Hamlet facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Edwin Booth Hamlet 1870
An actor playing Hamlet.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a play by William Shakespeare. It is one of his best-known plays, and many lines have become famous quotations. The play is often just called Hamlet.

Hamlet was written between 1600 and 1602, and first printed in 1603.

Claudius murders Hamlet's father and becomes king. He marries Gertrude. Hamlet's father appears as a ghost and tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius. Hamlet kills Polonius because he thinks he is Claudius. Laertes decides to kill Hamlet in revenge. He challenges Hamlet to a sword fight, and puts poison on his own sword. Claudius makes some poisoned wine for Hamlet to drink in case that does not work. In the meantime Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine without knowing, and dies. Laertes pierces Hamlet with a poisoned blade, but then Hamlet stabs Laertes with the same sword. Laertes dies. Hamlet kills Claudius. Hamlet tells everyone that the Norwegian prince, Fortinbras, should be king, and then dies.


The characters in the story are:

  • Hamlet, the prince of Denmark
  • Ghost, the ghost of king Hamlet
  • Gertrude, the Queen, prince Hamlet's mother
  • Claudius, the King, brother of dead King Hamlet and now married to Gertrude
  • Horatio, Hamlet's trusted friend
  • Polonius, the royal advisor
  • Laertes, the son of Polonius
  • Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius and Hamlet's girlfriend
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two members of Claudius's royal court, who spy on Hamlet for Claudius
  • Osric, a dandy who appears at the end of the play
  • Fortinbras, the prince of Norway
  • Captain, a soldier for Fortinbras
  • the Players, the "players" or actors who perform for the court
  • the First Player, the leader of the actors
  • the Priest, who conducts a funeral
  • the Gravedigger, who digs the grave
  • a Clown, a foolish man who talks with the gravedigger
  • Cornelius and Voltemand, two ambassadors sent on business by Claudius
  • Ambassadors from England, who appear at the end of the play
  • Gentleman
  • Messenger
  • Sailor
  • The guards who inform Hamlet

Acting Hamlet

Hamlet is one of the hardest parts for an actor to perform. It is one of the largest roles written by Shakespeare. Many people disagree about what Hamlet is really thinking. For many actors, playing Hamlet is one of the most important parts of their career.

Hamlet in movies

There have been many movies made of the play. Most of them show only part of the play, because the entire play is very long. Some of the most famous movies include:

  • 1948 Hamlet played by Laurence Olivier. Directed by Laurence Olivier.
  • 1960 A version made for German television. This version was later an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
  • 1990 Hamlet played by Mel Gibson. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
  • 1996 Hamlet played by Kenneth Branagh. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. A movie of the entire play.
  • 2009 Hamlet played by David Tennant. Directed by Gregory Doran, a three and a half hour Television adaptation for the BBC. An adaptation of the folio text with changes from the first and later quarto's to fit the dramatisation.
  • (2014) Bollywood movie "Haider" directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, where role of Hamlet played by Shahid Kapoor.

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Hamlet Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.