Period written: 1600-1601
First known performance: Unknown
Number of lines: 4024
Total Characters: 33
Folios: Folio 1 (1632), Folio 2 (1632) , Folio 3 (1663-4), Folio 4 (1685)
Quartos: Quarto 1 (1603) (Considered a "bad quarto"), Quarto 2 (1604-5), Quarto 3 (1611), Quarto 4 (1622), Quarto 5 (1637)
Guarding the castle at Elsinore, Marcellus and Barnado tell Horatio that they have seen the ghost of the dead King Hamlet. The ghost reappears, and they decide they must tell the dead king’s son, Hamlet, about it. Hamlet is present at a reception being given by his uncle Claudius, who has just married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. Claudius is sending ambassadors to Norway to stop a planned invasion by young Fortinbras. He gives Polonius’ son Laertes permission to return to France. Hamlet reflects on the hasty marriage, and learns of the ghost’s visit. That night he meets the ghost, who reveals that King Hamlet was murdered by Claudius, and Hamlet willingly agrees to be the means of revenge. He warns Horatio and the others not to speak of what has happened, even if he should behave strangely.
Polonius bids farewell to Laertes and warns his daughter Ophelia against Hamlet’s courtship. Later, she tells Polonius of a strange visitation by Hamlet, and Polonius reports to the King and Queen that rejected love is the cause of Hamlet’s supposed madness. Hamlet’s fellow-students Rosencrantz and Guildernstern arrive, invited by the King to find out what is wrong. Polonius arranges for Ophelia to meet Hamlet where he and Claudius can observe them. Hamlet reflects to himself on the nature of life and death, then meets Ophelia. They argue about their relationship, and Hamlet, having become suspicious about being observed, tells her she should go to a nunnery. Claudius is convinced that love is not the cause of Hamlet’s behaviour, and decides to send him abroad....