Act 1, Scene 1
The sudden death of the king and remarriage of his mother Queen Geltrude to his uncle Claudio has shocked and depressed Prince Amleto. Mourning his father, Amleto refuses to join in the coronation at Elsinore. Ofelia reminds him of love’s eternal power. Amleto’s friend Orazio and Marcello, a sentry, arrive, having spied the ghost of the dead king, the three decide to keep watch for him.
At the castle, the ghost appears before the three friends, but indicates his desire to speak to Amleto alone. He reveals that his brother, Claudio, murdered him and took his crown, and he implores Amleto to avenge him. Amleto swears revenge and makes his friends swear to secrecy.
Act 2, Scene 1
In the castle, Lord Chamberlain Polonio, Ofelia’s father, tries to convince Claudio and Geltrude that Amleto’s melancholy is caused by his love for Ofelia. The three withdraw and Amleto enters, meditating on suicide. Ofelia arrives to return gifts he had given her. Feigning madness, Amleto, decries marriage and demands that she renounce worldly love and enter a convent. A group of travelling singers arrives. Amleto asks them to stage a play about a regicide like his father’s, providing a chance to observe Claudio’s reaction.
As the court gathers for the play, Amleto instructs Orazio and Marcello to watch Claudio closely. Amleto calls the play The Trap. As the play progresses, Claudio becomes agitated, while Geltrude admonishes his foolish behavior. At the play’s climax, a horrified Claudio runs from the room. Amleto revels in his success.
Act 3, Scene 1
Alone in his chambers, Claudio is overcome by remorse. Amleto arrives to avenge his father’s death but realizes that, if Claudio is killed in prayer, he will be sent to heaven. Awaiting a better time, Amleto withdraws. Claudio prays, but then recants and exits.
Polonio enters with Geltrude, urging her to calm the approaching Amleto. Polonio hides behind a tapestry. Amleto and his mother argue and Amleto threatens her. Polonio cries for help. Believing Claudio is the one hiding, Amleto stabs Polonio, realizing his error too late. In his delirium, Amleto rails against Claudio. The ghost enters, insisting on being revenged, while Amleto begs for forgiveness. Geltrude, unable to see the ghost, believes that Amleto has gone mad. Amleto withdraws, and she privately confesses her guilt
Polonio’s son, Laerte, enters demanding justice for his father’s murder. Claudio calms him, but they are horrified by the approaching Ofelia, now insane, imagining her father’s funeral. Claudio tells Laerte that Amleto killed Polonio; Laerte swears revenge, and both exit. Hearing the name “Amleto,” Ofelia descends deeper into madness, eventually drowning herself.
Act 4, Scene 1
Two gravediggers prepare for a funeral. Amleto and Orazio enter and banter with one of them. Hearing a crowd approach, they hide. It is a funeral procession bearing Ofelia’s body. Laerte curses Amleto, who then reveals himself. Amleto and Laerte briefly fight. Amleto claims that he loved Ofelia. Claudio urges Laerte to leave, promising a secret plan to dispatch Amleto.
A herald announces that Amleto and Laerte will fence for sport. Laerte assures Claudio that the tip of his sword is poisoned. Amleto apologizes to Laerte, claiming temporary insanity. The two duel and, when Amleto gains a point, Claudio urges Amleto to drink from his cup. He declines, while Geltrude murmurs to Claudio that the cup is poisoned. Amleto gains another point, and Claudio again offers Amleto a drink, but Geltrude seizes the cup, drinks, and faints. Distracted, Amleto is wounded with the poisoned sword. An enraged Amleto disarms Laerte, and using the poisoned sword, wounds him. Laerte confesses that he is dying, a victim of his own undoing, and that Claudio’s cup was poisoned. Amleto stabs Claudio, before dying himself.