The tragic hero of Hamlet, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, an introspective and isolated figure, is grieving for the recent death of his father the King; he is distressed by the hasty remarriage of his mother Gertrude to the old King's brother Claudius. The Ghost of his father appears to Hamlet and describes how he was foully murdered by Claudius, now King, and demands revenge. Hamlet feigns madness as a way of discovering the truth, but his mental distress is real enough. He turns against Ophelia whom he has previously loved, with obscene insults, and angrily confronts Gertrude whose affection for Claudius disgusts him.
Hamlet becomes increasingly convinced of Claudius' guilt and plans to kill him, but he is confronted with the dilemma of having to commit a murder in order to avenge one. He agonizes over his position, and contemplates suicide. While he delays, events overtake him. He kills Polonius, Ophelia's father, by mistake and is sent away to England by Claudius who is plotting Hamlet's death. The plot fails, and Hamlet returns to Denmark in a different frame of mind. He is saddened to find that Ophelia has drowned herself, but seems ready to accept whatever destiny has to offer him.
Claudius arranges a duel between Hamlet and Ophelia's brother Laertes, but unknown to Hamlet, Laertes weapon is poisoned; in the confusion of the fight both Laertes and Hamlet are killed. Before he dies, Hamlet kills Claudius and finally avenges his father's death. The character of Hamlet derives from the conventional hero of revenge tragedy, but, transformed by Shakespeare, becomes a complex and enigmatic figure. He is the complete Renaissance man, whom Ophelia describes as having a 'noble mind...The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's eye, tongue, sword'. This princely figure is faced with a crisis which forces him to question the reality of the world he inhabits, the nature of responsibility, and ultimately the meaning of life and death itself.
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