e-book CliffsNotes on Shakespeares Hamlet (Cliffsnotes Literature Guides)

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Hamlet recognizes him for the hypocrite he is and scolds him in his madness. Hamlet discovers their plot to have him killed upon his arrival in England and has them executed. His troops arrive at Elsinore as the royal family lies dead. Feel free to share your own Hamlet character analysis by posting a comment. Bright Hub Education. Popular Pages Home. More Info. Skip to content. Other Main Characters These brief discriptions of main characters in Hamlet along with some Hamlet character analysis will help you impress your friends and neighbors with your knowledge of literature.

Hamlet welcomes them, and then asks them to perform a favorite speech of his, a historical tale about the fall of Troy.

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They do so, and Hamlet is extremely moved. Left alone, Hamlet reflects on the authenticity of emotion shown by the players, even about a fictional event. He compares this to his own inability to act to avenge the death of his father. He reveals his plan for the players. He will instruct them to perform a drama very similar to the circumstances in which his father was killed.

If he observes Claudius looking guilty, he will have definitive proof that Claudius did murder his father. The King and Queen are questioning Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in hopes that they've discovered the cause of Hamlet's insanity. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report that they have not; however, Hamlet is looking forward to seeing a performance from the recently arrived players.

The King and Queen agree to attend the performance to help cheer up Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern leave. The King asks Gertrude to leave also, as he and Polonius have arranged to spy on Hamlet through Ophelia. Polonius directs Ophelia to walk through the atrium, holding a book.

Polonius and Claudius then hide, as Hamlet approaches. Hamlet enters, talking to himself. Opening his speech with the famous words, "To be or not to be," he broods over the painful experiences of life. He concludes that everyone would commit suicide, if they were not afraid of what would happen after death. At this point, he acknowledges Ophelia.

But instead of being affectionate to her, he is harsh and cold. He tells her that he never really loved her. He rails against her, and women in general. Then he leaves. Ophelia is heartbroken. The King and Polonius enter again. The King is convinced that Hamlet's insanity is not the result of love; he decides that Hamlet is dangerous, and should be sent to England, hopefully to recover. Polonius still thinks that Hamlet's behavior is the result of denied love, and resolves to spy on Hamlet in Gertrude's bedroom, while Gertrude questions Hamlet about his feelings.

Hamlet is giving the actors advice on how to perform his play. Horatio arrives, and Hamlet tells Horatio about his plan to determine the King's guilt.


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Hamlet asks Horatio to watch Claudius closely during the play. Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and assorted other courtiers arrive for the play. Hamlet returns to his pretense of insanity. He sits next to Ophelia, teasing her with a variety of sexual innuendos.

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The players enter, and after enacting a brief silent summary of the play, they begin the performance. The player King and player Queen discuss their love for one another.

Cliffs Notes on Shakespeare's Hamlet

The player Queen pledges her loyalty and leaves the player King to sleep. Lucianus, the player King's nephew, enters and pours poison in the player King's ears. Outraged, Claudius rises suddenly and demands lights, then exits with everyone except for Hamlet and Horatio. Hamlet and Horatio agree that the King's behavior was very suspicious, and Hamlet concludes that Claudius must be guilty.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter once more. They inform Hamlet that his mother is very upset and wishes to see him. Claudius is very upset by the play.

He resolves to send Hamlet away to England, where he will no longer be a threat. He instructs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to accompany Hamlet to England, and they fawningly agree. He informs the King that he is about to go hide behind the curtain in Gertrude's room, in hopes of receiving information from Hamlet's conversation with her.

Left alone, the King is struck by guilt. He despairs of his terrible offense in murdering his brother, but finds himself unable to repent of his deed, since he's still enjoying the rewards of his crime.

He begins praying. As he's praying, Hamlet enters, planning to kill him. But then he has second thoughts. He reasons that if he kills Claudius now, Claudius' soul will go to heaven, since he has just asked forgiveness for all his sins. Since Hamlet's father was killed while sleeping, and unable to confess before death, Hamlet decides that this would be too merciful. He leaves, unseen. Polonius hides behind Gertrude's curtain as Hamlet enters the room.

Hamlet asks what's wrong; his mother tells him that he's offended his "father", to which he replies that she is the one who has offended his father.

CliffsNotes on Shakespeare's Hamlet

He continues to speak harshly, and she becomes afraid, crying out for help. Polonius makes a noise from behind the curtain. Assuming it to be Claudius, Hamlet reacts impulsively, stabbing the intruder. Hamlet's mother is stunned, and Hamlet is also distressed when he discovers that he has killed Polonius. Nevertheless, he continues with his indictment of his mother. He hints that his father has been murdered, but focuses mainly on Getrude's infidelity by becoming involved with the inferior Claudius.

She expresses remorse over her actions, but he continues to press her. Then the ghost enters, visible only to Hamlet. The ghost reminds Hamlet of his real purpose — avenging his murder by killing Claudius. As they converse, Gertrude becomes even more upset, since Hamlet seems to be talking to the air.


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  • However, he assures his mother that he is not crazy. Hamlet begs his mother to repent, and stay away from Claudius.

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    He also tells her not to reveal what she's learned to Claudius. She promises to keep it a secret. The queen rushes to tell Claudius of the events that have just occurred. He reflects on the difficulty of explaining this murder to the court, and resolves to send the dangerous Hamlet away as quickly as possible.