Prince of Denmark
Royalty of Denmark
King Hamlet (father, deceased)
Gertrude (mother, deceased)
Base of operations:
King Claudius (uncle and stepfather, deceased)
Kronborg Slot, Helsingør, Denmark
Hamlet was the young prince of Denmark whose father had recently died. His mother Gertrude had married his father's brother Claudius shortly after.
One night, the guards observed a ghost in the castle. They got hold of the scholar Horatio, who tried to talk to the ghost with no success. He did however recognize the attire of the ghost as how the former king was dressed when he defeated King Fortinbras in Norway. After the ghost vanished again, Horatio told Hamlet about the ghost. Hamlet was very interested in the ghost and when it reappeared, he approached the ghost.
The ghost was indeed the ghost of his dead father. He told Hamlet, that he had been killed by his brother Claudius who had poured poison in his ear while he was sleeping in a chair in his garden. Because he had died before he could confess his sins, he was sentenced to Purgatory, and for that he wanted Hamlet to avenge his death before he went down there.
Not sure whether the ghost was telling the truth or not, Hamlet decided to pretend he was insane and try to find out if Claudius really killed his father. Hamlet did succeed in his quest, but at a terrible price. Hamlet set up a play called The Mousetrap essentially recreating Claudius' fratricide. Seeing the play, the uncle confessed the crime and just as Hamlet was about to kill his uncle he realized that the King was begging, confessing his sins to God. Having confessed just before his death would mean absolution from his crimes and Hamlet wanted Claudius to burn in Hell, so he had to postpone killing his uncle.
After the unsuccessful attempt at killing Claudius, Hamlet talked to his mother in her bedchamber. Hidden in there was Polonius, spying for the King. Hamlet heard and spotted the figure, and killed him, thinking it was the king. The death of Polonius drove Hamlet's fiancée Ophelia mad and she killed herself, and her brother Laertes traveled to Denmark from France for revenge.
Hamlet traveled to England, followed by Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, and Claudius tried to have him assassinated there. A letter was sent with Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, asking the King of England to kill Hamlet, but Hamlet got hold of the letter and changed it into a request to kill the messengers, i.e. Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, which he did. Hamlet never got to England. On the journey they were attacked by pirates, and Hamlet went back home, where he met a furious Laertes, bent on revenge and Hamlet's death in a duel. Claudius had a backup plan, if Laertes should turn out to be unsuccessful.
To make sure he won the duel with Hamlet, Laertes poisoned the tip of his rapier. In the duel Hamlet did well but was wounded by the poisoned blade. At the same time, Gertrude was accidentally poisoned by some wine that was supposed to be drunk by Hamlet. In the confusion of the fight Hamlet got hold of both rapiers and accidentally switched the rapiers around, giving him the poisoned blade, and at the same time Gertrude fell to the ground.With her dying breath, Gertrude told Hamlet that it was the wine, and Laertes told him that he would die from the poison on the blade. Enraged, Hamlet slashed Laertes with the poisoned blade now in his possession, and forced the remaining poisoned wine into Claudius mouth, thereby killing him. Laertes died right after, right after forgiving Hamlet for killing his father Polonius.
With his dying breath Hamlet gave a last recommendation. The Norwegian king Fortinbras that was in Denmark with his army after a battle in Poland was to become the next king of Denmark. Hamlet was saluted and buried in a manner befitting a fallen soldier.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Teater: Hamlet Prince of Denmark (around 1600, no exact year)
Movies: Le Duel d'Hamlet (1900)
Comics: Classics Illustrated #99 (1952)
Country of origin:
Hamlet is one of the few instances where the copy becomes more famous than the original. According to some, it is quite likely, that Shakespeare didn't know the original story about Amlet from Saxo Grammaticus. Instead he may have borrowed the story from another story and it should be possible to track the stories back to Amlet.
What makes Hamlet very interesting as a fictional character is that he is only known for this one appearance. Several stories have been made involving Hamlet some way, but there is really only one Hamlet story, and it's been done and redone all over the World for 400 years. Especially the quote To be, or not to be: that is the question
and the scene where Hamlet holds Yorick's skull are famous (and from time to time mistaken as the same scene).
As a character, Hamlet is much weaker than Amlet. This is presumably due to the difference in age of the stories. At the time of Amlet, Hávamál
or The High One's Lay
from the Older Edda was the way of the warrior and hero. This was a time when heroes were strong and cunning men who could fight and take charge. Hamlet on the other hand was a product of Elizabeth I and England at the time. It was Late Renaissance, music and poetry. By the standards of today, and presumably also by the standards of the Edda, Hamlet comes off as a whiner and a real wuss, but at the time it was the only possible outcome of the story. It is important to remember, that by our standards today, Hamlet is considered highbrow culture and the role as Hamlet is one of the most prestigious roles on the scene. Back then, Hamlet was entertainment. Pure and simple. Just like Rambo couldn't be a sensitive guy while fighting evil communists, that job requires gritted teeth, inarticulate grunts and a few remarks, Hamlet just couldn't be a strong and cunning warrior like Amlet. Wrong century and culture. To be commercially successful entertainment, Hamlet had to end like a Greek tragedy, where Amlet and Rambo around 3-400 years before and after had to kill the adversaries and come out alive and triumphant.
With a high status like Hamlet's, the play has been done thousands of times, literally, all over the World, including Kronborg Slot where the story took place. It also meant that Hamlet was transferred into movies when moves were still very new. The earliest record is Clément Maurice's movie Le Duel d'Hamlet
, with Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet from 1900. Earlier movies are possible but not very likely. The status as the best interpretation of Hamlet in movies is mostly given to Kenneth Branagh's version from 1996.
Being a play made for theater, Hamlet had to be turned into other versions to be played in theaters. Francesco Gasparini made Hamlet into the opera Ambleto
in 1705, and in 1788, Hamlet was turned into a ballet by Francesco Clerico, both in Venice, Italy. Like the original play, both the ballet and the opera have been done and redone several times and is still played all over the World.
Like most other classics, Hamlet was adapted as a comic in the series Classics Illustrated
. The story appeared in Classics Illustrated
#99 from 1952. The story has been done as a comic several times since then.