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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, often shortened to Hamlet, is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1601. It is Shakespeare's longest play, with 29,551 words. Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet and his attempts to exact revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet's mother.
The play opens in Elsinore Castle, where King Hamlet's ghost appears to his son, Prince Hamlet, and tells him that he was murdered by his brother, Claudius, who has now married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude. The ghost demands that Hamlet avenge his death.
Hamlet is consumed by grief and anger, and he begins to act strangely and erratic. He pretends to be mad in order to buy time and to test the truth of his father's ghost's story. He also arranges for a troupe of actors to perform a play that mirrors his own situation, hoping to see if Claudius's reaction will confirm his guilt.
Claudius reacts to the play with horror and guilt, and Hamlet is convinced of his uncle's guilt. However, he struggles to take action, partly because he is unsure of how to proceed and partly because he is paralyzed by his own fears and doubts.
Meanwhile, Ophelia, Hamlet's lover, is driven mad by Hamlet's seemingly cruel behavior and by her father's, Polonius, death at Hamlet's hands.
Finally, Hamlet is presented with an opportunity to kill Claudius when he encounters him praying in a chapel. However, Hamlet hesitates, and Claudius escapes.
Laertes, Ophelia's brother, challenges Hamlet to a duel, and during the duel, both men are poisoned. Gertrude drinks wine that has been poisoned by Claudius, and Ophelia, who has unknowingly been given flowers that have been dipped in poison, dies as well.
Claudius, the only survivor of the duel, is killed by Hamlet, who then dies from his own wounds.
Hamlet explores a wide range of themes, including:
Hamlet is a complex and nuanced character, and he is one of the most famous and well-studied characters in all of literature. Other major characters in the play include:
Hamlet is considered one of the greatest works of literature ever written. It has been translated into many languages and adapted into films, television series, and operas. The play continues to be studied and debated by scholars and readers alike.
Some of the play's most famous quotes include: