Scene from Act III of Hamlet in which King Claudius of Denmark finds himself overwhelmed by guilt at the murder of his elder brother, the late King Hamlet, while watching a play in which a king is similarly murdered by his own blood. The younger Prince Hamlet, who arranged the production of the play to confirm Claudius' guilt in his father's murder, looks on.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601. It is Shakespeare's longest play and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language, if not all of world literature, and has been translated into dozens of foreign languages.

It tells the story of Hamlet, the eponymous prince, who becomes depressed following the sudden death of his father, also named Hamlet, the King of Denmark. He is further distressed by the remarriage of his mother, Gertrude, to his father's brother Claudius, who also assumed the throne upon Old Hamlet's death.

In the play's first act, Prince Hamlet is visited by his father's ghost. The ghost tells the younger Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius, who conspired with Gertrude to marry her and assume the throne. The elder Hamlet's ghost demands that his son avenge his murder.

In plotting his revenge against Claudius, Hamlet, apparently having come unhinged (but possibly only pretending to be so as a diversion) kills a number of other characters, including the king's counselor, Polonius (whose daughter, Ophelia, became Hamlet's love interest until Hamlet rejected her and ultimately drove her to suicide), and two former friends from Wittenberg University who were turned by Claudius to spy on Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Claudius ultimately determines that Hamlet must die, and engineers an assassination attempt at the hands of Polonius' son Laertes (who had led a revolt against Claudius when he learned of Polonius' death and assumed that the king had engineered it) that results in the deaths of Hamlet, Claudius, and nearly all of the play's remaining major characters. The final scene of the play shows the casualties' bodies piled high on the floor of Elsinore Palace.

The question of whether Hamlet was driven to madness by his encounter with his father's ghost or merely pretended to have gone mad to distract his adversaries has been the subject of some lively debate in English literary circles for centuries.

There is a popular but unsubstantiated notion that Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount Saint Alban was the "true" author of Hamlet, if not most or all of the plays commonly attributed to Shakespeare.

Literary comment[]

There are numerous references to Hamlet in the works of Harry Turtledove and Laura Frankos, many of which are included in the list of Shakespearean References in Turtledove's Work. This page should only list the occasions when the play plays an important part in a story itself, and/or the play's content in an alternate history context is slightly different from its OTL form.

Hamlet in The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump[]

Prosciutto was an iconic work of the great playwright Francis Bacon. Among its memorable lines was the observation that "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will."[1]

Literary comment[]

Prosciutto is a type of dish made from pig meat, ergo the pun is prosciutto=ham=Hamlet. The fact that "bacon" is also a type of pig meat adds further depth to the pun.

Hamlet in Ruled Britannia[]

Prince of Denmark was a play written by English playwright William Shakespeare in 1596.[2] It was performed by Lord Westmorland's Men in the years leading up to the English expulsion of the Spanish from England in 1598. The author himself played the role of The Ghost.

The play was wildly popular among English audiences, and was widely considered Shakespeare's greatest work. No less a literary figure than Christopher Marlowe was so impressed by Prince of Denmark that he felt the need to write a new play (Yseult and Tristan) which could rival its greatness--that it put to shame anything Marlowe had previously written.

Hamlet in "We Haven't Got There Yet"[]

In 1606, William Shakespeare was angered to learn that a new play entitled Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead had borrowed liberally from his own Hamlet. Upon seeing it at The Rose, he came to admire its cleverness.

See Also[]


  1. The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, p. 270. The quote originally comes from Hamlet's observation in Act 5, Scene II.
  2. See Inconsistencies (Ruled Britannia).