The protagonist of Hamlet is Prince Hamlet of Denmark, son of the recently deceased King Hamlet, and nephew of King Claudius, his father's brother and successor.
Claudius hastily married King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and took the throne for himself.
Additional news requires that Polonius wait to be heard: messengers from Norway inform Claudius that the King of Norway has rebuked Prince Fortinbras for attempting to re-fight his father's battles.
The forces that Fortinbras had conscripted to march against Denmark will instead be sent against Poland, though they will pass through Danish territory to get there.
Learning of the ghost from Horatio, Hamlet resolves to see it himself.
Polonius's daughter, Ophelia, admits her interest in Hamlet, but Laertes warns her against seeking the prince's attention, and Polonius orders her to reject his advances.Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and is considered among the most powerful and influential works of world literature, with a story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others".The story of Shakespeare's Hamlet was derived from the legend of Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum, as subsequently retold by the 16th-century scholar François de Belleforest.Polonius tells Claudius and Gertrude his theory regarding Hamlet's behaviour and speaks to Hamlet in a hall of the castle to try to uncover more information.Hamlet feigns madness but subtly insults Polonius all the while.As he enters to do so, the king and queen finish welcoming Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two student acquaintances of Hamlet, to Elsinore.The royal couple has requested that the students investigate the cause of Hamlet's mood and behaviour.Denmark has a long-standing feud with neighbouring Norway, in which King Hamlet slew King Fortinbras of Norway in a battle some years ago.Although Denmark defeated Norway and the Norwegian throne fell to King Fortinbras's infirm brother, Denmark fears that an invasion led by the dead Norwegian king's son, Prince Fortinbras, is imminent.Each version includes lines and entire scenes missing from the others.The play's structure and depth of characterisation have inspired much critical scrutiny.