Hamlet Summary l Summary of Hamlet l Hamlet by Shakespeare l ELP

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Hamlet Summary Act 1 Scene 1:

It is a dark winter night in Denmark. A watchman named Francisco is on duty outside Elsinore Castle. Another watchman named Bernardo comes to relieve Francisco. Soon Bernardo is joined by Marcellus and Horatio. Marcellus is another watchman and Horatio is a friend of Prince Hamlet. Bernardo and Marcellus have seen for the past two nights the ghost of the recently deceased King Hamlet and they want to show it to Horatio.
Horatio is doubtful but the ghost suddenly appears before them and vanishes soon. Horatio is terrified. He acknowledges that the ghost indeed resembles the dead King of Denmark. Horatio says that the ghost surely brings warning of some misfortune for Denmark. The ghost appears for the second time and Horatio tries to speak to it but the ghost remains silent. It disappears again when the cock crows at dawn. Horatio suggests that they should tell Prince Hamlet about the ghost. Prince Hamlet is the son of the dead King Hamlet. He believes that the ghost will certainly talk to his son prince Hamlet.
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Hamlet Summary Act 1 Scene 2:

King Claudius is the brother of the dead King Hamlet. He marries the dead King Hamlet’s widow and Prince Hamlet’s mother named Gertrude. Claudius justifies his marriage to Gertrude. He mentions that young Fortinbras is demanding the surrender of the lands which King Hamlet captured from Fortinbras’ father. He sends Cornelius and Voltimand with a message for the King of Norway. The King of Norway is an elderly uncle of Fortinbras. Then Claudius turns to Laertes, the son of Polonius. Laertes expresses his desire to return to France.
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Polonius and Laertes give him permission. Claudius then turns to Prince Hamlet. He urges Hamlet to think of him as a father. He reminds Hamlet that he will succeed to the throne upon Claudius’s death. Hamlet had been studying at Wittenberg before his father’s death. Hamlet wants to return to his studies but Claudius and Gertrude tell him that they want him close to them. Hamlet agrees to remain close to his mother. Alone, Hamlet laments his father’s death and his mother’s hasty marriage to his uncle. Meanwhile, Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo visit Hamlet. Horatio tells Hamlet that he, Marcellus, and Bernardo have seen his father’s ghost. Hamlet is astonished and agrees to visit the castle that night in the hope that he will be able to speak to the ghost.

Hamlet Summary Act 1 Scene 3:

Laertes prepares to leave for France. He bids farewell to his sister Ophelia. He cautions her against falling in love with Hamlet. Ophelia agrees to consider the advice of Laertes. Polonius bids farewell to his son. He tells Laertes that he should hurry to his ship. But he delays him by giving him a great deal of advice about how to behave in France.
Laertes leaves for France. Polonius also sternly forbids Ophelia to associate with Hamlet anymore.
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Hamlet Summary Act 1 Scene 4:

It is night now. Hamlet is outside the castle with Horatio and Marcellus. He is waiting for the ghost to appear. Then the ghost appears. The ghost beckons Hamlet to follow it. Hamlet’s companions beg him not to follow it because the ghost might harm him.

Hamlet himself is not sure whether his father’s ghost is truly the king’s spirit or an evil demon, but he says that he cares nothing for his life. He follows after the apparition and disappears into the darkness. After a moment, Horatio and Marcellus follow after Hamlet and the ghost.

Hamlet Summary Act 1 Scene 5:

In the darkness, the ghost tells Hamlet that his father has been murdered. It tells him that as he slept in his garden, Claudius poured poison into his ear. The ghost incites Hamlet to seek revenge. It tells him that Claudius has corrupted Denmark and Gertrude. But it also urges Hamlet not to act against his mother. The ghost disappears at dawn. Hamlet swears to obey the ghost. Horatio and Marcellus arrive and ask Hamlet what has happened but he refuses to tell them. Hamlet insists that they take oath upon his sword not to reveal what they have seen.
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Hamlet Summary Act 2 Scene 1:

Polonius sends his servant Reynaldo to France. He gives him money and written notes for Laertes. He also orders him to spy on the personal life of Laertes. Reynaldo leaves and Ophelia enters. She tells Polonius that Hamlet grabbed her, held her, and sighed heavily, but did not speak to her. Polonius says that Hamlet must be mad with his love for Ophelia. Polonius hurries out to tell Claudius that the cause of Hamlet’s moodiness is his love for Ophelia.
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Hamlet Summary Act 2 Scene 2:

Claudius and Gertrude welcome Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who are Hamlet’s friends from Wittenberg. They called his friends to Elsinore in order to please Hamlet or at least discover the cause of his melancholy. Voltimand and Cornelius enter and describe what took place in Norway. They say that the king rebuked Fortinbras for his attempt to engage in war with Denmark.

Fortinbras swore he would never attack the Danes. The old Norwegian King sent a request back to Claudius that Prince Fortinbras’s armies be allowed to pass through Denmark on their way to attack the Poles.
Polonius says that the prince is mad with love for Ophelia. He shows the king and queen love poems and letters given by Hamlet to Ophelia. He also proposes a plan to test his theory. Gertrude notices that Hamlet is coming. He is reading from a book as he walks. Polonius tries to talk to Hamlet. Hamlet calls Polonius a “fishmonger”. After that Polonius determines to arrange the meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter and Hamlet tells them that they are welcome to stay at Elsinore.
Polonius announces the arrival of the players. Hamlet welcomes them. He announces that the next night they will hear The Murder of Gonzago performed.
He devises a trap for Claudius.
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Hamlet Summary Act 3 Scene 1:

Claudius and Polonius intend to spy on Hamlet’s meeting with Ophelia. Polonius directs Ophelia to walk around the lobby. Polonius hears Hamlet coming, so he and the king hide. Hamlet enters. He is talking to himself about the question of whether to commit suicide or not. He sees Ophelia coming. As directed by Polonius, she tells him that she wishes to return the tokens of love he has given her. Angrily, Hamlet denies that he has not given her anything. He laments the dishonesty of beauty. He criticizes women bitterly. Polonius and the King emerge from behind the curtain. Claudius says that Hamlet’s strange behavior has not been caused by his love for Ophelia.
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He expresses his decision that he will send Hamlet to England, hoping that a change of scenery will help him recover. Polonius is not satisfied. He asks Claudius to send Hamlet to Gertrude’s chamber after the play, where Polonius can hide and see whether Hamlet is mad with love for Ophelia.

Hamlet Summary Act 3 Scene 2:

Hamlet shares with Horatio that Claudius murdered his father. He asks him to watch Claudius carefully during the play. Horatio agrees and says that if Claudius shows any signs of guilt, he will detect them.
The players enter and act out the play. In this play, the king and queen display their love. The queen leaves the king to sleep. While he is sleeping, a man murders him by pouring poison into his ear. The murderer tries to seduce the queen. The queen accepts him gradually. When the murderer pours the poison into the king’s ear, Claudius rises and cries out for light. Torches are lit and the king leaves the room. Hamlet and Horatio come to know that Claudius has murdered Hamlet’s father. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive to tell Hamlet that he is wanted in his mother’s room.

Hamlet Summary Act 3 Scene 3:

Now Claudius considers Hamlet’s madness to be dangerous. He asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to escort Hamlet on a voyage to England. The king now expresses his guilt and grief over his sin. He falls to his knees and prays. Hamlet enters silently into the room and intends to kill Claudius, but suddenly it occurs to him that he should not kill Claudius while he is praying or else he will go to paradise.

Hamlet Summary Act 3 Scene 4:

Polonius hides in Gertrude’s chamber in order to eavesdrop on Hamlet and Gertrude.
Hamlet arrives. Gertrude says that he has offended his stepfather, Claudius. He says that she has offended his real father by marrying Claudius. Hamlet is harsh. Fearing for her life, Gertrude cries out. Polonius calls out for help. Hamlet suspects that it might be Claudius. He draws his sword, stabs it through the tapestry, and kills Polonius.

Hamlet continues to criticize his mother and Claudius bitterly. Suddenly, the ghost of his father appears.
The ghost tells that it has come to remind Hamlet of his revenge. The ghost vanishes in a moment. Hamlet tries hard to convince Gertrude that he is not mad but has only feigned madness. He urges her to leave Claudius. He also urges not to reveal to Claudius that his madness is fake. Gertrude agrees to keep his secret. Hamlet drags Polonius’s body behind him and leaves his mother’s room.

Hamlet Summary Act 4 Scene 1:

Gertrude tells Claudius that Hamlet is mad. She also tells him that Hamlet has killed Polonius. He tells Gertrude that they must send Hamlet to England at once. He tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about the murder and sends them to find Hamlet.

Hamlet Summary Act 4 Scene 2:

Hamlet disposes of the body of Polonius. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern appear and ask what he has done with the body. Hamlet does not give them a straight answer. He accuses them of being spies of Claudius. After criticizing them, Hamlet agrees to allow Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to escort him to Claudius.

Hamlet Summary Act 4 Scene 3:

Claudius presses Hamlet to reveal the location of Polonius’s body. He tells him that Polonius’s body is under the stairs near the castle lobby. The king tells Hamlet that he must leave for England at once and Hamlet agrees enthusiastically. Alone, Claudius hopes that England will obey the orders he has sent with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The orders call for the death of Prince Hamlet.

Hamlet Summary Act 4 Scene 4:

Fortinbras orders his captain to go and ask the King of Denmark for permission to travel through his lands. The captain encounters Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern on their way to the ship which is bound for England.

The captain informs them that the Norwegian army is attacking the Poles. He tells Hamlet that the armies will fight over a little patch of land. By comparison, Hamlet is disgusted with himself for not being able to gain his revenge on Claudius, He declares that his thoughts will be bloody onwards.

Hamlet Summary Act 4 Scene 5:

Ophelia enters. She is adorned with flowers. She is singing strange songs. She seems to have gone mad. Claudius says that Ophelia’s grief comes from her father’s death. Meanwhile, a gentleman enters to warn Claudius that Laertes has come with a mob. Laertes is furious. He desires to avenge his father’s death.

Hamlet Summary Act 4 Scene 6:

In the castle, Horatio is introduced to two sailors who have a letter for him from Hamlet. In the letter, Hamlet says that his ship was captured by pirates. Those pirates have returned him to Denmark. He asks Horatio to take the sailors to the king and queen. Horatio takes the sailors to the king and then follows them to find Hamlet.

Hamlet Summary Act 4 Scene 1:

Claudius is soothing Laertes when a messenger enters with a letter from Hamlet to Claudius. This letter informs the king that Hamlet will return tomorrow. Laertes is pleased that Hamlet has come back to Denmark because he will be able to take his revenge soon. Claudius agrees that Laertes deserves revenge upon Hamlet. He says that Laertes will get the chance to kill Hamlet if he is tempted into a duel with Laertes. Laertes says that he will poison his sword. Claudius proposes that if Hamlet succeeds in the duel, Claudius will offer him a poisoned cup of wine in celebration.

Gertrude enters with the tragic news that Ophelia has drowned in the river. The news intensifies Laertes’ rage and he flees the room.

Hamlet Summary Act 5 Scene 1:

Two gravediggers are busy digging a grave for Ophelia. Hamlet and Horatio enter. Hamlet looks with wonder at the skulls they excavate and thinks about their occupations.
Hamlet realizes that all men will eventually become dust, even great men like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.
Suddenly, the funeral procession for Ophelia enters the churchyard. It includes Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and many mourning courtiers. Hamlet wonders who has died. He and Horatio hide as the procession nears the grave. As Ophelia is laid in the earth, Hamlet realizes that it is she who has died. Laertes leaps into Ophelia’s grave to hold his sister once again in his arms. Hamlet emerges and declares his own love for Ophelia. He leaps into the grave and fights with Laertes. Hamlet leaves and Horatio follows. The king urges Laertes to show patience and to remember their plan for revenge.

Hamlet Summary Act 5 Scene 2:

The following day Hamlet tells Horatio how he replaced the sealed letter with another letter calling for the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Their conversation is interrupted by Osric. Oscric is a foolish courtier. He has come to tell them that Claudius wants Hamlet to fence with Laertes and that the king has challenged Laertes that Hamlet will win. A lord enters and asks Hamlet if he is ready to come to the match. Against Horatio’s advice, Hamlet gets ready to fight. Hamlet asks Laertes for forgiveness for murdering Polonius. Laertes says that he will not forgive him.

The duel begins. Hamlet strikes Laertes but declines to drink from the poisoned cup offered by Claudius. He hits Laertes again and Gertrude rises to drink from the cup. Laertes hits Hamlet and he bleeds. In the scuffle, their swords get exchanged. Hamlet hits Laertes with Laertes’ own blade.
The queen falls and dies. Laertes tells Hamlet that the king is to blame both for the poison on the sword and for the poison in the cup. Hamlet gets furious and stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword. He also forces him to drink down the rest of the poisoned wine. Claudius dies. Hamlet tells Horatio that he is dying and urges him not to commit suicide. Osric announces the arrival of Fortinbras. Hamlet says that he wishes Fortinbras to be made King of Denmark and dies. It is announced that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Fortinbras commands to carry away Hamlet’s body like a soldier.

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