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Our Hamlet



The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is largey accepted as William Shakespeare's most famous play and was written sometime between 1599 and 1601. It is Shakespeare's longest play, comprising 29,551 words over five Acts.

Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet's struggle with the question of whether to avenge the murder of his father, orchestrated by his incestuous uncle and to confront his treacherous mother, now his uncle’s wife, or take his own life in the hope of some relief. Interweaving familial turmoil with existential grievance and revenged murder, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s exploration of the dark recesses of the human condition, of how present actions cast shadows on our eternal souls, and of how reason and mental faculty fail in the face of ruthless betrayal.


Hamlet is considered among the 'most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language', with a story capable of 'seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others'.

Detailed Synopsis of our Hamlet

Our version of Hamlet has been adapted and edited by director, Nick Opolski, and excludes the Fortinbras story arc. 

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Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, has retuned home to Elsinore from Wittenberg University to mourn his father, King Hamlet, who died two months earlier. Hamlet is disgusted by the marriage of his newly widowed mother, Queen Gertrude, to his Uncle, King Hamlet’s brother, Claudius, who now claims the throne. Hamlet cannot shake the feeling there's something more to his father's death and that Claudius is somehow involved, but he has no evidence and seems to be the only one in the Court who is suspicous of and displeased with the new King and his widow-bride. 


Act I.

The play begins on the Elsinore battlements where two of the palace night guards are trying to convince Horatio, Hamlet's good friend from University, that they have seen a ghost two nights in a row. Horatio is a scholar, and the guards believe that he will be able to verify whether or not the ghost is real and perhaps get it to speak. Horatio is skeptical and does not believe the ghost is real until it does indeed appear to them. Horatio realises the ghost has a likeness to the former King Hamlet. When prompted to speak by Horatio, the ghost will not. The following day Horatio tells Hamlet of the ghost's appearance and asks Hamlet to come to the castle battlements that night to see if the ghost will speak to him.

That night, the ghost of King Hamlet appears to them and draws Hamlet away from his friends and, in private, reveals to Hamlet that Claudius murdered him by pouring poison into his ear while he slept in the garden. As a result, Hamlet vows to avenge his father’s murder, however, he is not immediately certain whether or not the ghost is honest or leading him astray.

Meanwhile, Laertes, son of the King’s advisor Polonius, is set to return to France. Before he leaves, he tells Ophelia, his sister, to be wary of Hamlet’s affections towards her. Polonius arrives and gives Laertes fatherly advice on how to act abroad. Once Laertes has departed, Polonius orders Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet.

As Hamlet wrestles with what to do with the information the ghost imparted to him, his sanity begins to be questioned by all. Claudius and Gertrude are both concerned and Polonius suggests that Hamlet's madness stems from Ophelia’s rejection of his advances. Claudius and Polonius decide to spy on Hamlet and Ophelia to test the theory. Claudius further employs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two childhood friends of Hamlet, to spy on him also. Hamlet quickly realises Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's intentions and calls them out.


Shortly after the arrival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, a troupe of players arrive at Elsinore and Hamlet uses the actors' performance to determine the validity of the ghost's account of his father’s murder. Hamlet asks the actors to perform a play depicting the very act of murder as described by the ghost: the killing of a king through poison in the ear. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report back to Claudius and Gertrude what they discovered about Hamlet's madness; they do not disclose that Hamlet called them out, but advise Claudius and Gertrude that the Players have arrived and Hamlet seems pleased by this. Polonius concurs and explains that the Players will stage a show the following evening and that Hamlet wants Claudius and Gertrude to go along. 

Claudius pulls Polonius aside and tells Polonius he has decided to send Hamlet to England to hopefully cure his madness. Polonius convinces Claudius to let Gertrude speak to Hamlet, mother to son, and that he, Polonius, will evesdrop and report back to Claudius what he hears. Polonius concludes that, if Gertrude cannot find out what's wrong with Hamlet, then he should be sent to England.



Act II.

Hamlet advises the Players how they should perform the play he has asked for, before Polonius arrives and tells Hamlet that Claudius and Gertrude will be along shortly. Hamlet tells Horatio that he is Hamlet's one true friend and asks Horatio to watch Claudius’ reaction throughout the performance, to verify his guilt. The Players perform 'The Murder of Gonzago', which Hamlet calls ' The Mouse Trap' because he is using it to trap Claudius. During the performance, Claudius becomes enraged and stops the play, which convinces Hamlet that the ghost is honest and that Claudius killed his father. Everyone clears the court except Hamlet and Horatio, who agree that Claudius did look guilty. 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern approach Hamlet and tell him that Claudius is furious and that Gertrude has asked to see him. Hamlet again calls them out for betraying him before he departs for his mother's bedroom. On his way there, Hamlet comes upon Claudius in the chapel, kneeling down to pray. Hamlet considers killing him at that moment, but since Claudius is in prayer, Hamlet surmises that Claudius would go to heaven. Hamlet decides to kill Claudius while he is committing a sin, so that he will definitely go to hell as Hamlet believes he deserves. Hamlet continues on to his mother's bedroom and an argument ensues. Unbeknownst to Hamlet, Polonius is hiding in the Queen's bedroom, evesdropping on their conversation. Polonious cries out and Hamlet stabs him to death through a curtain, thinking it is Claudius. Upon discovering the body of Polonius, Hamlet accuses his mother of conspiring with Claudius to kill King Hamlet. Gertude denies this and is in fear of her crazed son. The ghost of King Hamlet reappears to Hamlet in Gertrude's bedroom and tells him to refocus on killing Claudius and to leave his mother alone. Hamlet begs Gertrude to remain distant from Claudius and not return to his bed.


Hamlet leaves with Polonius' body and Gertrude runs to tell Claudius what has happened. Upon learning of Polonius' death at the hands of Hamlet, Claudius demands that Hamlet be sent to England immediately, accompanied by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Claudius has also sent a letter with them asking the King of England to have Hamlet killed on arrival. While at sea, however, Hamlet discovers the letter and uncovers Claudius' plan. Hamlet writes new letters under his father's seal, which he still carries, and orders that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern be killed on arrival in England instead. Their ship is attacked by pirates and Hamlet is separated from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who carry on to England and, unwittingly, their deaths. Hamlet writes Horatio from the pirate ship, explaining that he has struck a deal with the pirates for safe passage and asking for his help. Horatio meets with Hamlet and they both return Denmark to avenge Hamlet's father and reclaim the kingdom.

Meanwhile, back at Elsinore, Ophelia has gone mad with grief over the death of her father, Polonius. Laertes returns from France and learns it was Hamlet who killed Polonius. Claudius suggests that Laertes duel with Hamlet and that they poison the tip of Laertes foil for a fatal blow; Laertes agrees to the plan. As a contingency, Claudius poisons some wine that he will offer to Hamlet, should Hamlet win the duel. While they are conspiring to kill Hamlet, Gertrude enters and announces that Ophelia has drowned.

On his way back to Elsinore, Hamlet and Horatio come across two gravediggers in a cemetery. They converse about whose grave the gravedigger is digging and how long it takes for a corpse to decompose. The gravedigger shows Hamlet the skull of a man who had been dead 23 years and tells Hamlet it belonged to Yorrick, the court jester. Hamlet reminisces on his memory of Yorrick before King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, Laertes and the Court arrive with the body of Ophelia for burial. Hamlet reveals himself and he and Laertes fight in Ophelia's grave. The fight is broken up and Hamlet returns to Elsinore with Horatio; Laertes is further convinced by Claudius that the only way forward is to kill Hamlet.

Back in Elsinore, Hamlet is advised of Laertes' challenge and accepts the duel. Hamlet and Laertes bout before the court, and Hamlet scores the first blow. Claudius offers him a drink of the poisoned wine, but Hamlet refuses. After Hamlet wins the second blow, Gertrude unwittingly drinks the poisoned wine as a toast to Hamlet. Hamlet is then wounded with the poisoned sword, but in a scuffle, the foils are switched and Laertes is also wounded with the poisoned foil. Gertrude dies and Laertes confesses Claudius’ plot to kill Hamlet. Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned blade and makes him drink the poisoned wine; Claudies dies. Laertes and Hamlet make amends before Laertes dies. 


Before he dies, Hamlet asks Horatio to carry on and tell the story as it actually happened.

Horatio ends the play with a promise that he can deliver the truth of the tragedy of Hamlet. 

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