In Denmark, the former king has died and a group of soldiers tell his son, Prince Hamlet, that they saw his ghost. Hamlet learns his father was poisoned by his uncle, who has usurped the throne.
Hamlet feels he must avenge his father’s death. However, he struggles with the authenticity of the “ghost”, and indecision about his actions.
Throughout the rising action, Hamlet uses tactics to prove Claudius killed his father. He requests that a theater troupe act out a play that depicts a king being poisoned in the ear. Claudius' reaction will prove his guilt or innocence.
Claudius leaves the play and goes to pray for forgiveness for killing Hamlet's father. Hamlet overhears this and wants to kill him. However, Hamlet thinks if he kills Claudius while he is praying, he will go to heaven.
Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius, Claudius wants Hamlet to be hanged, Hamlet escapes back to Denmark, and Ophelia drowns. Hamlet is challenged to a fencing match by Laertes who blames Hamlet for his sister's (Ophelia) and father's (Polonius) death.
At the match, Laertes poisons the tip of his sword. Claudius poisons a cup, and Gertrude dies. In the end, only Horatio is left standing to tell the story.