Structure and content

Act 1 - Exposition

Shakespeare's "Hamlet" has been divided into five acts of varying length not by the author but by the later publisher. The drama is formally structured like a classical drama, consisting of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and catastrophe.

The first act, consisting of five individual scenes, forms the exposition of the drama. In it, all the main characters are introduced to the plot, and several plot lines and the main conflict that is brewing are foreshadowed. Already in the first scene tension and a premonition of doom are created, as the ghost of Hamlet's father appears in it as a mystical and secretive figure of terror.

The next scene underscores the impression that all is not right in the state of Denmark. Although King Hamlet has only been dead for a few weeks, his wife Gertrude is celebrating her marriage to his brother Claudius - a situation that is difficult for the young Prince Hamlet to bear. No one but he seems to mourn the king's death.

Hamlet's dark premonitions are confirmed in the last scene of the first act. The ghost of his father reveals to him that he has been treacherously murdered by his brother Claudius. He demands revenge from Hamlet whoswears to fulfill this wish. This sets the stage for the main conflict: Hamlet must restore justice within his own family, but first he must be sure that the ghost's claim is true.

In addition to this, two subplots are opened in the first act. King Claudius must work to prevent a military conflict with the Prince of Norway, and Ophelia is urged by her brother Laertes and her father Polonius to stay away from her lover Hamlet in the future.

Act 2 - Plot development

In the second act, which consists of only two scenes, the plot comes to a noticeable head. The court society is greatly unsettled by Hamlet's strange behavior. However, there is still no direct confrontation between Hamlet and Claudius. Instead, both are concerned with spying on the other in a covert manner.

Claudius commissions Hamlet's childhood friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to get to the bottom of his nephew's behavior. He also plans to eavesdrop on a conversation between Hamlet and Ophelia together with his chief counselor Polonius.

Hamlet cannot bring himself to confront Claudius directly. He first wants ...

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