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Hamlet Act Summaries

Act I

Bernardo comes to relieve watchman Francisco. They can’t see each other because it’s too dark. They get ready to go to bed. Then Marcellus comes out. He’s another watchman. Horatio also comes out. He is a friend of Hamlet. The guards tell Horatio to stay with them because they say that they have something to show him. They say that the ghost of king hamlet is walking around. Horatio doesn’t believe them and then the ghost appears. The ghost won’t talk to them. He says that the ghost will only speak to Hamlet. The morning after, claudius gives a speech. He says that he has just married Gertrude. Laertes says that he wants to return to france. Claudius asks why hamlet is sad. He tells him to be happier but hamlet says he can’t. They say Hamlet can’t go off to school. Hamlet asks why Horatio has left the school to travel to Denmark. They tell him he has seen his father’s ghost. Laertes prepares for France. He says bye to Ophelia and tells her not to go after Hamlet. Polonius enters and tells him he has to go. He tells him how to act in France. Ophelia says she will do what he says. Hamlet then goes to hang out with Horatio and Marcellus and wait for the ghost. Hamlet then calls out to the ghost. He is then alone with the ghost. Hamlet isn’t sure if the ghost is his father’s spirit. Horatio and Marcellus follow after Hamlet and the ghost. In the dark, the ghost talks to Hamlet. He says he’s his father’s spirit. He tells him that he was murdered. He tells him that claudius killed him. He tells him not to hurt his mother, though. He says he will obey the ghost. They ask Hamlet what was going on. He doesn’t tell them. He tells them that he may act crazy but it’s just an act.

Act II

Polonius tells his servant to go to France with money and a note for Laertes. He also says to spy on Laertes. Ophelia comes in and is upset. Hamlet apparently was mean to her. Polonius said that he’s just madly in love with her. Everyone is worried about how crazy Hamlet is being. They all think he can’t recover from his father’s death. Polonius says that Hamlet is madly in love with Ophelia. They come up with a plan to spy on Hamlet. Then the players in the play come in and they talk and Hamlet does a speech. Then Hamlet says that “the play will catch the conscience of the king”.


Claudius and Gertrude discuss Hamet’s behavior. They don’t know why he’s sad. Hamlet comes in and he’s wondering whether he should commit suicide. He doesn’t know if living is worth it. Then he sees Ophelia. He goes over to her and calls her terrible things and is very mean to her. The king and Polonius emerge from behind the tapestry. He says that it was not his love for Ophelia that made him mad. That evening they have a play. Hamlet talks to the players how to act. Horatio and Hamlet say that they are going to watch the king’s face during the play. Hamlet makes Ophelia uncomfortable with a bunch of erotic puns. The actors come in and act out a silent version of the play that’s really short and silent. Then the players to a full play. Hamlet keeps a running commentary about what’s going on. And he continues to tease Ophelia. Claudius cries out when the murder happens in the play. Claudius is badly shaken by the play. He now thinks that Hamlet is dangerous. The two agree and leave to make preparations. Polonius enters and tells the king of his plan to hide in Gertrude’s room and observe Hamlet’s fight with her. He promises to tell Claudius all that he learns. When Polonius leaves, the king is alone, and he immediately expresses his guilt and grief over his sin. Hamlet comes in and has the chance to kill him but he doesn’t because he knows that he will not go to hell if he is killed while praying. They wait in the queen’s room for Hamlet. Hamlet comes into the room and asks his mother why she wanted to see him. She says she has made Claudius very sad. Then, hamlet hears something and he stabs through the curtain thinking he was stabbing Claudius but it was actually Polonius. Hamlet talks to the ghost but nobody else can see it so they think he’s crazy. He knows he has to kill Claudius now.

Act IV

After her scene with Hamlet, Gertrude is very scared and she goes to see Claudius. She says she wants to speak with him alone. She tells him what happened. She says they must send Hamlet to England. Hamlet is just done getting rid of Polonius’ body. Others show up and ask what he has done with the body but he doesn’t tell them. The king tells everyone what he wants to do with Hamlet. Hamlet then tells everyone where the body is (under some stairs). Claudius sends Rosentcrantz and Guildenstern to make sure Hamlet boards the ship. Nearby, Prince Fortinbras is leading his army through Denmark on his way to attack Poland. The captain runs into Hamlet and gang and he tells them that he’s doing this because he wants some land. Gertrude and Horatio talk about Ophelia. They say that she should be pitied for what she has gone through. A loud noise goes around the castle. Laertes comes into the hall and is very angry. Ophelia comes back in and she’s really loopy. Claudius convinces to hear his version of what went on. In another part of the castle, Horatio is introduced to a pair of sailors. He gets a letter that says the ship Hamlet was on was captured by pirates. He says he’s coming back. Horatio talks to the sailors and Claudius and Laertes talk about Polonius’s death. He explains what he did and why he did it. Claudius agrees that Laertes deserves to hurt Hamlet. He says that Hamlet has been jealous in the past of Laertes and how he was good with a sword. He says that they should duel. They set up a plan to have him drink some poison. Gertrude tells them that Ophelia has died in a pond.

Act V

In the churchyard, two guys make a grave for Ophelia. They wonder about whether she should even be buried there. One of them speaks in riddles. Hamlet and Horatio watch the grave diggers work. They talk about what the people whose skulls are laying on the ground are like. He asks them about one and he realizes it was Hamlet’s jester. Then the funeral procession for Ophelia enters and Hamlet realizes that it must be ophelia and that it was a suicide and he talks about how much he loved her and how he is so sad. The next day at the castle, Hamlet tells Horatio how he wants to murder Claudius. Osric comes in and tries to make Hamlet look good by agreeing with everything he says but he ends up looking like a fool. Claudius and Laertes fence and the king says that Hamlet will win. Hamlet asks Laertes to forgive him for murdering his father. Then they really start to duel. The king says that if Hamlet wins the first or second hit, he will drink to Hamlet’s health, then throw into the cup a valuable gem (actually the poison) and give the wine to Hamlet. Hamlet hits Laertes but does not drink and Gertrude does and she starts to die. Then, Hamlet wounds Laertes with his own blade and he is thus poisoned. They both are dying and Hamlet then kills claudius and tells Horatio to tell his story as he is dying. Then Fortinbras marches into the room and takes over.