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What are you waiting for? GO!
To be, or not to be; that is the question...
~ Hamlet's famous quote.

Prince Hamlet is the main protagonist of the Shakespearen play with the same name. He is the Prince of Denmark, nephew to the usurping Claudius and son of the previous King of Denmark, Old Hamlet. Throughout the play he struggles with whether, and how, to avenge the murder of his father, and struggles with his own sanity along the way. By the end of the tragedy, Hamlet has caused the deaths of Polonius, Laertes, Claudius and his two childhood friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He is also indirectly involved in the deaths of his love Ophelia (drowning), and of his mother Gertrude (poisoned by mistake). Hamlet himself is the final character to die in the play, giving the throne to Prince Fortinbras. The Prince of Norway orders him to be buried honorably, as Horatio is left to tell the story.


The character has been portrayed by numerous actors on stage, and in many films. For stage, he was portrayed by famous actors: David Tennant (The Doctor), Jude Law (John Watson), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron). In the 1948 film, he was portrayed by the late Lawrence Olivier. In the 1996 film, he was portrayed by Mel Gibson, who also played Max Rockatansky, Martin Riggs, and Graham Hess. In the 2000 film, he was portrayed by Ethan Hawke, who also played Jake Hoyt, and James Sandin. In Ophelia, he was portrayed by George MacKay (Will Schofield).


Hamlet is the son of King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude of Denmark, and was raised in their home alongside his uncle, Claudius. When reaching the appropriate age, Hamlet was sent to Wittenberg to continue his lessons. Before the events of the play, the reader learns that Hamlet is close friends with Horatio, and is in love with Lord Chamberlin Polonius' daughter, Ophelia.

He was returned home upon learning that his father had passed, and decided to stay for his funeral, and to comfort his mother. Despite the loss of his father, he become concerned of his mother's relationship with his uncle, Claudius, who took the throne (as he considered their marriage "incestuous"). He is informed by Horatio that Bernado had seen his father's ghost at night, and decides to go with them to see for himself. He meets his father's spirit, who tells him to avenge his death, and to "remember him."

Hamlet keeps to his words, and pretends to act mad to make himself a distraction until he can kill Claudius. At first, however, he decides to see was the ghost was telling the truth, and decides to add extra lines in to the play called "The Murder of Gonzago". When seeing Claudius' reaction of the play, Hamlet realizes that his uncle did in fact committed the murder, but decides not to kill him (as the king was praying, and the prince didn't want his soul to go to Heaven). Hamlet goes to his mother, and acts mad towards her until he stabs Polonius, thinking it was the king. Realizing what he has done, he tells his mother to repent, since she has slept with a murderer.

Claudius and Gertrude send Hamlet away to England for their protection, and for his safety, while they attempt to cover up Polonius' murder. The Chamberlin's death causes Ophelia to become mad herself, and eventually die of drowning. In addition, Polonius' son, and Ophelia's brother, Laertes, returns and wants revenge against Hamlet. The prince survives Claudius' attempt to kill him, reading the letter the king gave to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and switches them out for the duo to be executed instead. Hamlet returns and meets with Horatio, and talks to the grave diggers on the burial. Hamlet learns that Ophelia has died, and becomes heartbroken upon seeing her funeral.

Claudius takes the time to manipulate Laertes to kill Hamlet in a duel, telling him that he will poison the wine, and his sword to make sure. While the duel is happening, Claudius attempts to have the prince drink the wine, but the latter wants to continue the duel. Gertrude drinks the wine, and Laertes stabs Hamlet with his sword, but is killed afterward. Before he succumbs to death, Laertes reveals that "The king is to blame", and Hamlet brutally murders Claudius for his actions. Hamlet succumbs to wounds, and gives the crown to Fortinbras. The Prince of Norway orders that Hamlet has an honorable burial, as Horatio says "Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

In other media

Hamlet (2000)

In this 2000 incarnation, Hamlet is a filmmaker in a contemporary New York City. The main diferences from the film that distinguish it from the play or other adaptations include before mentioning his famous "to be or not to be", Hamlet is seen watching a video of famed Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh explaining the principle "To be is to be with others; to be is to inter-be" a basic teaching of Hanh's "Order of Interbeing". In the finale, Laertes does not kill Hamlet with a poisoned rapier. Instead he shoots Hamlet with a pistol, then is shot himself. Hamlet then uses the same pistol to shoot and kill Claudius.


Main article: Prince Hamlet (Ophelia)


Hamlet showed himself to be intelligent, making himself a distraction for everyone by pretending to be insane. In addition, he was able to deduce that Polonius was telling his daughter, Ophelia, to deny any access to her. He was greatly paranoid of the king attempting to kill him, getting the letter Claudius gave to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when going to England. Despite this, he does, however, fall into madness as the play goes on (notably killing Polonius on accident). His tragic flaw is indecisiveness, being unable to make a complete decision until its too late. A great example is waiting to avenge his father's death, causing everyone around him to see him as mad.


Or, if thou wit needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them.
~ Hamlet to Ophelia.
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.
~ Hamlet inspecting Yorick's skull.


           Green-shakespeare Shakespeare Heroes

Romeo and Juliet: Romeo Montague | Juliet Capulet | Mercutio
Hamlet: Prince Hamlet | Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Queen Titania | King Oberon | Puck
Macbeth: Macduff | King Malcolm
Othello: Othello | Desdemona | Cassio
The Tempest: Prospero | Ariel | Miranda | Gonzalo

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