First performed around 1600, Hamlet tells the story of a prince whose duty to revenge his father’s death entangles him in philosophical problems he can’t solve. Shakespeare’s best-known play is widely regarded as the most influential literary work ever written. Read Hamlet here, with side-by-side No Fear translations into modern English.
Two guards at Elsinore Castle see the ghost of the recently dead King Hamlet. Horatio decides to tell Hamlet.
Gertrude and King Claudius, who are recently married, ask Hamlet to stay in Denmark a while longer. Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost.
Laertes counsels his sister Ophelia not to fall in love with Hamlet, and their father Polonius agrees. Polonius advises Laertes on how to conduct himself at school.
Hamlet waits with Horatio and Marcellus for the ghost to appear. When it does appear, Hamlet runs after it, and the others follow.
Polonius sends money to his son Laertes, and Ophelia tells her father that Hamlet is behaving strangely.
Claudius and Polonius hide and watch Hamlet as he debates suicide with himself. After Hamlet berates Ophelia, Claudius decides Hamlet may be dangerous and plans to send Hamlet off to England.
The actors perform a play that recreates Claudius’s murder of his brother, causing Claudius to flee the room. Emboldened by this confirmation of Claudius’s guilt, Hamlet goes to speak with Gertrude.
Polonius plans to eavesdrop on Hamlet and Gertrude. Hamlet sees Claudius praying and considers killing him, but worries that if he kills Claudius while he seeks forgiveness, Claudius might go to heaven.
Gertrude tells Claudius about the murder of Polonius, and Claudius determines that they must ship Hamlet off to England immediately. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are sent to find Hamlet.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find Hamlet, but he refuses to tell them where he has hidden Polonius’s body, accusing them of being spies for Claudius.
Claudius questions Hamlet until Hamlet reveals the location of Polonius’s body. Claudius sends Hamlet away to England, accompanied by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and with secret orders for Hamlet to be put to death when he arrives.
Hamlet encounters Fortinbras, a Norwegian prince leading an army into Poland to fight over a patch of land. Hamlet marvels that men will fight and kill over nothing, and yet he has failed to kill Claudius over a significant matter.
Ophelia goes mad over the death of Polonius, and Laertes returns from France, looking for revenge. Claudius convices Laertes to seek revenge on the right person.
Horatio receives a message that Hamlet’s ship was attacked by pirates and that Hamlet has quietly returned to Denmark.
Hamlet and Horatio wait in a graveyard when Ophelia’s funeral procession arrives. Hamlet and Laertes fight in Ophelia’s grave until they are pulled apart.