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Free MonkeyNotes-Hamlet by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes Summary
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The protagonist of the play is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. When the play opens, Hamlet has been summoned from the University at Wittenberg on account of the sudden death of his father, who supposedly died from snakebite. He returns to find that his mother has already wed his father's brother. The hasty marriage and sudden death cause Hamlet a considerable degree of unhappiness. His trouble is intensified when the Ghost of his dead father tells him his death was not accidental; instead it was a murder carefully perpetrated by his own brother Claudius, the new King of Denmark. The Ghost asks Hamlet to avenge his death. Hamlet struggles with the duty left to him, unsure of how to proceed. In the end, he does exact vengeance, but at the cost of his own life and the lives of those dearest to him.


Claudius is Hamlet's antagonist and the villain of the play. He begins his evil deeds by murdering his own brother (Hamlet's father), then marrying his widowed wife (Hamlet's mother). Hamlet learns from the ghost of his father that Claudius is the murderer; as a result, he spends the entire play trying to gain his revenge against Claudius. When Claudius realizes that Hamlet has begun to suspect him, he arranges to have the Prince killed. When his first plan fails, he creates several back-up plans with the assistance of Laertes, a hasty and impulsive young man whose sister Ophelia has been in love with Hamlet. Though his plot succeeds in killing Hamlet, he also dies in the final moments of the play. Hamlet stabs him, then forces him to drink poisoned wine.


The climax of the play is the Hamlet-Laertes duel. Claudius has fixed the outcome of the duel in such a way that Hamlet will perish no matter what. But there are also several events related to the duel. Queen Gertrude accidentally drinks some poison intended for Hamlet and dies. Hamlet, wounded by Laertes' poisoned sword, stabs his opponent. Before he dies, Laertes tells Hamlet about the evil plots of Claudius and the poison now coursing through Hamlet's veins. He tells the wounded prince his death is very near. Before he dies, Hamlet stabs Claudius and forces him to drink poison. When the Prince of Norway enters, the dying Hamlet makes him ruler over Denmark.


The play ends in tragedy for Hamlet, for he is overcome by Claudius, his antagonist, and dies; at least, however, he does get his revenge against Claudius, stabbing the king. Fortunately, Denmark is at least spared. Hamlet's friend Horatio acts as a witness to all that has transpired. He absolves Hamlet of guilt in the bloody tragedy and reveals to all the treachery of the King. Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway, prepares a military burial for Hamlet and assumes control of the country, restoring order.

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