Penned at the turn of the 16th Century, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is Shakespeare’s longest play. Jam-packed with notions of revenge, characters on the brink of insanity, duels born out of jealousy and literal and metaphorical poisoning of people, this play has turned out to be the most memorable of all Shakespeare plays.
The story is about Prince Hamlet, who on the event of his father’s death returns home expecting a grieving mother, but instead he encounters her already married to his uncle Claudius who has replaced Hamlet’s father on the throne. The prince finds it difficult to come to terms with these new changes. To add to his distress, he comes face-to-face with what he and his friends think is the ghost of the dead king. The ghost informs Hamlet that he was murdered and that he should avenge his death.
Filled with grief, confusion and rage, Hamlet lashes out at people around him including his clueless mother, Gertrude, and his love interest, Ophelia. Polonius, Ophelia’s father and an advisor to the throne, teams up with Claudius to hatch a plan against the prince. On the other end, Hamlet invites a group of players to re-enact the cold-blooded murder of his father in an effort to enlighten his mother about what actually went down. Hamlet also forms a plan with Horatio to take down his uncle and his accomplices. What ensues is a battle filled with tragic deaths and eternal doom.
Although most of Shakespeare’s works are memorable, this one has had a lasting effect on the minds of its audiences owing to the sense of acute melancholy, the overtly-dramatized scenes, immortal phrases like “to be or not to be” and the unforgettable ghost. It has been over 400 years since its creation, but scholars across the world still aren’t done studying and discussing the various elements of the play.
The tragic story of the Prince of Denmark has been immortalized by theater companies and acting troupes all across the world. This Shakespeare play has also been adapted for the screen multiple times over the years, with the Kenneth Branagh version being the most famous one. The play has also been interpreted and translated to a different form of art or story. Ballet companies have developed performances that revolve around the tragedy. The most famous interpretation of Hamlet to date is the Disney movie, The Lion King. Be it in the original form or an adapted version, a live enactment, a reading or a movie, one is sure to find at least one Hamlet or Hamlet-inspired performance happening in at least one theater somewhere in the world.
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