand informs the Norwegian’s answer – after learning about the actions of the nephew Fortinbras, the King of Norway forbade him to fight with Denmark and sent an heir with a campaign against Poland. Polonius shares with the king and queen the assumption that the cause of Hamlet’s madness is the love of Ophelia.

Talking with Hamlet, Polonius is struck by the accuracy of the Prince’s utterances: “If this is insanity, it is in its own way consistent.”

In a conversation with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet calls Denmark prison. The prince understands that they came not by their own will, but by the order of the king and queen.

In Elsinore come invited by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern actors. Hamlet kindly meets them. The prince asks to read Aeneas’s monologue to Dido, which speaks of the murder of Priam Pyrrhus, and also to play tomorrow’s performance “Murder of Gonzaga”, adding a small passage written by Hamlet.

Remaining alone, Hamlet admires the skill of the actor, accusing himself of impotence. Fearing that in the image of the ghost to him was the Devil, the prince decides first to watch over his uncle and verify his guilt.

Act 3
Scene 1

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report to the king and queen that they could not find out from Hamlet the reason for his strange behavior. After adjusting the meeting between Ophelia and Hamlet, the King and Polonius hide, watching them.

Hamlet walks into the room, reflecting on what stops a person from committing suicide:

“To be or not to be, that’s the question.”
It’s fitting to be
humble under the blows of fate,
Or you have to resist.
And in a mortal battle with a whole sea of ​​misery
End with them? Die and forget. “

Ophelia wants to return Hamlet’s gifts. The prince, realizing that they are being eavesdropped, continues to behave like a madman, telling the girl that he never loved her and how much her virtues were not planted, from her “not to smoke a sinful spirit.” Hamlet advises Ophelia to go to the monastery in order not to produce sinners.

Hearing the speeches of Hamlet, the king understands that the reason for the madness of the prince is different: “he does not cherish / In the dark corners of his soul, / Hatching something more dangerous.” Claudius decides to protect himself by sending his nephew to England.

Scene 2

Preparations for the play. Hamlet asks Horatio to look closely at the king when the actors will play a scene similar to that of his father’s death.

Before the play begins, Hamlet lays Ophelia’s head to his knees. Starting with pantomimes, the actors depict a scene of poisoning the former king. During the performance, Hamlet tells Claudius that the play is called “The Mousetrap” and comments on what is happening on the stage. At the moment when the actor on the stage was about to poison the sleeper, Claudius rose abruptly and left the hall with his retinue, then betrayed his guilt at the death of Hamlet’s father.

Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern tell Hamlet that the king and the queen are very upset because of what happened. The Prince, holding a flute in his hand, answered: “Look, with what mud you mixed me, you are going to play on me.” “Announce me with any instrument, you can upset me, but you can not play on me.”

Scene 3

The king tries to pray for the sin of fratricide. Seeing Claudius praying, the prince hesitates, because he can avenge the murder of his father right now. However, Hamlet decides to postpone punishment, so that the soul of the king does not go to heaven.

Scene 4

Queen’s room. Gertrude called Hamlet to her to talk. Polonius, eavesdropping, hides in her bedroom behind the carpet. Hamlet is rude to his mother, accusing the queen of insulting his father’s memory. The frightened Gertrude decides that the son wants to kill her. Polonius calls the guard because of the carpet. The prince, thinking that this is the king, pierces the carpet and kills the royal adviser.

Hamlet blames the mother for the fall. Suddenly, a ghost appears, seen and heard only by the prince. Gertrude is convinced of the son’s foolishness. Dragging the body of Polonius, Hamlet leaves.

Act 4
Scene 1

Gertrude tells Claudius that Hamlet killed Polonius. The king orders to find the prince and take the body of the murdered counselor to the chapel.

Scene 2

Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he “mixed the body of Polonius with the earth, with which the corpse is akin.” The prince compares Rosencrantz “with a sponge, living with juices of royal favors.”

Scene 3

Flattering, Hamlet tells the king that Polonius at dinner – “at a place where he does not eat dinner, but eat it himself,” but later confesses that he hid the adviser’s body near the gallery staircase. The king decides to immediately lure Hamlet to the ship and take him to England, accompanied by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Claudius decides that the Briton must return his debt by killing the prince.

Scene 4

Plain in Denmark. The troops of the Norwegians carry out passage through the local lands. Hamlet explains that the military are going to “tear away a place that is not noticeable or anything.” Hamlet speculates that the “decisive prince” “is happy to sacrifice his life,” for the sake of the matter that “is not worth the egg to be eaten,” and he himself did not dare to take revenge.

Scene 5

Upon learning of the death of Polonius, Ophelia goes insane. The girl grieves about her father, singing strange songs. Horatio shares with the queen his fears and fears – “people are grumbling,” “all the turbidity surfaced from the bottom.”

Secretly returned from France Laert bursts into the castle with a crowd of rebels, who proclaimed him king. The young man wants to avenge the death of his father, but the king pacifies his ardor, promising to compensate for the loss and help “in the union to achieve the truth.” Seeing the mad Ophelia, Laertes even more fires with a thirst for revenge.

Scene 6

Horatio receives a letter from the sailors Hamlet. The prince reports that he got to the pirates, asks him to send the letters he sent to the king and rush to his aid as quickly as possible.

Scene 7

The king finds an ally in the person of Laert, indicating to him that they have a common enemy. Claudius receives letters from Hamlet – the prince writes that he was naked on the Danish land and asks the king to take it tomorrow.

Laertes is waiting for a meeting with Hamlet. Claudius proposes to direct the actions of the young man so that Hamlet perishes “by his own free will.” Laertes agrees, deciding for fidelity before the battle with the prince to smear the tip of the rapier with poisonous ointment.

Suddenly the queen appears with the news that Ophelia drowned in the river:

“She wanted a willow to herbs like a willow,
Took hold of a bough, and he broke off,
And, as was, with a mop of colored trophies,
She fell into a torrent.”

Act 5
Scene 1

Elsinore. Cemetery. Gravediggers dig a grave for Ophelia, discussing whether a Christian suicide can be buried. Seeing the skulls thrown out by the gravedigger, Hamlet reflects on who these people were. The gravedigger shows the prince the skull of Yorick, the royal hubbub. Taking it in hand, Hamlet turns to Horatio: “Poor Yorick!” “I knew him, Horatio.” He was a man of infinite wit, “and now this very disgust and nausea comes to my throat.”

Ophelia is buried. Wishing for the last time to say goodbye to her sister, Laertes jumps into her grave, asking him to bury him with his sister. Outraged by the falseness of what is happening, the one standing aside, the prince jumps into the grave in the ice behind Laertes and they fight. By order of the King they are separated. Hamlet says that he wants to “resolve the rivalry” with Laert in the bout. The king asks Laertes not to take any action yet – “shake it.” Everything goes to the denouement. “

Scene 2

Hamlet tells Horatio that he found on the ship a letter from Claudius, in which the king ordered to kill the prince upon his arrival in England. Hamlet changed his content, ordering immediately to kill the bearers of the letter. The prince realizes that he sent Rosencrantz and Hildestern to his death, but his conscience does not torment him.

Hamlet confesses to Horatio that he regrets a quarrel with Laertes and wants to reconcile with him. Approximate King Ozdryk reports that Claudius argued with Laertes on six Arab horses that the prince would win the battle. Hamlet has a strange premonition, but he shakes it off.

Before the fight, Hamlet asks Laertes for forgiveness, saying that he did not want him to be evil. Imperceptibly, the King throws a poison into the glass of the prince with wine. In the midst of the battle, Laertes injures Hamlet, after which they change rapiers and Hamlet injures Laertes. Laertes realizes that he himself “fell into the net” of his cunning.

The Queen by chance drinks a glass of Hamlet and dies. Hamlet orders to find the guilty. Laertes reports that the rapier and drink were poisoned and the king was to blame. Hamlet kills the king’s poisonous rapier. Dying, Laertes forgives Hamlet. Horatio wants to drink the rest of the poison from the glass, but Hamlet takes the cup from a friend, asking to tell the uninitiated “the truth about him.”

In the distance, shots and a march are heard – Fortinbras returns from Poland with a victory. Dying, Hamlet recognizes the right of Fortinbras to the Danish throne. Fortinbras orders with the honor of burying the prince. A cannon volley is heard.


In “Hamlet” on the example of the image of the Danish prince Shakespeare depicts the personality of the new time, strength and weakness of which are contained in his morality and keen mind. Being by nature a philosopher and humanist, Hamlet appears in circumstances that force him to revenge and bloodshed. This is the tragedy of the hero’s position – seeing the dark side of life, fratricide, treason, he became disillusioned with life, lost his understanding of its value. Shakespeare does not give in his work a definite answer to the eternal question of “To be or not to be?”, Leaving it to the reader.

We recommend not to dwell on reading the brief retelling of Hamlet, but to read the full text of the work.

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Summary of “Hamlet”