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William Shakespeare is one of the most famous writers in history. This lesson discusses the plot and characters of one of his most well-known plays, ”Hamlet”, about a young prince trying to avenge his father.

The Tragedy of Hamlet

You may have heard the famous quote, ”To be or not to be, that is the question.” Do you know where that quote comes from? It comes from Hamlet, Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, or a play where the characters die.

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Hamlet, the main character, is thinking about suicide when he begins that famous speech.Let’s find out how poor Hamlet gets to this sad place. You’ll learn about the characters, including Hamlet, Ophelia, and Claudius, and plot of this famous play.

William Shakespeare
shakespeare

The First Meeting

When the story begins, Hamlet is depressed because his father, the king of Denmark, has just died. To make matters worse, his mother has already remarried! She married Hamlet’s uncle (the brother of his recently dead father), who is the new king, King Claudius.

Hamlet’s friend, Horatio, stumbles upon a ghost while wandering around the castle. The ghost claims to be Hamlet’s father, and asks Horatio to arrange a meeting between the ghost and Hamlet. When Hamlet speaks with the ghost, the ghost tells him that Claudius poisoned Hamlet’s father in order to become king. Hamlet is upset and wants revenge, but isn’t sure the ghost is really his father.

He hatches a plan to figure out whether Claudius really did kill his father.

Hamlet’s Plan

Hamlet pretends to be losing his mind, even convincing his girlfriend, Ophelia. Ophelia’s father, Polonius, is worried that Ophelia is making Hamlet crazy, so he and King Claudius decide to spy on Hamlet and Ophelia to figure out what’s happening.

Meanwhile, Hamlet hires some actors to put on a play, reenacting how Claudius may have killed Hamlet’s father. Hamlet thinks that Claudius’s reaction to the play will show whether he really did kill Hamlet’s father. During the play, Hamlet watches Claudius and is convinced that Claudius killed his father.

The Plan Goes Awry

Hamlet is planning on killing Claudius, but accidentally kills Polonius, instead.

Ophelia is so upset that her father has died that she kills herself. Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, blames Hamlet, and vows to kill him.Claudius is mad about Polonius dying too, and sends Hamlet to England. While Hamlet is on his way, he finds out the English king is going to kill him, so he escapes and goes back to Denmark.Laertes and Claudius start planning how to kill Hamlet.

They decide that Laertes and Hamlet will have a sword fight, but Laertes will dip his sword in poison beforehand. Both men get hit by the poison, and begin to die. Hamlet’s mother also gets some of the poison and dies. Hamlet realizes that his mother is dying because of Claudius’s poison plan, and finally kills him.Do you remember what makes a play a tragedy? A play is a tragedy if the characters die. Think about all the characters that have died in Hamlet: Ophelia kills herself.

Hamlet kills Polonius and then Claudius. Laertes and Hamlet have a duel with poisoned swords, and both die as a result. Hamlet’s mother dies after drinking poison.

Lesson Summary

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.

It’s considered a tragedy because many of the characters die. Hamlet spends the whole play trying to avenge his father’s death, but accidentally causes the deaths of many other characters.

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