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Privately, however, he remains uncertain of the ghost's reliability.

Soon thereafter, Ophelia rushes to her father, telling him that Hamlet arrived at her door the prior night half-undressed and behaving crazily.

Claudius hastily married King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and took the throne for himself.

Denmark has a long-standing feud with neighboring Norway, in which King Hamlet slew King Fortinbras of Norway in a battle some years ago.

More recently, psychoanalytic critics have examined Hamlet's unconscious desires, while feminist critics have re-evaluated and attempted to rehabilitate the often maligned characters of Ophelia and Gertrude.

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.

He almost certainly wrote his version of the title role for his fellow actor, Richard Burbage, the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's time.

As the court gathers the next day, while King Claudius and Queen Gertrude discuss affairs of state with their elderly adviser Polonius, Hamlet looks on glumly.

Hamlet feigns madness but subtly insults Polonius all the while.

When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive, Hamlet greets his "friends" warmly, but quickly discerns that they are spies.

Three different early versions of the play are extant: the First Quarto (Q1, 1603); the Second Quarto (Q2, 1604); and the First Folio (F1, 1623).

Each version includes lines and entire scenes missing from the others.

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The forces that Fortinbras had conscripted to march against Denmark will instead be sent against Poland, though they will pass through a portion of Denmark to get there.

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