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Synopsis

Synopsis of S4K's Hamlet, including (Song Titles).

It is past midnight on a cold and misty night on the battlements of Elsinore castle, and two guards are nervously keeping watch (Opening - The Ghost on the Battlements). There is talk of invasion from the Norwegian forces of Young Prince Fortinbras, but there is another reason for their unease: for the previous two nights a Ghost has appeared on the castle battlements. The guards believe its appearance heralds bad news for the kingdom of Denmark.

A disbelieving Horatio arrives to see the apparition for himself. The Ghost appears again and as it looks so much like that of the recently-deceased King Hamlet, Horatio decides to tell his friend Prince Hamlet, the King's son, about the vision.

In the Court of Elsinore castle, the recently-crowned Claudius, Prince Hamlet's uncle, addresses the council about the death of old King Hamlet, his marriage to the dead king's wife, Gertrude, and the threat of possible invasion from Norway. But Hamlet broods over the death of his father and his mother's hasty marriage. Claudius proclaims Hamlet Crown Prince of Denmark as his mother pleads with him to stay in Elsinore and not to rush back to university in Wittenberg (The Court of Elsinore). Horatio and the guards tell Hamlet about the ghostly vision of the dead king and Hamlet vows to stay up to meet it.

Laertes, who is leaving to return to Paris university, tells his sister Ophelia to stay away from the loving advances of Hamlet. Polonius, the King's counsellor and Laertes' father, gives his son some fatherly advice (To Thine Own Self Be True).

Hamlet meets his father's Ghost (The Ghost on the Battlements) who tells him that he was murdered by Claudius and demands revenge. Hamlet decides to pretend to be mad to act as a cover while he tries to investigate his father's death.

Ophelia is shocked and upset by Hamlet's behaviour, but Polonius thinks it is due to his daughter's rejection of the Prince. Claudius is concerned and summons two of Hamlet's close friends from university, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to spy on him (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern). Claudius and Polonius overhear Hamlet talking crazily to Ophelia and conclude that he must be mad. Claudius decides to send him away to England.

A company of actors arrive at Elsinore to perform a play, and as they rehearse Hamlet is moved by the brilliance of the actors' skills (A Rogue and Peasant Slave). Their ability to portray so many different emotions gives Hamlet an idea to prove Claudius's guilt: he will get the troupe to perform a version of a play that closely resembles the murder of his father, while he and Horatio will observe Claudius's reaction. Hamlet rehearses with the actors (Hamlet's Advice to the Players) and then he and Horatio watch Claudius during the show (The Mousetrap).

Claudius becomes extremely agitated and storms out of the performance convincing both Horatio and Hamlet of Claudius's guilt.

Hamlet is summoned to his mother's room to explain his behaviour and passes Claudius who is kneeling in prayer for forgiveness (What Have I Done?). Hamlet decides against killing Claudius while he is praying in case his soul travels to heaven. In a meeting with Gertrude he argues violently with his mother. Polonius is hiding behind a curtain and is stabbed to death by an angry Hamlet (What Have I Done? - reprise). Claudius, realising he is in danger, sends Hamlet to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern along with secret instructions for Hamlet's execution. Hamlet finally makes up his mind to revenge his father's murder (What is a Man?).

Meanwhile Ophelia has been driven out of her mind by her father's death (Ophelia's Lament). An angry Laertes has returned from Paris vowing to kill his father's murderer. Claudius and Laertes plot to find a way to kill Hamlet without any suspicion falling on them. Gertrude brings news that Ophelia has drowned.

Hamlet has managed to escape from his captors and returns to Elsinore with Horatio. He meets two men digging a grave (The Gravediggers' Duet - Just Dig!). Hamlet is shocked to find that the grave is for Ophelia and he confronts Laertes and fights him at the graveside. Claudius announces that the two should settle their argument in a duel and as an extra smokescreen places a bet on Hamlet to win. Hamlet tells Horatio how he escaped and what has happened to his two former companions (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - reprise).

The duel begins (The Duel) with Laertes secretly using a poison-tipped sword and Claudius ready with a poisoned drink for Hamlet. Claudius's plan starts to go wrong as Hamlet wins the first two bouts and Gertrude drinks from the poisoned cup intended for Hamlet. Laertes cuts Hamlet with the poisoned tip and in a furious exchange Hamlet manages to cut Laertes using his opponent's poisoned sword. As both men lay dying Laertes confesses and reveals the plan to kill Hamlet. Hamlet stabs his uncle finally revenging his father's death. Hamlet dies in Horatio's arms as Young Fortinbras arrives with the Norwegian army (The Rest is Silence). Hamlet's dying wish is for Fortinbras to restore order and rule the people of Denmark.


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