What's the plot of Hamlet ?

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The plot is what the writer does to turn a story into a work of art.  Thus, different writers could arrange the same story in different ways and create different works of art.  It is the arrangement and interrelation of events in a narrative or dramatic work.  The plot is artificial, or designed.  It serves as the framework for whatever else the writer wants to do, such as reveal theme or characterization.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the story is simple in itself:  a prince is charged with avenging his father's murder, and he eventually does so.  Hamlet is charged by the Ghost of his father to kill Claudius, and he does so at the conclusion of the play.

Complications arise, however, to make a simple story an extremely complex plot and drama.  Complication, of course, is one aspect of conflict.

In short, the major plot points of the play, if you need those, are:

  • The Ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius killed his father.
  • Hamlet is unsure of the identity and honesty of the Ghost.
  • Hamlet becomes convinced that the Ghost is telling him the truth.
  • Hamlet has an opportunity to kill Claudius and avenge his father's murder while Claudius is praying, but decides not to, because he doesn't want to kill him while his soul is clean from sin.
  • Hamlet mistakenly kills Polonius.
  • Hamlet duels Laertes and everything is revealed and Hamlet kills Claudius, but others die as well.

Those might be the major plot points of the drama.  Of course, listing points doesn't really do a plot justice.  For instance, Hamlet's state of mind and his thought processes are an essential part of the plot and interrelate with all of the above mentioned points, though they might not make it on to a list like the one I've given above. 

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