Hamlet - Study Guide
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Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Two night watchmen at the castle at Elsinore have seen a ghost they believe to be the former king of Denmark, the father of Prince Hamlet. The soldiers entreat Horatio, Hamlet's confidant, to wait with them for the ghost's appearance during the night watch. Horatio is horrified by its resemblance to the dead king. The men ask Hamlet to join the watch, and when the ghost appears, it reveals to Hamlet that it is, indeed, the spirit of his father. The ghost informs Hamlet that his father was murdered by Claudius, the current king of Denmark. Claudius, Hamlet's uncle and brother of the former king, has not only usurped the throne of Denmark, but has also taken Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, as his wife. Hamlet vows to avenge the death of his father and says he will put on an "antic disposition" to distract others from his genuine purpose. His indecision and his madness - feigned or real - result in tragedy for himself and all those around him.