What is a very short summary (maybe about 25 words) of Shakespeare's Hamlet?

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In order to write an extremely short summary of Shakespeare's longest play, which contains more than four thousand lines, one must exclude important details and simply give a brief description of the plot. The short summary would also exclude many of the intricate details that arguably make Hamlet (the character)...

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In order to write an extremely short summary of Shakespeare's longest play, which contains more than four thousand lines, one must exclude important details and simply give a brief description of the plot. The short summary would also exclude many of the intricate details that arguably make Hamlet (the character) Western literature's first "modern man." A short summary of the play could include a condensed version of the following aspects:

1. Hamlet meets his deceased father's ghost, who tells him that his brother, Claudius, is responsible for his death.

2. Hamlet hesitates to avenge his father's death and pretends to act insane until he confirms that Claudius assassinated his father.

3. Hamlet has actors reenact his father's assassination in front of Claudius and discovers that Claudius did indeed murder King Hamlet.

4. Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius, the king's advisor, while Claudius is plotting Hamlet's death.

5. The entire royal court tragically dies at the end of the play following a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes.

The following is an example of summarizing the play using only twenty-five words:

"The ghost tells Prince Hamlet that Claudius murdered him. Hamlet acts crazy until he confirms Claudius committed regicide. The royal family dies at the end."

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A 25-word summary of the entire play is very difficult.  It's basically two to three sentences.  To give a more modern comparison, that would be like asking someone to write a 25 word summary of the "Avengers" movie.  It can be done; it just won't be really good.  The reason is that simply too much happens to too many characters to adequately summarize it ("Avengers" or Hamlet) with 25 words.

Here goes, though.

"Hamlet finds out from his father's ghost that his new step father committed the murder. Hamlet vows revenge. He starts acting crazy in order to find proof. Hamlet has his step father watch a play with a murder in it.  Based on Claudius's response, Hamlet finds him guilty. Everybody plots to kill everybody else, and everybody winds up dead by sword or poison." 

That's still 63 words.  It's not a great summary because it lacks a lot of specifics.  If you want it shorter, you could try to use the first two sentences and the last sentence.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team