William Shakespeare

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Hamlet Characters

Read our modern English translation.


Prince of Denmark, son of the late King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude, and nephew and stepson to Claudius. Hamlet is one of the most famous figures in Western literature, and, in the world… (read full character analysis)


Hamlet’s uncle and stepfather, and the new King of Denmark. After the death of Hamlet’s father and Claudius’s brother, the former king, Claudius married his brother’s wife, Gertrude, and assumed the throne of… (read full character analysis)


Hamlet’s mother, Claudius’s wife, and the Queen of Denmark. One of only two female characters in the play (along with Ophelia), Gertrude’s arc throughout the drama is perhaps most representative of the… (read full character analysis)


A councilor, or advisor, to Claudius, and the father of Ophelia and Laertes. Polonius is a verbose, faltering old man whose servile devotion to Claudius renders him slimy, untrustworthy, and pathetic in the… (read full character analysis)


Polonius’s daughter, Laertes’ sister, and Hamlet’s lover. Along with Gertrude, Ophelia is the only other female character in the play, Ophelia’s actions and trajectory are unfortunately defined by the men around… (read full character analysis)
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The Ghost

An otherworldly presence that visits Hamlet early on in the play. The ghost appears to Hamlet as his father, though alternate readings of the play allow for the possibilities that the ghost may be a… (read full character analysis)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

A pair of Hamlet’s old school friends whom Claudius summons to Elsinore in order to help determine the source of Hamlet’s madness. After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern admit to Hamlet’s suspicions that they were recruited… (read full character analysis)


Ophelia’s brother and Polonius’s son. A student at a university in France, Laertes is gallant, worldly, hotheaded, and obsessed with his family’s honor. In hopes of avenging Polonius and Ophelia’s deaths, Laertes conspires… (read full character analysis)


Hamlet’s closest friend and most trusted confidant. Horatio wants to help Hamlet get to the root of his father’s loss and take vengeance upon his murderer, but as Hamlet descends into inaction, volatility, and… (read full character analysis)


The Prince of Norway. A young leader motivated to conquer foreign lands, make a name for himself, and avenge his father’s death at the hands of Hamlet’s own father, Fortinbras is Hamlet’s opposite in… (read full character analysis)


The deceased royal jester, whose remains Hamlet cradles and plays with after a pair of gravediggers exhume his skull. Hamlet recalls Yorick, in one of the play’s most famous lines, as “a fellow of… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
A foppish courtier whose irritating demeanor and fawning praise of the Danish nobility render him annoying to Hamlet and Horatio.
First Player
The leading player of a troupe of actors who come to Elsinore to perform a play which mirrors the circumstances of Hamlet’s father’s murder. Hamlet hopes this play will provoke a reaction from Claudius and thus allow him to determine his uncle’s guilt (or innocence) in the king’s death.
A pair of gravediggers who unceremoniously exhume Yorick’s skull. Their quippy but deep exchanges about the nature of death, the fate of dead souls and bodies, and the ridiculousness of funerary rites further the play’s existential themes of corruption and death and appearance versus reality.
A Danish soldier and sentinel at the castle of Elsinore.
A Danish soldier and sentinel at the castle of Elsinore.
A Danish soldier and sentinel at the castle of Elsinore.
A courtier and ambassador to Norway.
A courtier and ambassador to Norway.
Servant to Polonius.
A captain in Fortinbras’s army.