What is the rising action of Hamlet?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rising action of this play, and most of Shakespeare’s plays, is everything that happens after the first scene or two of Act 1 through the climactic moment, which usually occurs in Act 3.  In the case of Hamlet, the rising action starts in earnest when the ghost actually talks to Hamlet and reveals the truth about his murder by Claudius and commands him to seek revenge for the foul crime.  From then on, the play builds:  Hamlet starts to act crazy in order to try to prove Claudius’s guilt; Ophelia is used by Polonius and Claudius in attempt to determine what is wrong with Hamlet; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are summoned, and fail to discover anything about Hamlet; the Players arrive and plan to enact The Murder of Gonzago for Hamlet, so that Hamlet can try to “catch the conscience of the King.”  Once Hamlet knows the truth and yet fails to kill Claudius when he had the chance (while Claudius is at prayer), the play moves into falling action and actually picks up speed to bring us the dramatic conclusion, with 8 people in total dead by the end of the story.