Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


This article refers to Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the tragedy by William Shakespeare. For other uses of the word hamlet see Hamlet (disambiguation).

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, a tragedy by William Shakespeare, one of his most well-known and oft-quoted plays.

Written between 1598 and the summer of 1602, this masterpiece of Elizabethan theatre first appeared in print in 1603 in a version known as the Bad Quarto, a pirated version with no authority. The authorised Second Quarto (Q2) followed shortly after the first, while a slightly altered and reduced version was published in the First Folio of Shakespeare's complete works. See Folios and Quartos (Shakespeare). The text in modern editions is a compromise between the Second Quarto text and the Folio text.

The play concerns the dilemma of prince Hamlet, whose father, King of Denmark, has recently died. Hamlet's uncle Claudius has taken the throne of Denmark following the King's death, and immediately married the widowed Queen of Denmark.

Hamlet expresses a profound dissatisfaction with the accession of the mediocre Claudius and particularly with his mother's hasty remarriage. Hamlet soon encounters the ghost of his dead father, who informs him that he was murdered by Claudius, and urges Hamlet to avenge him.

In theatre, Hamlet is possibly the most often produced work, in almost every western country, and it is considered a crucial test for mature actors; notably Hamlet's soliloquy (Act Three, Scene One), the most popular passage of this play, is so well known that it has become a stumbling-block for many modern actors. Depressed by events surrounding his uncle's apparent murder, he seems to contemplate suicide, then waxes philosophical on why people choose to live on despite the hardships of life.

The core of the plot in Hamlet, the disinherited Prince's plan of revenging his father's murder by feigning madness, is found in the Gesta Danorum by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus. A more immediate source, however, is the Histoires Tragiques de François de Belleforest (Paris, 1570). Belleforest was dependent on Saxo. However, an earlier version of Hamlet definitely existed, and a brief line from it was quoted by the pamphleteer and playwright Thomas Nashe. This earlier play has not survived, but the highly unusual structure of Shakespeare's play suggests that he at least began by revising an earlier play. Thomas Kyd has most frequently been suggested as the author of this lost Ur-Hamlet, but some scholars have suggested that Shakespeare himself might have written it at the beginning of his career.

External links


According to the Internet Movie Database there have been 22 theatrical movies with the simple title Hamlet plus another 16 with that title that were made for TV. Another 50 productions have included this name as part of the title or have used a foreign language variation of the name.

The first such movie, Le Duel d'Hamlet, was produced and directed by Clément Maurice in France in 1900, and starred Sarah Bernhardt (reprising her stage role) as Hamlet. Pierre Magnier played Laertes.

1948: Hamlet, directed by Laurence Olivier

Received four Academy Awards

Best Picture - Laurence Olivier producer
Best Actor - Laurence Olivier as Hamlet
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White - Roger K. Furse
Best Art Direction, Set Decoration, Black-and-White - Carmen Dillon and Roger K. Furse

It was nominated for a further three awards

Best Director - Laurence Olivier
Best Supporting Actress - Jean Simmons as Ophelia
Best Music Score - William Walton

Notable other appearances include Patrick Troughton as the player king, Stanley Holloway as the gravedigger, Peter Cushing as Osric, Felix Aylmer as Polonius, Terence Morgan as Laertes, John Gielgud as the uncredited voice of the ghost, and Christopher Lee as an uncredited spear carrier.

1969: Hamlet, directed by Tony Richardson
Claudius played by Anthony Hopkins

1990: Hamlet, directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Hamlet played by Mel Gibson, Gertude played by Glenn Close

1996: Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh
A "full text" version, this movie runs in excess of 3 hours.
Hamlet played by Kenneth Branagh

2000: Hamlet, directed by Michael Almereyda
Set in modern Manhattan

Disney's Lion King and Hamlet share many parallels, notably the murder of a king by his brother.