The Tragedy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare takes place in Elsinore Castle, the home of Denmark’s royal family. A ghost resembling the recently dead King Hamlet, has been spotted walking throughout the Castle. Prince Hamlet, the late King’s son, comes to speak to the ghost. The King tells his son that he was murdered by Claudius, the King’s brother, who inherited the throne and married the queen, Gertrude. Before disappearing, the ghost orders his son to seek revenge.
Prince Hamlet, a devoted son, agrees to avenge his father’s death but is overwhelmed by the weight of the task. Hamlet has been moody and depressed since his father’s death, and now becomes manic. Claudius and Gertrude had asked two of Hamlet’s good friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to spy on him, but even they are unable to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior.
Before long, Hamlet devises a plan to test his uncle. A group of actors have come to perform at the castle, and Hamlet instructs them to perform a scene resembling his father’s death. Horatio, one of Hamlet’s oldest friends, and the only other person who knows of the murder, agrees to watch Claudius’ reaction.
During the sequence, Claudius runs to pray. Horatio and Hamlet believe this suffices to prove his guilt. Hamlet goes after Claudius with the intent to kill him, but hesitates, and refuses to kill Claudius while in prayer.
Hamlet then confronts his mother about his father’s death and her new husband. While in her room, he hears something behind the curtain. Thinking it is Claudius, he draws his sword, stabs through the curtain. The person behind the curtain was Claudius’s chief counselor, Polonius.
Hamlet is banished to England with for accidentally killing Polonius. The King sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, along with signed orders for the King of England to kill the prince. Knowing their treachery, Hamlet switches out the letter with orders to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead. The two men are executed, and Hamlet returns to Denmark.
Back in Denmark, Polonius’s his daughter, Ophelia, who had been courting Hamlet, drowns herself in a river. Polonius’s son, Laertes, vows to avenge his father’s death, and blames Hamlet for Ophelia’s death as well. Claudius and Laertes devise a plan to kill Hamlet during a fencing match.
In the match, Hamlet scores the first point. Claudius offers him a drink from a poisoned goblet but Hamlet declines. Instead, his mother takes a drink and it kills her. Hamlet is struck by Laertes with a poisoned sword, and in a scuffle over blades, the two switch swords, and Laertes is shortly after wounded with the poison blade as well. Before he dies, Laertes confesses to Hamlet that Claudius poisoned the goblet. Hamlet stabs Claudius, and forces him to drink the rest of the poison from the goblet. Horatio attempts to drink from the poison goblet, but Hamlet orders him to stay alive to tell the tale. Fortinbras, King of Norway, arrives to find the entire royal family dead, Horatio tells him the story of what has happened, and Fortinbras takes the crown for himself.