Hamlet Summary


Act I, Scene i:
The play begins on the outer ramparts of Elsinore castle. It is late and
Bernardo, a guard, is on duty waiting for Francisco to relieve him from his
watch. Bernardo is nervous because the previous two nights he and Francisco
have seen a figure who appears to be the ghost of the recently deceased
king wandering around.

Francisco approaches, accompanied by Horatio (Hamlet\'s only friend and
confident). Even though Horatio dismisses the idea of a ghost, the guards
start to retell the previous nights\' encounters. As the guards begin, the
ghost appears before them- much to Horatio\'s surprise.

The guards urge Horatio to speak with the ghost. Because Horatio is a
student, they feel he should be able to communicate with the ghost, and
their previous attempts to talk with it have failed. Horatio\'s attempts
also fail. The scene ends with Horatio stating that he will go and inform
his friend Hamlet of these incredible events.


Act I, Scene ii:
This scene opens in contrast to the first scene. The first scene takes
place on the dark, cold isolated ramparts; this scene begins in a brightly
lit court, with the new king, Claudius, celebrating his recent wedding to
his new wife, Gertrude.

Everyone in the court appears happy and joyful, except one character who is
sitting off to the side. He is dressed in black, the colour of mourning,
and does not like what he sees. The lone figure is Hamlet, the main
character of the play. He is wearing black because it has been only two
months since his father, Hamlet senior the ghost on the battlements, died
and he still is mourning his father\'s death.

To further upset Hamlet, Claudius\' new bride is Hamlet\'s mother, Gertrude.
Hamlet is upset because his mother married Claudius so soon after becoming
a widow. To add to all the injustices Hamlet is feeling at this time,
Claudius is also related to Hamlet. Hamlet\'s uncle is now his father-in-law
and Gertrude\'s brother-in-law is now her husband.

Claudius conducts several pieces of business during the beginning of this
scene. He first tries to take measures to prevent a war with Norway, then
discusses Laertes\' request to leave court and go back to school. Claudius
agrees with Polonius, Laertes\' father, that Laertes\' plan of going back to
school is a good one. He gives Laertes permission to go.

This familial scene brings Claudius\' mind to Hamlet. He recognizes Hamlet
is upset and he tries to make amends and urges Hamlet to stay in Denmark,
instead of returning to school. After his mother echoes Claudius\' request,
Hamlet agrees to stay.

Hamlet is left on stage after everyone else leaves. He speaks a soliloquy
expressing his anger at the present circumstances in his life and discusses
his depression as a result of these events. The scene ends with Horatio,
Marcellus and Bernardo entering and talking with Hamlet about the ghost
they have seen. Hamlet agrees to join them this coming night to see the
ghost himself.

Note: a soliloquy is the thoughts of a character being expressed
out loud. These thoughts deal with the true feelings of a
character and give insight into what a character is thinking
about and how his mind works. This first soliloquy is one several
spoken by Hamlet throughout the play. Each one gives us further
insight into what Hamlet is feeling at the time.

Text: Act I, Scene ii


Act I, Scene iii:
This scene opens with Laertes saying his goodbyes to his sister Ophelia,
before he leaves for school. We find out from their discussion that Hamlet
has been seeing Ophelia and is very serious about their relationship. He
has been alone with Ophelia on many occasions and has professed his love
for her during these times. He has also given her gifts during these

Leartes, who knows about his sister\'s suitor, tries to warn Ophelia that
because Hamlet is destined to become King, he can never be serious in his
relationship with her. Hamlet may seem virtuous and noble at this time, he
warns, but he will leave her to fulfill his duties to the kingdom when the
time comes.

She promises to be careful in this relationship and re-asserts