Hamlet summary

Hamlet Summary and analysis By Shakespeare

“Hamlet” is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and for good reason. The story is a masterpiece of intrigue, suspense, and tragedy that follows the prince of Denmark as he seeks to avenge his father’s murder. In this post, we will provide a summary of each act of the play, so you can follow along with the action.

Table of Contents

Act 1:

In the first act, we are introduced to the kingdom of Denmark, where the King and Queen are still grieving the death of the former king, Hamlet’s father. The new King, Claudius, has married the queen, Gertrude, and has taken the throne. Hamlet, the prince, is also mourning his father’s death and is deeply suspicious of Claudius’s sudden rise to power. He is also disturbed by his mother’s quick remarriage. Meanwhile, two guards, Bernardo and Marcellus, along with Horatio, a friend of Hamlet, encounter the ghost of the late King who reveals that he was murdered by Claudius. They tell Hamlet about the ghost and he decides to feign madness in order to investigate his father’s murder.

Explanation: Act 1 sets the stage for the rest of the play, introducing us to the main characters and the central conflict. It also establishes the theme of grief and mourning, which will be present throughout the play. Additionally, it establishes the motif of appearance vs. reality, as Hamlet puts on an “antic disposition” in order to conceal his true feelings, and questions the integrity of the ghost’s story.

Act 2:

In the second act, Hamlet starts to put his plan into action. He feigns madness and acts erratically around the court, making Claudius and Gertrude increasingly uneasy. Meanwhile, Polonius, the court chamberlain, sends Reynaldo to spy on Hamlet in order to find out the cause of his supposed madness. The king sends for some actors to perform a play which depicts a murder similar to the one that killed Hamlet’s father, in the hope that the play will reveal Hamlet’s true feelings. But instead, it confirms the guilt of Claudius.

Explanation: Act 2 further develops the theme of appearance vs. reality, as Hamlet’s “antic disposition” is used to obscure the truth about his intentions. It also introduces the theme of the uncertain nature of truth, as Hamlet is unsure about the ghost’s story and uses the play as a means to confirm it. The motif of the theatre is also introduced, which will be present throughout the play, as a means to reflect the characters and their actions.

Act 3:

In the third act, Hamlet continues to act strangely, and the tension in the court builds. Claudius decides to send Hamlet away to England, but Hamlet manages to convince him to let him stay. Polonius decides to spy on Hamlet and Gertrude by hiding behind an arras (curtain) in Gertrude’s chambers, but Hamlet mistakes him for the Ghost of his father and kills him. He then tells his mother about Claudius’s guilt and she decides to confront her husband.

Explanation: Act 3 is the turning point of the play, as Hamlet becomes convinced of Claudius’s guilt, and sets his plan for revenge in motion. The theme of betrayal is introduced, as Hamlet is betrayed by his mother and uncle, and the motif of revenge is developed further. Additionally, the theme of power and control is present, as Hamlet outsmarts Claudius and the King, and regains control of his own destiny.

Act 4:

In the fourth act, the fallout from Polonius’s death continues. Claudius sends Hamlet to England, but Hamlet manages to return to Denmark. Meanwhile, Laertes, Polonius’s son, returns to Denmark to avenge his father’s death. He challenges Hamlet to a duel, but the King convinces him to poison the tip of his sword instead. The Queen, Gertrude, dies after drinking poison intended for Hamlet.

Explanation: Act 4 develops the theme of revenge further, as Hamlet’s plan for revenge becomes more elaborate. The motif of manipulation is also present, as Hamlet manipulates events to his advantage. Additionally, the theme of death is prevalent, as Hamlet fakes his own death, and the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are foreshadowed.

Act 5:

In the final act, the stage is set for the final showdown between Hamlet and Laertes. The two fight in a duel, but both are mortally wounded by the poisoned sword. In his dying moments, Hamlet reveals the truth about Claudius’s guilt and forces him to drink poison. Claudius, Laertes, and the Queen all die, leaving Hamlet as the last surviving member of the royal family. Hamlet dies, but before he dies, he makes Horatio promise to tell his story to the world.

Explanation: Act 5 is the climax of the play, as Hamlet takes his revenge and the play reaches its tragic conclusion. The theme of death is prominent, as almost all of the main characters die. The motif of revenge is also present, as the characters’ actions are driven by the desire for revenge. Additionally, the theme of fate and destiny is present, as the play ends with Fortinbras taking control of Denmark, suggesting that the actions of the previous characters were predetermined and that the cycle of revenge will continue.


Overall, “Hamlet” is a complex and powerful play that explores themes of revenge, betrayal, and the nature of reality. Shakespeare’s use of language, along with the play’s intricate plot and characters, have made it one of the most enduring and popular plays in the English language. It is widely considered as one of the greatest works of literature ever

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