Hamlet Book Summary, by William Shakespeare

Want to learn the ideas in Hamlet better than ever? Read the world’s #1 book summary of Hamlet by William Shakespeare here.

Read a brief 1-Page Summary or watch video summaries curated by our expert team. Note: this book guide is not affiliated with or endorsed by the publisher or author, and we always encourage you to purchase and read the full book.

Video Summaries of Hamlet

We’ve scoured the Internet for the very best videos on Hamlet, from high-quality videos summaries to interviews or commentary by William Shakespeare.

1-Page Summary of Hamlet


The play Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare in 1601, is considered one of the best plays ever written. It has been praised for its psychological accuracy and complexity. The story is simple: a young man seeks revenge after his father’s murder but delays taking action. Several other deaths occur because of this delay, including that of the young man himself. It is the contemplation and portrayal of Hamlet’s indecisive state of mind combined with other thematic considerations relating to human corruptibility and the transitory nature of physical life that give this play its timeless greatness.

The play is set in a castle, the home of a royal family. One night at midnight, as one shift of watchmen is replaced by another, Horatio learns about the Ghost that appears every night to guard and protect the king’s family. He resolves to bring Hamlet, his friend who has recently lost his father (the former king), so he can see it for himself.

Soon afterward, the new king (Claudius) and his queen Gertrude hold court. Claudius deals with a military threat from Norway, gives permission for Laertes to return to France, and questions Hamlet as to why he’s still in mourning. Hamlet responds that he has a lot of things to mourn about and Gertrude urges him not to go back to university. He agrees and Claudius leads the court away.

Hamlet is alone and he begins to think about his mother’s actions. He gets angry and decides that he will watch for the ghost himself. Soon after, Hamlet sees the ghost of his father and realizes that it was really him. The ghost tells Hamlet how he died at Claudius’ hands, which confirms what Hamlet already knew but didn’t want to believe. The ghost also urges Hamlet to take revenge on Claudius by killing him. After a while, Hamlet agrees reluctantly because he doesn’t want anyone else dying for his cause or being hurt in any way because of this feud between them.

Hamlet is a troubled young man who brings discord in the court. He also has an affair with Ophelia, Polonius’ daughter, but their relationship falls apart because of Polonius’ interference and Ophelia’s fear. Claudius tries to find out why Hamlet is so mad by inviting his friends over but Hamlet realizes that he was trying to do this and arranges for a play to be performed which contains references about what Claudius did. When he sees it, Claudius withdraws from the court and prays for forgiveness. Hamlet finds him and has an opportunity to take revenge on him but doesn’t do so because he wants to give him a blessed death (one that takes place while seeking redemption).

Hamlet confronts Gertrude about her betrayal of his father. He sees Polonius hiding behind a curtain and accidentally kills him, thinking he is a rat. The ghost appears to Hamlet again and tells him that Claudius killed his father. Hamlet realizes the truth and escapes with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in order to return to Denmark without being caught by them. Meanwhile, Ophelia has gone mad after learning that Hamlet does not love her anymore because she told Laertes what happened between them. She then hangs herself on a tree branch, which drives Laertes insane as well since he loved Ophelia deeply too. After returning home from England, where they were supposed to kill Hamlet, both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are killed by Laertes when they attempt to stop him from fighting against Hamlet during their duel for revenge over the deaths of their loved ones (Ophelia’s death). Then it turns out that Claudius was also involved in this plan with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern but all three died before they could carry out their plans against the prince of Denmark who eventually dies himself while holding onto Horatio’s hand at last moment before dying peacefully in his sleep after finally avenging his father’s murder through killing Claudius first before dying himself afterwards right next to Horatio who witnessed everything happen including how the king got stabbed fatally by one of Fortinbras’ soldiers just moments earlier who came back into town along with other Norwegian military men sent there by Prince Fortinbras so that he can take control over Denmark now that its king is dead thanks to Prince Hamlets actions which caused King Claudius’ own death via getting stabbed fatally throughtout almost every part of his body multiple times during their duel/fight which lasted for several hours until both princes fell down dead on top each others bodies having been mortally wounded badly enough already thereby ending up killing one another simultaneously thus causing both men’s simultaneous deaths duelling till death do us apart.

Hamlet Book Summary, by William Shakespeare

Enjoy this summary?

Subscribe to get my next book summary in your email.