January 19 - April 7

josh innerst american shakespeare center hamlet

Doubt thou the stars are fire; doubt that the sun doth move; doubt truth to be a liar; but never doubt i love.

Hamlet struggles to discern reality from illusion in the rotten state of Denmark as he copes with the loss of his father, his mother’s remarriage, and life’s biggest questions. For centuries, audiences have seen themselves in the remarkable, troubled prince at the center of this ghost story, comedy, seven-murder revenge thriller, and philosopher’s gold mine.

2.5 hours

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Stuff that Happens in the Play
Stuff that happens before the play
  • Hamlet, King of Denmark, dies.
  • Claudius, his brother, is crowned King and marries the dead king’s widow, Gertrude.
  • Prince Hamlet returns to court at Elsinore from studying at Wittenburg University.
  • The ghost of the dead king appears on the battlements twice.
stuff that happens in the play
  • Two soldiers bring Hamlet’s friend Horatio to the battlements where the ghost appears again but does not speak.
  • King Claudius addresses his court and grants permission for Polonius’s son Laertes to return to France, but Claudius beseeches Hamlet not to return to school in Wittenburg.
  • Laertes says goodbye to his sister Ophelia and gets much advice from his father before departing.
  • Ophelia tells her father that Hamlet has “made many tenders of his affection” toward her; Polonius says “do not believe his vows” and tells her to stop speaking with Hamlet.
  • Hamlet goes to the battlements where the ghost appears again, claiming to be Hamlet’s dead father; it tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered the King by pouring poison in his ear.
  • The ghost asks Hamlet to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.”
  • Ophelia tells her father that Hamlet came to her chamber acting strangely after she “did repel his letters and denied his access.”
  • The King and Queen welcome Hamlet’s friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and ask them to discover what’s troubling Hamlet.
  • Fortinbras of Norway vows to keep the peace with Denmark and requests permission to march his army through Denmark to battle Poland.
  • Hamlet calls Polonius a “fishmonger,” greets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and asks them if they were “sent for” or if “it is a free visitation.”
  • Players arrive at Elsinore; Hamlet knows them and requests a performance of The Murder of Gonzago.
  • Hamlet tells the audience that the players will “play something like the murder of my father.” Hamlet will watch how Claudius reacts to the play to know for sure if the ghost speaks the truth.
  • Polonius positions Ophelia where Hamlet will encounter her while Polonius and Claudius hide to eavesdrop.
  • Hamlet questions “to be or not to be.”
  • Ophelia tries to “redeliver remembrances” to him; he urges her to “get thee to a nunnery.” Hamlet gives acting advice to the players; the players perform their play for the court.
  • Discoveries, drowning, plotting, poisoning, and other tragedies ensue.