Hamlet Plot Summary


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This is a plot summary of Shakespeare's Hamlet that I created some years ago. Rather than keep it to myself, I've put it on the Web so that students and experts can make use of it.

Contents

Hamlet Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare

HAMLET

  • I.1
    • Guards see the ghost of former King.
      • Audience sees evidence that something is wrong.
  • I.2
    • King+Queen let Laertes go to France and counsel Hamlet to get over his fathers death and to not return to school.
    • King tells H that he is next in line to the throne.
    • H is troubled by how quick K+Q married after his fathers funeral.
    • Guards arrive to tell H about the ghost. H agrees to watch for ghost w/them later.
    • Outcomes:
      • Killer whose guilt is not known tries to get concerned party to get over it.
      • Concerned party of a killing enters path of discovery.
      • Audience learns of character's departure.
  • I.3
    • Laertes counsels his sister Ophelia to differentiate between desire and love in her dealings with Hamlet.
    • Polonius instructs O to set her prices higher from now on when dealing with Hamlet because his promises and affections are most likely used only to get sex.
    • He tells her she should look for more of a committment.
    • Outcomes:
      • Audience learns of 2 important relationships.
  • I.4
    • Hamlet and guards wait for the ghost.
    • It appears and gestures for H to follow.
    • Guards warn H that the ghost might be a demon in disguise but H follows anyway. H threatens guards not to follow.
    • Outcomes:
      • Concerned party of a killing continues path of discovery.
  • I.5 (Ghost encounter continued:)
    • Hamlet demands that the ghost stop and speak. It does. It identifies itself as his father.
    • It describes his own murder and his predicament in the afterlife. It tells H that H must kill K in order to right the situation. It asks H to swear that he will do it.
    • Guards enter as the ghost disappears; they seek info but H will not tell and H makes them swear their silence on the matter. The ghost then bellows out "swear" a few times but it is not apparent that guards hear this. But they do swear.
    • Outcomes:
      • Concerned party of a killing finishes path to discovery of who is murderer.
      • Concerned party of a killing swears to get revenge for the dead.
  • II.1
    • Polonius sends someone to give funds to Laertes as well as to both find out w/whom he is hanging out in France and to spread a few minor rumors about L so as to drive him away from there.
    • Ophelia reports that H came to her pale and severely disturbed and that H then departed from her.
    • P incorrectly infers that this event was cause by Ophelia having played hard to get and tells O of this theory.
    • Outcomes:
      • Audience (& character) see evidence that Concerned Party has begun on the path to revenge. (To character it is mysterious.)
      • Audience learns of character's return.
    • William Shakespeare
  • II.2
    • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive are greeted by K+Q amicably and are asked to stay in Elsinore awhile.
    • P arrives and offers his theory of the strange behavior of Hamlet.
    • Ambassadors arrives and K allows them to interrupt P and tell K about the Norwegians and Fortinbras. P reads aloud a letter from H to O.
    • P then explains the series of events leading to Ophelias recent experience w/H.
    • P proposes that K+Polonius secretly observe a forced encounter between O and H wherein Hamlets love for O will be tested.
    • H enters.
    • P tries to talk with him but H mocks him.
    • R+G arrive and try to cheer up H.
    • Skeptical H immediately asks why they are here and who sent for them; they admit it was King and Queens doing.
    • Then when H is about to get angry R+G announce the arrival of players (P arrives also) who then put on a piece.
    • H asks the players if they will put on a play of his own design tomorrow night; they accept the assignment.
    • H who is troubled by his own inaction and overpensiveness decides he will use the play to confirm Kings guilt.
    • Outcomes:
      • Audience learns of a desire to ascertain H's desire for O, which is also a step in K's process of removing/killing H.
      • Audience learns of H's desire to ascertain K's guilt. Thus Concerned Party enters the path of confirmation of guilt via his plan to trick K.
  • III.1
    • K interrogates R+G to find out what is causing Hamlets "madness".
    • H laments.
    • K+P watch as H rejects poor Ophelia.
    • P suggests to K that he let Queen try to sway Hamlet and that if that does not work then that K should send H to England.
    • Outcomes:
      • K pretends to be innocent and unknowing.
      • Concerned Party rejects vulnerable loved-one to protect her.
      • K makes another step in the process of removing/killing H.
  • III.2
    • H instructs players on how to act.
    • H tells R+G to help the players.
    • H tells Horatio to watch Kings face during the play.
    • H talks a bit w/Ophelia before the play; venting his anger by jesting with her.
    • Play occurs: Brother of a king kills the king and takes queen as wife.
    • Ophelia asks what it is about.
    • Play continues; ends.
    • King et al want an explanation; H says it is about events in Vienna.
    • K suddenly needs light and air: as if going into shock.
    • K exits. P+Q+R+G follow.
    • R+G come back; they tell H that K is very angry and that Queen wants to speak with Hamlet.
    • H who is tired of R+G demands to know why they seem to think they can manipulate him.
    • H threatens them in soft cryptic terms.
    • P arrives and asks H to go speak with Q; H agrees to.
    • Outcomes:
      • K continues to pretend to be innocent, which in the face of a public accusation requires an engry reaction.
      • Concerned Party and friend Horatio see proof the Kings guilt. Thus Concerned Party finishes the path of confirmation of guilt via his plan to trick K.
  • III.3
    • King tells R+G that he will have them take H to England. R+G agree that H is a source of trouble and thereby accept the assignment.
    • P tells K that H will go to see Q.
    • K starts praying.
    • H enters.
    • H sees K praying but decides that he will not kill K now as H thinks/fears that to kill him while he is praying will send King to heaven.
    • H also feels that to kill K now would not be a sufficiently losing revenge.
    • So Hamlet leaves.
    • K gives up praying. He admits it was insincere.
    • Outcomes:
      • Audience learns that K only fakes piousness.
      • Audience learns that K will kill again to protect himself from Concerned Party of the killing. Therefore audience deduces K is evil.
  • III.4
    • H goes to speak with Queen and right away expresses his anger.
    • This causes P (who is hiding) to say something.
    • H hears P and stabs the spying P.
    • P who falls and H+Q see him.
    • H then makes a long and confusing speech to Q.
    • Ghost appears and counsels H. Q does not see the ghost and thinks H mad.
    • H orders Q to keep away from K tonight as if H planned on slaying K in bed.
    • H tells Q he agrees to go to England.
    • H drags body of Polonius away.
    • Outcomes:
      • Audience observes the destructive influence of the situation on H, who is weak but bold. He has become paranoid and reckless. This is a step in K's expulsion of H.
      • Tragedy and downfall for Concerned Party H.
  • IV.1
    • K inquires as to why Q seems upset.
    • Q tells K that H killed P.
    • K reflects that H should have been more strongly controlled.
    • K announces a promise that H will soon be sent away.
    • K gets the idea of spreading the word about Hamlets act of killing. Here K begins his use of Hamlets mistake in the effort to get rid of H.
    • Outcomes:
      • K reaps an unexpected benefit in his effort to expel H. to Hamlets Concerned Party i.e. Q.
      • K makes another step in expelling H, namely announcing the plan to Hamlets Concerned Party i.e. Q.
  • IV.2
    • H hides body of Polonius.
    • R+G come to get H and body.
    • H insults them and refuses to give the body. But H goes with them.
    • Outcomes:
      • K makes another step in expelling H, namely the formal summoning of H to tell him.
  • IV.3
    • K reflects to himself that H is well loved by the people because of his looks but that Hamlets crime of killing P must be punished. (His own crime somehow doesnot occur to him presently.)
    • R+G arrive with H and report that H did not tell them where the body is. H confirms it.
    • K orders H to go to England.
    • H does not put up a fuss.
    • K tells R+G to make sure that H gets on the boat.
    • Outcomes:
      • The audience is given confirmation of K's true intent, to kill H.
      • K makes another step in expelling H, namely the formal order to leave.
  • IV.4
    • Fortinbras arrives seeking to cross Denmark.
    • Hamlet asks one of the men with Fortinbras who he is. He is his captain.
    • Hamlet reflects on the beastliness of human existence or the beastliness in his life anyway.
  • IV.5
    • Horatio brings Ophelia but Queen does not want to see her.
    • Horatio shows her in anyway; O is speaking and singing "nonsense" as if "mad".
    • K arrives and O sings/speaks much more nonsense to K/Q/Horatio.
    • O leaves and K orders Horatio to follow.
    • K conveniently reflects to O that H is evil and that all is unwell because of him.
    • Laertes arrives with a mob that is chanting "Laertes the King". L wants blood.
    • K+Q stop Laertes. They deny any guilt yet probe to uncover his intentions.
    • O comes along singing.
    • L agrees to ally himself with K and pledges to kill H; K+L exit.
    • Outcomes:
      • L is Concerned Party of P's death, and begins the process of getting revenge on H.
      • Audience observes the tragedy of the K-H conflict.
      • K sabotages H-O relationship, taking advantage of O's sickness.
  • IV.6
    • Horatio (who is without O) receives a letter via sailors from H.
    • In the letter Hamlet asks Horatio to send the other letters.
    • Outcomes:
      • Audience learns that H is alive, and that H trusts Horatio.
  • IV.7
    • K+L are talking-- L wants to know why K did not act against H.
    • After all Hamlet did murder Polonius.
    • K explains that the love of the Queen and the people for Hamlet prevented that.
    • Thus:
      • L continues in his revenge, here sizing up who is responsible. Thus this is a step toward discovery.
    • Messenger brings letters from H-- one for K and one for Q.
    • K reads his. It simply says that H will return. (Q exits.)
    • K+L agree to kill Hamlet when he returns; L volunteers to be the primary killer.
    • Thus:
      • K continues in his attack on H, finding someone else to kill H.
      • L continues in his revenge, here confirming he will kill the killer.
    • K reports that he heard a Norman praised Laertes use of the rapier; this pleases and emboldens L.
    • K asks L if he loved P since if so he asks what would Laertes do for revenge?
    • L says he will kill the killer.
    • K invents a plan: L+H will be brought together to fight.
    • L offers to dip is blade in poison.
    • K presents specific plan to for L to kill H.
    • K offers to poison Hamlets drink so that when H gets tired and thirsty he will drink poison.
    • Q arrives and announces that O has drowned.
    • L is shocked.
    • Q explains that O fell in a pond after her flowers fell in but she let herself sink.
    • L puts off being sorrowful since he wants to focus on revenge; he exits.
    • K announces to Q that Ophelias death puts his self-control in jeopardy.
    • They follow L.
    • Outcomes:
      • K uses O's death as a means of justifying future rash actions.
  • V.1
    • Two gravediggers joke around the new grave that will be for Ophelia.
    • One looses a bet and leaves to buy liquor.
    • Hamlet and Horatio arrive; they do not introduce themselves but joke with the diggers:
    • They asks whose grave is this but are told of the former occupant: the old court jester that H knew.
    • H laments the passing of the jester.
    • A funeral procession (L+K+Q+priest) approaches therefore Hamlet and Horatio hide.
    • Laertes is disappointed w/the priests speech.
    • He jumps into Ophelias grave and makes his own.
    • H is devastated by death of Ophelia. Feeling strangely forgotten and upstaged H jumps in after L and makes his own speech while L tries to grab aggressively at him.
    • Everyone is yelling; H who is angered by the aggressiveness of L pledges to fight him.
  • V.2
    • Hamlet revels in the fighting and grand changes to come.
    • Hamlet tells Horatio of the letter ordering Hamlets death and gives it to him.
    • H explains that he had a royal seal w/him so he used it to forge a new writ.
    • When the pirates attacked the ship H left the forged writ in the originals place.
    • Horatio balks; but H explains that K killed Hamlets father; K whored his mother; etc.
    • H says he regrets killing P.
    • Osric -- a favored land-owner -- relays a msg from K to H: that K has placed a wager on H. Osric praises L in an effort to warn H of Laertes fighting skills. Finally Osric just says it plainly: L is skilled.
    • H asks what weapons L is good at.
    • Osric tells him and tells what L stands to gain if H loses; and what L must do (a few hits here or there) if he will be considered successful. H must accept and does. Osric goes to relay the msg to K.
    • A lord comes to find out how much longer H will be since everyone is assembling; the lord tells H that Q suggests H be friendly to L before they fight.
    • Horatio tells H that he thinks H will lose; Hamlet who is suspecting nothing says he thinks this will be a minor fight and that since H has been practicing he may even win.
    • K/Q/L and everyone else (lords etc.) arrive.
    • Hamlet announces that he is innocent of killing Polonius since it was his madness that did it. L says he is satisfied with the use of the fight to solve the situation.
    • H+L take their foils but L complains that his is too heavy and take a different one.
    • K says he will drink to Hamlet and is given two prepared cups.
    • H+L fight; H makes a hit on L; K drinks to H. Queen drinks despite K telling her not to. K knows the drink is poisoned.
    • H+L continue; each is wounded.
    • Queen now looks ill. K makes an excuse for it but Q says she has been poisoned.
    • H hears this and has the doors locked.
    • L admits that H has been poisoned too.
    • Hamlet kills King.
    • L asks H for forgiveness and then dies.
    • H laments and reflects upon his own imminent death and asks Horatio to tell the story of all of this well; H hears the sound of someone arriving and then dies.
    • The Norwegian Fortinbras arrives with English ambassadors; Horatio prepares to tell them what has happened.
Exuent.

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