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The ghost of Old Hamlet charges him with the task of killing his uncle, Claudius, for killing him and usurping the throne of Denmark. Hamlet is a moody, theatrical, witty, brilliant young man, perpetually fascinated and tormented by doubts and introspection. It is famously difficult to pin down his true thoughts and feelings -- does he love Ophelia, and does he really intend to kill Claudius?


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What follows is an overview of the main characters in William Shakespeare 's Hamletfollowed by a list and summary of the minor characters from the play. Marcellus, Bernardo or Barnardo and Francisco are sentries at Elsinore. Francisco gives up his watch to Bernardo in the opening of the play, and it is Bernardo and Marcellus, who first alert Horatio to the appearance of King Hamlet's Ghost. He is a servant to Polonius.

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The Prince of Denmark, the title character, and the protagonist. About thirty years old at the start of the play, Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius.

A reflective and thoughtful young man who has studied at the University of Wittenberg, Hamlet is often indecisive and hesitant, but at other times prone to rash and impulsive acts. The villain of the play, Claudius is a calculating, ambitious politician, driven by his sexual appetites and his lust for power, but he occasionally shows s of guilt and human feeling—his love for Gertrude, for instance, seems sincere.

Gertrude loves Hamlet deeply, but she is a shallow, weak woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia.

Horatio is loyal and helpful to Hamlet throughout the play. Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her brother, Laertes.

Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered. Passionate and quick to action, Laertes is clearly a foil for the reflective Hamlet. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, calls upon Hamlet to avenge him.

Character list

However, it is not entirely certain whether the ghost is what it appears to be, or whether it is something else. Hamlet speculates that the ghost might be a devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder, and the question of what the ghost is or where it comes from is never definitively resolved.

Courtiers whom Claudius sends to Norway to persuade the king to prevent Fortinbras from attacking. The officers who first see the ghost walking the ramparts of Elsinore and who summon Horatio to witness it. Marcellus is present when Hamlet first encounters the ghost.

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SparkTeach Teacher's Handbook. Metaphors and Similes. Characters Character List.

Hamlet The Prince of Denmark, the title character, and the protagonist. Osric The foolish courtier who summons Hamlet to his duel with Laertes.

Voltimand and Cornelius Courtiers whom Claudius sends to Norway to persuade the king to prevent Fortinbras from attacking. Marcellus and Bernardo The officers who first see the ghost walking the ramparts of Elsinore and who summon Horatio to witness it. Francisco A soldier and guardsman at Elsinore. Next section Hamlet.

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