On the occasion of his father's death, Prince Hamlet, heir to the throne in the Kingdom of Denmark, returns to Elsinore Castle from his university studies in Wittenberg. The king has died unexpectedly from the effects of a snakebite, and his brother Claudius now sits on the throne.

Claudius publicly mourns his brother's death, but at the same time rejoices in his quick marriage to Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. Hamlet is shocked and disgusted that his mother has remarried so quickly to his uncle. Unlike the others, he sincerely mourns his father's death.

One evening, two guards of the castle see a ghost that looks very much like the deceased king. Therefore, they summon Horatio, a friend of Hamlet’s. He can confirm their statements with his own eyes and then informs Hamlet about the event. Hamlet keeps them company during the next watch and meets the ghost of his father. Prince Hamlet learns from his father’s ghost that he was poisoned cold-bloodedly by Claudius while he slept. The ghost demands that Hamlet take revenge on the murderous criminal, but at the same time asks him to spare his mother.

Hamlet then decides to pretend to be insane in order to carry out his revenge plan undisturbed, and begins to utter seemingly incoherent and ambiguous sentences. He can confide in no one but his college friend Horatio. His beloved Ophelia has been urged by her brother Laertes and her father Polonius to stay away from him. They do not believe that his vows of love to her were ever sincere.

The chief counselor Polonius thinks that ...

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