What is the sequence of events in Hamlet?

Expert Answers
lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here is a quick overview of the play:

  • A ghost has made appearances at the castle of Elsinore.  It is eventually revealed to the ghost of King Hamlet, Hamlet's father.  The ghost tells Hamlet that he was murdered by his brother, King Claudius.  He expresses his disgust of Gertrude's marriage to Claudius, and he asks his son to avenge his murder.  Hamlet agrees, but wants to find proof of the ghosts claims, so plans to act crazy in order to catch people off guard who might then reveal the truth.
  • Claudius and Gertrude are worried about the changes in Hamlet's behavior.  Hamlet's girlfriend,  Ophelia is also concerned and agrees to go along with a plan to try to find out more about what is exactly wrong with Hamlet.  The king and queen have summoned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to also find out about Hamlet and to distract him from his troubles.
  • A group of player/actors arrive, and Hamlet decides to have them put on a play that recreates the murder of the King by Claudius.  Hamlet hopes to catch the conscience of the king..
  • Hamlet is upset with himself for not acting, but is pleased with the play.  Claudius reveals his guilt!  Hamlet is ready to kill him, but thinks that he praying and decides against killing him then because he doesn't want Claudius's soul to go to heaven. 
  • Hamlet has a lengthy conversation with his mother, trying to point our the error of ways in regards to her relationship with Claudius.  During that conversation he accidentally kills the spying Polonius.
  • Claudius sends Hamlet to England, telling him it is for business, but in actuallity, he intends to have Hamlet killed there.  He wants the threat of Hamlet to be gone.  Hamlet returns from the boat unhurt.
  • Laertes returns to Elsinore wanting revenge for his father's (Polonius) murder.  Claudius uses this to advantage and together they plot the murder of Hamlet.  They plan on a sword fight with a sharpened and poisoned sword, along with a cup of poisoned wine.
  • Hamlet returns to Elsinore to discover that Ophelia has killed herself.  He is devastated.
  • During the final scene, the sword fight, Laertes doesdeliver a fatal cut to Hamlet, but Hamlet unhands that sword and strikes him back.  This prompts Laertes to reveal the whole plot.  In the meantime, Gertrude drinks from the poisoned cup and dies.  Hamlet then kills Claudius. 
  • Hamlet's dying words pass his "election lights" on Prince Fortinbras who has been in the background of the play, plotting to regain lands held by the Danes, but that once belonged to his father.

Hope this helps!



luissuarez | Student

Hamlet gets visited by his father who is now the ghost, he explaims to hamlet that he was killed and hamlet needs to avenge his death. Hamlet loves ophelia but slowly becomes distant from here and this when claudius and gertrude suspect that hamlet has gone mad. Claudius sends polonius, guilderstren and rosencrantz to spy on hamlet at various time os the play. Hamlet accidently kills polonius the returns to england, he then comes back because he has been challenged to a dual by laertes. Claudius and laertes then plan on killing hamlet by killing him a poison tip sword but he accidently stab laertes and himslef and then stabs claudius