Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet

byWilliam Shakespeare

Kobo ebook | January 22, 2014

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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1602. Set in the Kingdom of Denmark, the play dramatizes the revenge Prince Hamlet exacts on his uncle Claudius for murdering King Hamlet, Claudius's brother and Prince Hamlet's father, and then succeeding to the throne and taking as his wife Gertrude, the old king's widow and Prince Hamlet's mother. The play vividly portrays both true and feigned madness—from overwhelming grief to seething rage—and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.

Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in English literature, with a story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others." The play was one of Shakespeare's most popular works during his lifetime and still ranks among his most-performed, topping the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance list since 1879. It has inspired writers from Goethe and Dickens to Joyce and Murdoch, and has been described as "the world's most filmed story after Cinderella".

The protagonist of Hamlet is Prince Hamlet of Denmark, son of the recently deceased King Hamlet, and nephew of King Claudius, his father's brother and successor. Claudius hastily married King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. Denmark has a long-standing feud with neighbouring Norway, and an invasion led by the Norwegian prince, Fortinbras, is expected.

The play opens on a cold winter midnight on "platform before the castle" of Elsinore, the Danish royal castle. The sentry Francisco is keeping trusty guard when two figures appear in the darkness. He calls out, "Who's there?" and receives answer that it is the other sentry Bernardo come to relieve him. As Francisco retires to bed, he encounters Horatio and Marcellus who are coming to visit Bernardo. Bernardo and Marcellus discuss the recent appearance of a curious intruder which they describe as a "dreaded sight" which they have already bumped into twice on the battlements, but which Horatio is inclined to dismiss as "but our fantasy." Marcellus has brought Horatio along to "watch the minutes of this night" in case the scary ghost appears again to fright. The ghost appears, and is described by the three witnesses as looking like the late King Hamlet. They endeavour to open a conversation with it, but "it is offended" and "stalks away." The three men take this opportunity to discuss Danish politics, noting that Denmark has begun military preparation because Fortinbras has "shark'd up a list of lawless resolutes / For food and diet." The ghost of Hamlet wanders back. When it declines to talk to them they attack it with daggers, but it escapes. Marcellus admits that this was a bad idea: "We do it wrong... to offer it the show of violence / For it is... invulnerable." They decide to tell prince Hamlet that his father's ghost is up and about.

The scene shifts to "room of state in the castle." Various royal figures come in. Claudius and Gertrude talk with Laertes about his upcoming trip to France. His father Polonius admits that he has signed off on this jaunt. The King and Queen then turn to Hamlet. Perturbed by Hamlet's continuing deep mourning for his father and his increasingly erratic behaviour, Claudius and Gertrude try to persuade him to lighten up. They tell him that fathers die all the time, but he does not appear comforted by this. When they leave, he soliloquizes that his mother jumped into a new marriage too quickly after the death of Hamlet's father. Marcellus, Horatio and the sentry come in and tell Hamlet about the castle Ghost. Hearing the news, Hamlet resolves to see the Ghost himself.

Claudius and Gertrude send two student friends of his—Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—to discover the cause of Hamlet's mood and behavior. Hamlet greets his friends warmly, but quickly discerns that they are spies. That night, the Ghost appears to Hamlet and tells him that Claudius murdered him by pouring poison in his ear. The Ghost demands that Hamlet avenge him; Hamlet agrees and decides to feign madness to avert suspicion. He is, however, uncertain of the Ghost's reliability.

Polonius is Claudius's trusted chief counsellor; his son, Laertes, is about to resume studies in France, and his daughter, Ophelia, is courting Hamlet. Neither Polonius nor Laertes approves of the match, and both warn her off. Shortly afterwards, Ophelia meets Hamlet secretly but is so alarmed by his strange antics that she tells her father of Hamlet's state. Polonius blames an "ecstasy of love" for Hamlet's madness and informs Claudius and Gertrude. At their next tryst, Hamlet rants at Ophelia, accusing her of immodesty and dismissing her to a nunnery.

 

Hamlet remains unconvinced that the Ghost has told him the truth, but the arrival of a troupe of actors at Elsinore presents him with a solution. He will stage a play, re-enacting his father's murder, and determine Claudius's guilt or innocence by studying his reaction. The court assembles to watch the play; Hamlet provides a running commentary throughout. After seeing the Player King murdered with poison in the ears, Claudius abruptly rises and leaves the room: proof positive for Hamlet of his uncle's guilt.

Gertrude summons Hamlet to her bedchamber to demand an explanation. On his way, Hamlet passes Claudius in prayer but hesitates to kill him, reasoning that death in prayer would send him to heaven rather than hell. In the bedchamber, a furious row erupts between Hamlet and Gertrude. Polonius, spying hidden behind a tapestry, makes a noise; and Hamlet, believing it is Claudius, stabs wildly, killing Polonius. The Ghost appears, urging Hamlet to treat Gertrude gently but reminding him to kill Claudius. Unable to see or hear the Ghost herself, Gertrude takes Hamlet's conversation with it as further evidence of madness. Hamlet hides Polonius's corpse; and Claudius, fearing for his life, banishes Hamlet to England on a pretext, closely watched by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Demented by grief at Polonius's death, Ophelia wanders Elsinore singing bawdy songs. Her brother, Laertes, arrives back from France, enraged by his father's death and his sister's madness. Claudius convinces Laertes that Hamlet is solely responsible; then news arrives that Hamlet is still at large. Claudius swiftly concocts a plot. He proposes a fencing match between Laertes and Hamlet with poison-tipped rapiers, but tacitly plans to offer Hamlet poisoned wine if that fails. Gertrude interrupts to report that Ophelia has drowned.

Two gravediggers discuss Ophelia's apparent suicide, while digging her grave. Hamlet arrives with Horatio and banters with a gravedigger, who unearths the skull of a jester from Hamlet's childhood, Yorick. Ophelia's funeral procession approaches, led by Laertes. He and Hamlet grapple, but the brawl is broken up.

Back at Elsinore, Hamlet tells Horatio how he escaped and that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. A courtier, Osric, interrupts to invite Hamlet to fence with Laertes. With Fortinbras' army closing on Elsinore, the match begins. Laertes pierces Hamlet with a poisoned blade but is fatally wounded by it himself. Gertrude accidentally drinks poisoned wine intended for Hamlet and dies. In his dying moments, Laertes is reconciled with Hamlet and reveals Claudius's murderous plot. In his own last moments, Hamlet manages to kill Claudius and names Fortinbras as his heir. When Fortinbras arrives, Horatio recounts the tale and Fortinbras orders Hamlet's body borne off in honour.

Title:HamletFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:January 22, 2014Publisher:Castrovilli GiuseppeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN:9990043916219

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Timeless classic I have read a lot of reviews and opinions on Hamlet, but the most memorable one for me was something like this: 'Do I know Hamlet? Yes, I do. He is a fictional prince, right. Well, this Hamlet guy, he has got a lot of problems. But then, who hasn't?'. Hamlet is a great piece of English literature that deserves to be read and re-read.
Date published: 2014-11-25