Act Wise Summary: Play Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Act 1, Scene 1

One evening at the Danish fortress of Elsinore, a soldier by the name of Barnardo takes over Francisco’s watch duty. The gang discusses ghost stories as Marcellus, a fellow soldier, and Horatio, a nobleman, arrive. Horatio is dubious at first, but then the spirit shows in dressed as the late King Hamlet. Horatio believes the ghost’s look is sinister even if it remains silent. Horatio makes the decision to fetch Prince Hamlet as the spirit would not communicate with him.

Act 1, Scene 2

The brother of the late King Hamlet, Claudius, is in charge of the court after tying the knot with Prince Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. He and Gertrude counsel Hamlet to cease grieving over his father, stating that it is unwise to linger on sorrow and that death is a normal part of life. After they go, Horatio comes in and tells Hamlet that his father is haunting the ramparts. Hamlet decides to go with him that evening to investigate.

Act 1, Scene 3

Laertes, the son of Polonius, Claudius’s counselor, gets ready to travel to France. While doing so, he discusses Hamlet with his sister Ophelia and cautions her against becoming very close to him. A portion of this talk is heard by Polonius when he walks in. Following Laertes’ departure, Polonius affirms his son’s criticisms of Hamlet and demands that Ophelia cease her interactions with the young prince.

Act 1, Scene 4
Along with Horatio and Marcellus, Hamlet visits the ramparts where he confronts the ghost. When he poses inquiries to the ghost, it urges Hamlet to follow it rather than providing a response. Despite Horatio and Marcellus’ attempts to stop him, Hamlet persists in going, saying he doesn’t care enough about his life to give a damn about what happens to him.

Act 1, Scene 5

When the ghost leads Hamlet away from Marcellus and Horatio, he affirms that he is indeed the spirit of King Hamlet. Additionally, he informs Hamlet that Claudius poisoned him, therefore his death wasn’t an accident. The spirit then requests that Hamlet get revenge on him for his passing. After the ghost vanishes, Horatio and Marcellus reunite, and Hamlet commands them to be silent about the apparition while threatening to behave strangely in the days ahead.

Act 2, Scene 1

To find out what type of life his son is enjoying in France, Polonius plans to spy on Laertes from Elsinore. Ophelia comes in and informs him that Hamlet stormed into her chamber looking wild after he sets this plan into action. Polonius fears that he deceived his daughter by urging her to stay away from the prince, leading him to believe that Hamlet is upset because Ophelia rejected his advances.

Act 2, Scene 2

Claudius learns that Fortinbras, the belligerent Prince of Norway, has been persuaded to attack Poland rather than Denmark, even though he still needs authorization to cross Denmark on route to battle. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of Hamlet’s old pals, show in to lift his spirits and bring a group of players with them. Seizing the chance, Hamlet instructs the performers to do a recreation of his father’s murder in order to determine Claudius’s response.

Act 3, Scene 1
Ophelia converses with Hamlet as Claudius and Polonius remain hidden in an attempt to ascertain his mental state. In this scene, Hamlet argues with Ophelia over whether or not he has ever really loved her, confusing her and telling her to go to a convent because ladies like her encourage men to do evil things. Because Claudius believes Hamlet is seriously ill, he intends to transfer him to England to avoid causing trouble in Denmark.

Act 3, Scene 2

In a secret chat, Hamlet instructs Horatio to keep an eye on Claudius throughout the performance. Maybe Claudius is really innocent if he reacts to the dramatic portrayal of King Hamlet’s murder with composure. But as soon as the action begins, Claudius leaps up and leaves. Hamlet believes this proves Claudius’ guilt. Hamlet fears he has been too harsh on his mother, while Gertrude is furious at his lack of empathy.

Act 3, Scene 3

During the play, Hamlet instructs Horatio to keep an eye on Claudius in a private chat. Perhaps Claudius is genuinely innocent if he reacts coolly to the dramatic portrayal of King Hamlet’s murder. But when the drama starts, Claudius leaps to his feet and leaves. Hamlet believes without a doubt that Claudius is at fault. Hamlet feels that he has been too harsh to his mother, while Gertrude is furious with him for his insensitivity.

Act 3, Scene 4

When Hamlet walks into Gertrude’s room, he speaks harshly to her. When Gertrude is scared and screams out for assistance, Polonius yells from where he is hidden behind a tapestry. When the ghost materializes and tells Hamlet to get started on his retribution mission, the surprised Hamlet stabs the man. Despite believing her son is insane, Gertrude consents to remain silent about what has transpired. Before being sent to England, where Hamlet believes Claudius has planned his execution, he declares he must slip away.

Act 4, Scene 1

Claudius dispatches Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find Hamlet and find Polonius’s body after Gertrude informs him that Hamlet is insane and that he killed Polonius. When Hamlet’s old companions find him, he won’t say where he hid Polonius’s body. After a while, he flees, telling them they’ll have to find him.

Act 4, Scene 2
Hamlet is caught by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but he won’t say where he hid Polonius’s body. After a while, he flees, telling them they’ll have to find him.

Act 4, Scene 3

After Hamlet is apprehended by Guildenstern and Rosencrantz and taken to Claudius, the latter queries the whereabouts of the prince’s corpse. After sidestepping the inquiry, Hamlet hints that Polonius’s remains may be located in the castle’s hallway. For his part, Claudius continues to want to have Hamlet sent to England, and he quietly remarks (after Hamlet is removed from the room) that he has given the King of England the order to put Hamlet to death.

Act 4, Scene 4

After arriving in Elsinore with his army, Fortinbras tells his main commander to inform Claudius that they are at his disposal while they are traveling through Denmark to take over Poland. When Hamlet later runs into the captain, he is motivated to pursue his father’s killer once more after learning that Fortinbras has dispatched a large number of men to capture Poland, which is not seen to be all that valuable.

Act 4, Scene 5

Following Polonius’s passing, Ophelia is so distraught that she is going insane. She often mentions flowers in her tirades about absurd topics to Gertrude and Claudius. Soon later, Laertes overtakes Elsinore and accuses Claudius of killing Polonius. However, Claudius maintains his innocence and even declares that he would happily face trial. Claudius promises to assist Laertes in exacting revenge on his father’s real killer after he has cleared his reputation.

Act 4, Scene 6

After two days at sea, Hamlet writes Horatio a note, which is brought to him by two sailors. The letter tells Horatio that pirates have taken over the ship that Hamlet was traveling on and have taken Hamlet captive. In order for the two sailors to deliver a second letter to the king, Hamlet instructs Horatio in his letter to lead them to Claudius.

Act 4, Scene 7
Claudius gets the prince’s letter informing him that Hamlet has returned to Denmark and desires to meet after persuading Laertes that Hamlet killed Polonius. In light of this, Laertes and Claudius devise a scheme for Laertes to use a poisoned rapier during a fencing contest to murder Hamlet. Gertrude comes in at that same moment to tell them that Ophelia has drowned. Laertes, distraught, departs to grieve for his sister and prepare to kill Hamlet.

Act 5, Scene 1

Ophelia’s burial is being prepared by two gravediggers. When Hamlet and Horatio meet them, they discuss death. Laertes, Claudius, and Gertrude enter as they are conversing, bringing Ophelia’s body and a priest. When Hamlet sees Laertes weeping for Ophelia, he lets it be known that he is more grieving than Laertes at Ophelia’s passing. This results in a fight; nevertheless, Claudius begs Laertes in secret to be patient in his desire to get revenge on Hamlet once their fight is broken up


 Act 5, Scene 2

Hamlet accepts a challenge to fence Laertes back in Elsinore. He hits many times right away when the combat starts. Gertrude unintentionally consumes poisoned wine meant for Hamlet in the meanwhile. When Laertes tries to cut Hamlet with the poisoned rapier, he drops the weapon and Hamlet takes it and slashes Laertes. Laertes tells to us as he passes away that Hamlet stabs the king because Claudius planned the murder of Hamlet. After everyone save Horatio perishes, Fortinbras emerges and ascends to the throne.

Summary of the Play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare penned the tragedy “Hamlet” sometime about 1600. The main character of the play is Prince Hamlet of Denmark, who is seeking retribution on his uncle, King Claudius, for killing his father, King Hamlet, and taking the throne for himself. Hamlet battles his own indecisiveness and existential fears throughout the play, and he is well-known for his soliloquies that reflect on life, death, and the nature of reality.
The spirit of King Hamlet appears to his son at the start of the narrative, telling him the truth about his murder. Though he battles his moral and psychological instability, Hamlet swears to exact revenge for the death of his father. He pretends to be insane so he may watch the court and learn things.

Hamlet’s pretended insanity and the court’s political gamesmanship complicate his connection with Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius. Hamlet’s suffering is exacerbated by Ophelia’s eventual insanity and demise.
King Claudius arranges a battle between Hamlet and Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, which sets up the play’s finale. Laertes has a poisoned rapier in his possession, while Claudius has prepared a poisoned cup for Hamlet. Claudius, Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, Laertes, and Hamlet himself perish as a result of the plan’s failure.
The Hamlet family’s rule comes to an end and Denmark’s political unrest is resolved when Prince Fortinbras of Norway ascends to the Danish throne in the tragedy’s denouement. The drama examines issues of death, insanity, and the corrupting effect of authority.

  1. Hamlet: The play’s protagonist and the Prince of Denmark. His psychological conflicts and moral quandaries stem from his desire to get revenge for his father’s murder, which has tortured him.
    2. King Claudius: Hamlet’s uncle, King Claudius, usurps the kingdom by murdering Hamlet’s father. He serves as the play’s primary adversary.
    3.Gertrude:  Gertrude, the Danish Queen and mother of Hamlet. Soon after King Hamlet’s death, she marries Claudius, which makes Hamlet feel deceived.
    4. Polonius: Claudius’s court’s Lord Chamberlain. Laertes and Ophelia’s father, he is a talkative, interfering figure.
    5. Ophelia: Hamlet’s romantic interest and Polonius’s daughter. She eventually meets a horrible end as a pawn in the court’s political gamesmanship.

6. Laertes: Brother of Ophelia and son of Polonius. He becomes involved in the pivotal combat with Hamlet because he wants revenge for the death of his father.
7. Horatio: Hamlet’s dependable confidant and companion. He plays a pivotal part in the play’s development and acts as Hamlet’s sounding board.
8. The Ghost of King Hamlet: The play’s events are initiated by the ghost of Hamlet’s father, who appears to him and tells him the truth about his murder.
9. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Claudius recruits Hamlet’s childhood pals to spy on him. Their loyalty to Claudius finally brings them to an end.

10. Fortinbras: Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway, whose retaliatory acts are similar to those of Hamlet. After the major protagonists pass away, he eventually succeeds to the Danish crown.


1. Justice and Vengeance:
Hamlet’s pursuit of revenge against his uncle Claudius for killing his father serves as the play’s central theme. Hamlet, however, is forced to consider the repercussions of his acts as the topic of retribution is convoluted by issues of justice and morality.
2. Madness: Both faked and real madness are recurrent themes in the play. While the real lunacy of characters like Ophelia highlights concerns about the frailty of the human mind, Hamlet’s illusion of crazy allows him to monitor the court and influence others.
3. Mortality and the Afterlife: The play’s concern with mortality and the ambiguity of what lies beyond is reflected in the appearance of King Hamlet’s ghost and in Hamlet’s reflections on death. The classic soliloquy of Hamlet, “To be, or not to be” captures this contemplation of existence.

4. Corruption and Deceit: Claudius, whose dishonest acts have far-reaching effects, is shown as the embodiment of corruption and deception in the Danish court, which is a hotbed of both. The drama examines how common corruption is and how hard it is to tell fact from fiction.

5. Identity and Self-Discovery: Throughout his voyage, Hamlet wrestles with his sense of self and questions himself. His attempt to balance his passions with his responsibilities as a prince is a microcosm of a larger investigation into personal identity and self-discovery.
6. Appearance vs. Reality: Throughout the play, individuals frequently put up a front of appearances to conceal their genuine motivations. This subject is demonstrated by Claudius’s and other characters’ dishonest behavior in addition to Hamlet’s pretended insanity.

7. Fate vs. Free Will: “Hamlet” poses concerns regarding the degree of personal agency possessed by characters. The distinction between fate and free will is blurred in certain situations when outcomes appear predestined while others are impacted by the decisions and deeds of the individuals.
8. Betrayal and Family: The story revolves around family dynamics, especially Hamlet’s tense relationship with his uncle Claudius and mother Gertrude. Betrayal within family ties gives the themes of trust, loyalty, and betrayal more complexity.

Plot Construction
  1. Exposition: Prince Hamlet laments the passing of his father, King Hamlet, at the Danish court at the start of the play. Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, who has since ascended to the throne, and Queen Gertrude’s unexpected marriage have caused tensions within the bereaved court.
    2. First Conflict: When King Hamlet’s spirit appears to Prince Hamlet and informs him that Claudius killed him, the first conflict is set in motion. The major narrative begins when the ghost begs Hamlet to take revenge.

3.Rising Action: After considering the ghost’s information, Hamlet chooses to pose as insane in order to look into Claudius’s culpability. Tension arises in the court as a result of Claudius’ growing mistrust of Hamlet’s actions. Hamlet produces a play, “The Murder of Gonzago,” to prove Claudius’s guilt as his relationship with Ophelia deteriorates.
4. Climax: The fencing duel between Hamlet and Laertes sets up the climax, as Claudius schemes to use a poisoned blade and wine to murder Hamlet. When the scheme goes wrong, Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes all perish.

5. Falling Action: The play comes to an end with the deaths of its major characters, including Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius. The Danish royal family’s rule comes to an end as Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway, ascends to the throne.
6. Resolution: The play ends with Fortinbras taking the Danish crown, which puts an end to the play’s events and restores order to the realm.
Shakespeare interweaves themes of retribution, insanity, deceit, death, and the complexity of human nature throughout the story. Plot development is well thought out to explore these issues and hold the audience’s attention with its dramatic intensity and nuanced emotional content.


Many symbols found in “Hamlet” give the play’s themes and characters more nuance and complexity. Among the important emblems are:
1. The Ghost: King Hamlet’s ghost makes a visit, signifying unsolved matters and the eerie legacy of the past. It symbolizes the duplicity and corruption in the Danish court and ignites Hamlet’s drive for vengeance.
2. The Poisonous Flower: Throughout the play, many ideas are symbolized by flowers in a metaphorical manner. Ophelia’s arrangement of flowers, especially the daisy and rue, alluded to her mental condition and oncoming insanity. The flowers also stand for lost innocence and the damaging effects of the legal system on people who are similar to Ophelia.

3. The Play Within a Play: “The Murder of Gonzago,” a play that Hamlet stages, is a metaphor for what’s happening in the Danish court. By his response to the play’s reenactment, it reveals Claudius’ culpability and symbolizes Hamlet’s quest to learn the truth about King Hamlet’s death.
4. Yorick’s Skull: The skull of the court jester Yorick is a potent representation of mortality and death’s inevitable conclusion. Hamlet confronts his own existential concerns when he sees Yorick’s skull in the cemetery and muses on the transient nature of existence and the universal experience of death.

5. The Mousetrap: The “mousetrap” alludes to Hamlet’s plot to expose Claudius’s guilt in addition to being a play inside a play. Hamlet intends to verify the ghost’s charge and defend his desire for vengeance by watching Claudius’s response to the staged play.
6. The Decay theme: This play’s reoccurring motif represents the moral and political corruption of the Danish court. The moral corruption that is afflicting the kingdom under Claudius’s leadership is mirrored in images of decomposition, such as rotting flesh and decomposing bodies.
7. The Sword: The sword, especially the one Laertes uses in the last duel, is a symbol of violence, treachery, and the disastrous results of retaliation. It turns into a tool of fate, causing numerous people to tragically die.

The aforementioned symbols enhance the thematic analysis of “Hamlet” and further augment its lasting influence as a literary masterpiece. They encourage interpretation and provide greater levels of meaning, which helps the audience better comprehend the play’s intricate themes and characters.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top