Hamlet : Theme, Characters, Summary

Published on 14-Sep-2022

Hamlet Theme

Hamlet was one of Shakespeare's first plays written between the years 1599 to 1601. It is a revenge tragedy for Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. The play is a tale about how revenge turns someone mad and deadly. And how family, friendships, and trust are put to the test for honesty.  

Characters description:

  • Hamlet: The Prince of Denmark. He is a composed, emotional and cynical person. His hatred for his uncle and mother drives him to insanity. 
  • The ghost: The ghost appears at the beginning of the play, who is the spirit of the late King and Prince Hamlet's father. The ghost visits Hamlet and tells him how his brother murdered him. His brother stole his throne and even his wife, hamlet's mother.
  • Claudius: Claudius is the late King's brother and Hamlet's uncle. He is the one who killed the King to become the King of Denmark and married the King's widow. 
  • Queen Gertrude is the widow of the late King who married Claudius for power and status. Although she loves her son Hamlet, Hamlet hates her shallow and selfish personality. 
  • Polonius: He is one of the important Chamberlains of the palace. He supports King Claudius and tries to trick Hamlet using his daughter. 
  • Ophelia: The daughter of Polonius. She is different from other characters and is a pure person. She kills herself with grief after Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius.
  • Laertes: The son of Polonius. He plans to take revenge against Hamlet after the death of his father. 
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: The two friends of Hamlet hired by Queen Gertrude. The two men spied on Hamlet under the order of the Queen. Claudius tried to use them to get Hamlet killed in England.

Hamlet Complete Summary

The play starts with the late King's ghost wandering around the Castle of Denmark in darkness. Some watchmen and scholar Horatio brings Prince Hamlet out to meet the so-called spirit. After the ghost confirms that he is indeed the spirit of Hamlet's father, he states how he has been murdered by his brother Claudius who is now the King of Denmark. The ghost orders Hamlet to seek revenge for the man who took over his throne and married his wife. After telling everything, the ghost disappears into the night.  

Hamlet vows revenge for his dead father and the late King. He slowly enters into despair and anger after watching his uncle, the present King, every day with his mother. Claudius and Gertrude are not aware of what Hamlet is thinking and the reason for his irritable behavior. Queen Gertrude hires Hamlet's friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to keep an eye on her son. Using the situation, Polonius suggests that Hamlet is going mad for his love for Ophelia, Polonius's only daughter.

Claudius believes him and hires a spy to watch Hamlet and Ophelia in secret. Although later, it was decided Hamlet did not have any feelings for Ophelia as he encouraged her to become a nun. And also publicly declared the idea of banning marriage.

 Hamlet hires a group of actors in Elsinore to test his uncle's guilt. The play was organized with the same story the ghost told Hamlet. The play resembles the scene where the brother kills the King for the throne and Kingdom. Hamlet knew if Claudius were guilty, he would react. Claudius indeed responded as the scene came to play and left the room.

Horatio and Hamlet become certain that Claudius killed the late King. Hamlet furiously follows his uncle to end him but notices him praying. He thought he would go to heaven if he killed his uncle. Thus his revenge will be unfulfilled as he believed Claudius deserved to go to hell. On the other hand, Claudius is now fearful for his life and wants Hamlet to go to England as soon as possible. 

Hamlet goes to Queen Gertrude's room to confront his mother, but Polonius hides behind a curtain. Thinking it might be King Claudius, Hamlet stabs through the fabric, killing Polonius. Claudius used the crime to banish Hamlet to England along with his friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Although in secret, Claudius hands them a sealed royal order for the King of England to kill Hamlet in England.

After hearing about the death of her father, Ophelia becomes mad with sadness and drowns herself in the end. Polonius's son, Laertes, living in France, returns to Denmark and decides to take action against his father and sister. Claudius uses Laertes's rage to conspire against Hamlet. He tells him that Hamlet is the one who is responsible for his father's and sister's deaths.  

King Claudius and Horatio receive a letter from Hamlet that he is returning to Denmark. The letter stated that pirates attacked their ships on their way to England.

Claudius plans to kill Hamlet using Laertes's hatred and anger for Hamlet. After the Prince returned, he proposed a sword sparring match between Laertes and Hamlet.

Before the fight began, Hamlet told Horatio to be prepared for death as it would come at any time. Horatio also knew Hamlet was ready for death and his revenge. 

Claudius poisons Laertes's sword blade so Hamlet will die if he gets any cuts. The King even poisoned Hamlet's drink in case he won the fight. Queen Gertrude drinks the wine and dies immediately from the poison. In the fight, Hamlet gets cut by the poisonous blade. Laertes also gets cut from his sword and is poisoned. Before dying, he tells Hamlet about Claudius's plan to kill him using poison, and the Queen dies instead.

Hamlet takes the poisoned sword and stabs Claudius with it. He also made him drink the rest of the poisoned wine, thus killing him and fulfilling his revenge. Hamlet dies after his revenge is completed. 

After a short while, a Norwegian Prince named Fortinbras arrived in the Denmark Palace along with officers from England. He declared Hamlet killed his two friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, after discovering the note that Hamlet was ordered to be executed in England.

Fortinbras finds the whole Royal family lying dead. He decides to take over the Kingdom when scholar Horatio tells Fortinbras Hamlet's full story. The Norwegian Prince declares Hamlet as a befallen soldier, and he is buried as one.    

 

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