The Plot Analysis Of William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Hamlet Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Mom just married Dad's brother. Also, war may be on the way.

Only a month after the old King of Denmark dies, his queen remarries – to his own brother. Hamlet is not happy to have his uncle as his new step-father. On the political front, Prince Fortinbras of Norway plans to invade Denmark.


Dad's ghost says mom's new husband knocked him off. Revenge!

A ghost shows up on the castle battlements, looking suspiciously like the recently deceased King. The ghost has a message for Hamlet: his father's death was no accident. Hamlet is supposed to exact revenge, which, when you're talking about the current King of Denmark and the husband of your mother, can be quite the conflict. Meanwhile, Polonius tells Ophelia, Hamlet's girl friend, to end whatever it is she's doing with Hamlet.
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Revenge theoretically shouldn't be too complicated, if you actually get it done. The complication comes when Hamlet doesn't get it done. All he does manage to do is go crazy, which is complicated in its own right, but more so when you're not sure if he's faking it or not.

The addition of the treacherous pseudo-friends (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) complicates matters further, as spies tend to do. On the Ophelia front, she's no longer talking to Hamlet. When the former lovers finally meet, he berates her for having all those qualities that, according to him, all women possess (that would be deceit and treachery). Lastly, there's some strange sort of lie-detecting play that Hamlet has devised, which is supposedly going to prove whether or not King Claudius is guilty of murdering the former King.


Confirmed: Mom's new husband totally guilty! Also, Hamlet argues with his Mom and kills girlfriend's
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One way of thinking about it is to see Hamlet's interaction with Gertrude as the play's emotional climax, while the play-within-the play is the plot's climax. After all, this is the point when Hamlet definitively knows that Claudius is guilty; it's also the first action Hamlet actually takes in the name of advancing his revenge. And Hamlet's plan works: the play within the play – which Hamlet calls "The Mousetrap" – snaps shut on Claudius. Yet the emotional boiling point of the play happens in the next scene, when Hamlet rails on Gertrude and stabs Polonius.


Mom's new husband sends Hamlet away to be killed. Meanwhile, Ophelia dies and her brother plots Hamlet's death with Mom's new husband.

The suspense builds when we wonder if Hamlet is going to die on or after the trip to England. We feel more suspense as Claudius and Laertes plot our prince's death, suspense that only increases with every added back-up plan. Will Hamlet die from one of the umpteen poisoned objects?

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