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Free MonkeyNotes-Hamlet by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes Summary
Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes

SHORT PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)

The King of Denmark is killed by an apparent snakebite while sleeping in the garden. His brother Claudius assumes the throne and marries the widowed Queen, Gertrude, within weeks of the King's death. Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark and the dead King's son, mourns for his father and anguishes over his mother's hasty remarriage, considering it as unnatural as incest.

The play opens outside the castle grounds, where three guards have been witnessing the appearance of a Ghost who looks like the dead King. They ask the Prince and his friend Horatio to come see the Ghost. Prince Hamlet speaks to the apparition, who claims to be the spirit of his dead father. In a private conversation, the Ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius, in fact, murdered him. The Ghost asks Hamlet to avenge his murder. Hamlet takes his responsibility to seek vengeance for his father very seriously, perhaps too seriously.

Hamlet is in love with Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius (the Lord Chamberlain); however, the father commands Ophelia to reject Hamlet's advances. Polonius and his son Laertes believe Hamlet will never marry Ophelia since her rank is beneath his. Although Ophelia is very much in love with Hamlet, she is an obedient child; as a result, she complies with her father's commands. Satisfied that his sister is now safe, Laertes goes off to France in pursuit of a good time. Ophelia and her father are left to look after one another. When Hamlet feigns madness in order to observe the new King and his mother, Polonius tells the King that Hamlet's madness is because of unrequited love for Ophelia. He orders Ophelia to return Hamlet's advances to test this theory. Hamlet spurns Ophelia, however, breaking her heart.


The King begins to suspect that Hamlet knows about the murder, but Hamlet is hesitant and full of anxiety over how to proceed. When at last he moves to punish Claudius, he accidentally kills Polonius. Ophelia, on hearing the news of her father's death, loses her mind and drowns in the river. Claudius, now more fearful than ever that Hamlet will eventually expose him, makes arrangements for Hamlet to die. Hamlet, however, escapes Claudius' plans and returns to Elsinore to exact revenge.

Laertes, now seeking revenge against Hamlet on behalf of his father and sister, challenges Hamlet to a duel. Secretly, he has conspired with Claudius to make sure Hamlet dies in the battle. The sword he uses is poisoned, as is Hamlet's drink. During the duel, the Queen accidentally drinks the poisoned cup and dies. Hamlet and Laertes are both seriously wounded. Before dying, Laertes confesses all to Hamlet, telling him the details of Claudius' plot against him, including the fact that he will die shortly from the poison. Hamlet kills Claudius, then implores his friend Horatio to tell the world the truth about the tragedy. Horatio lives to clear Hamlet's name, and the Prince of Norway comes to restore order to Denmark.


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Free MonkeyNotes-Hamlet by William Shakespeare-Free Online Plot Synopsis



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