The Tragedy of Hamlet Info
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Set in the Kingdom of Denmark, the play dramatises the revenge
Prince Hamlet is called to wreak upon his uncle, Claudius, by the ghost
of Hamlet's father, King Hamlet. Claudius had murdered his own brother
and seized the throne, also marrying his deceased brother's widow.
Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play, and is ranked among the
most powerful and influential tragedies in English literature, with a
story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by
others". The play likely was one of Shakespeare's most popular
works during his lifetime, and still ranks among his most performed,
topping the performance list of the Royal Shakespeare Company and its
predecessors in Stratford-upon-Avon since 1879. It has inspired many
other writers – from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Charles
Dickens to James Joyce and Iris Murdoch – and has been described
as "the world's most filmed story after Cinderella".
The story of Shakespeare's Hamlet was derived from the legend of
Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his
Gesta Danorum, as subsequently retold by 16th-century scholar
François de Belleforest. Shakespeare may also have drawn on an
earlier (hypothetical) Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet,
though some scholars believe he himself wrote the Ur-Hamlet, later
revising it to create the version of Hamlet we now have. He almost
certainly wrote his version of the title role for his fellow actor,
Richard Burbage, the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's time. In the
400 years since its inception, the role has been performed by numerous
highly acclaimed actors in each successive century.