Hamlet play by William Shakespeare
Prince Hamlet is having a bad day. He had received a call from school in Germany to Denmark to join his father's funeral services, and he's shocked to hear that his mother, Gertrude, has already remarried. The Queen has married Hamlet's Uncle Claudius, the late King's brother. According to Hamlet, the wedding is "foul incest." Worse, considering the fact that Hamlet was his father's heir to the throne, Claudius has declared himself King. Hamlet is skeptical of evil.
When Hamlet's father's ghost appears at the castle, his fears are validated. The Ghost complains that he can't sleep after he was killed. According to the Phantom, Claudius sprayed poison into King Hamlet's ear as the old king slept. Unable to repent and achieve repentance, King Hamlet is now condemned to spend his days in Purgatory and his nights wandering the earth. He begs Hamlet to avenge his death thus sparing Gertrude and allowing Heaven to determine her destiny.
Hamlet promises to act insane — to put on "an antic disposition" — in order to wear a mask that will enable him to observe the interactions inside the palace, but finds himself more perplexed than ever. In his constant uncertainty, he doubts the Ghost's reliability. What if the Ghost isn't a genuine spirit, but just a devil's agent sent to lure him? What if murdering Claudius forces Hamlet to relive his experiences for the rest of his life? Since he can't stop himself from wondering, Hamlet agonizes for what he perceives to be his cowardice. Words paralyze Hamlet, but the planet he inhabits rewards action.
To test the Ghost's authenticity, Hamlet enlists the help of a troupe of actors who stage a play called The Murder of Gonzago, to which Hamlet has inserted scenes that replicate the murder mentioned by the Ghost. The trick succeeds because Hamlet renames the rewritten play The Mousetrap. Claudius' response to the staged assassination shows the King to be conscience-stricken, much as Hamlet had hoped. Claudius leaves the bed because he can't breathe because his vision is blurred due to a lack of sunlight. Hamlet, persuaded that Claudius is a villain, decides to murder him. However, as Hamlet remarks, "conscience doth make cowards of all people."
Hamlet triggers six ancillary deaths as a result of his persistent inability to dispatch Claudius. Polonius is the first to die, when Hamlet stabs him through a wallhanging as the old man spies on Hamlet and Gertrude in the Queen's private chamber. Claudius exiles Hamlet to England as a penalty for Polonius' murder. He has taken Hamlet's schoolmates Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Germany to spy on his nephew, and now he orders them to bring Hamlet into the hands of the English king for execution. When Hamlet learns the plot, he arranges for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be hanged instead.Ophelia drowns while singing tragic love songs about the fate of a rejected boyfriend, devastated about her father's death and Hamlet's actions. Laertes, her brother, is the next to perish.
Laertes, who has come to Denmark from France to avenge his father's murder, witnesses Ophelia's mental decline. After her funeral, where he and Hamlet argue about who loved Ophelia the most, Laertes vows to blame Hamlet for her death as well.
Laertes, free of words, conspires with Claudius to murder Hamlet. However, in the middle of the sword combat, Laertes loses his poisoned sword. Hamlet pulls out the blade and slashes Laertes. Laertes is killed by the poisonous toxin. Before he dies, Laertes informs Hamlet that he, too, will die soon because he has already been sliced with an equal blade. For a fleeting second, Horatio diverts Hamlet's attention away from Laertes by remarking, "The Queen fell."
Gertrude has drunk a toast to her son from the poisoned cup Claudius had meant for Hamlet, thinking that Hamlet's reaching Laertes means her son has won the fencing match. The Queen passes away.
As he dies, Laertes confesses to Hamlet his role in the plot and explains that Gertrude's death is on Claudius' head. Enraged, Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisonous sword and then pours the remaining poisoned wine down the King's throat. Before dying, Hamlet declares that the throne should now pass to Prince Fortinbras of Norway, and he begs his true friend Horatio to correctly describe the circumstances that lead to the Elsinore bloodbath. He frees himself from the cage of his words on his last breath: "The rest is silence."
In his first act as King of Denmark, Prince Fortinbras orders a funeral with full military honors for the vanquished Prince Hamlet.