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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Plot Summary

Old Hamlet, King of Denmark, is dead and has been succeeded by his brother. The new king has also married Gertrude, the widowed queen. Hamlet, Gertrude's son, is already distressed by his father's death and the hasty remarriage; when his father's ghost appears to tell him that he was murdered by his own brother, Hamlet vows revenge.

To cover his intentions, he feigns madness. Polonius, councillor to the court, whose daughter Ophelia is all but betrothed to Hamlet, believes that his madness is caused by love. Spied on by Polonius and the king, Hamlet encounters Ophelia and violently rejects her. A company of actors arrives and Hamlet asks them to perform a play, hoping that its similarity to the murder of his own father will force the king to reveal his guilt. Hamlet's suspicions are confirmed. He visits his mother, reviling her for her hasty marriage, and accidentally kills Polonius, who is hiding in the chamber. The king sends Hamlet to England, planning to have him murdered. Laertes, Polonius' son, demands revenge for his father's death. His sister, Ophelia, maddened by grief, has drowned. Hamlet returns and confronts Laertes at her funeral.

The king, meanwhile, has plotted with Laertes to kill Hamlet in a fencing match in which Laertes will have a poisoned sword. The plot miscarries and Laertes dies. Gertrude drinks from a poisoned cup intended for Hamlet, and also dies. Hamlet, wounded by the poisoned sword, kills the king before he, too, dies. Young Fortinbras of Norway arrives and lays claim to the throne of Denmark.

RSC Staging History 1960-2007

1961 RST: Peter Wood
Leslie Hurry (design); John Wyckham (lighting); Alan Rawsthorne (music); John Barton (fights) Ian Bannen (Hamlet), Noel Willman/Paul Hardwick (Claudius), Elizabeth Sellars (Gertrude), Geraldine McEwan (Ophelia), Redmond Phillips (Polonius), Brian Murray (Horatio), Gordon Gostelow (Ghost/Osric), Peter McEnery (Laertes), David Buck (Rosencrantz), Ian Richardson (Guildenstern), Tony Church (Player King), Newton Buck (First Gravedigger), Russell Hunter (Second Gravedigger), Barry Warren (Fortinbras), Clifford Rose (Marcellus)

1965 RST/1965 Aldwych/1966 RST: Peter Hall
John Bury (design), Ann Curtis (costumes); John Bradley (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music); John Barton (fights) David Warner (Hamlet), Brewster Mason (Claudius), Elizabeth Spriggs (Gertrude), Glenda Jackson/Estelle Kohler (Ophelia), Tony Church (Polonius), Donald Burton (Horatio), Patrick Magee (Ghost), Charles Thomas/Michael Jayston (Laertes), Michael Williams/John Bell (Rosencrantz), James Laurenson/Richard Moore (Guildenstern), William Squire/Patrick Stewart (Player King), David Waller (First Gravedigger), Robert Lloyd/John Kane (Second Gravedigger), Charles Kay/John Normington (Osric and Player Queen), Michael Pennington (Fortinbras), Peter Geddis (Barnardo)

1970 RST: Trevor Nunn
Christopher Morley (design); John Bradley (lighting). Alan Howard (Hamlet), David Waller (Claudius), Brenda Bruce (Gertrude), Helen Mirren (Ophelia), Sebastian Shaw (Polonius), Terence Taplin (Horatio), Patrick Barr (Ghost), Christopher Gable (Laertes), Philip Manikum (Rosencrantz), John Kane (Guildenstern), Clement McCallin (Player King), Barry Stanton (Gravedigger), Peter Egan (Osric)

1975 TOP/1976 Roundhouse: Buzz Goodbody
Chris Dyer (design); Leo Leibovici (lighting) Ben Kingsley (Hamlet), George Baker (Claudius), Mikel Lambert (Gertrude), Yvonne Nicholson (Ophelia), Andre Van Gysegheim (Polonius), Sid Livingstone (Horatio), Griffith Jones (Ghost), Stuart Wilson (Laertes), Gareth Armstrong (Rosencrantz/Osric), Christopher Saul (Guildenstern), Bob Peck (First Gravedigger), Terence Wilton (Second Gravedigger/Marcellus), Charles Dance (Fortinbras)

1980 RST/1981 Aldwych: John Barton
Ralph Koltai (design); Mark Pritchard (lighting); James Walker (music) Michael Pennington (Hamlet), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Gertrude), Derek Godfrey (Claudius), Carol Royle (Ophelia), Tony Church (Polonius), Tom Wilkinson (Horatio), Raymond Westwell (Ghost), John Bowe (Laertes), Hugh Ross (Rosencrantz), Gordon Dulieu (Guildenstern), Bruce Purchase (Player King), Raymond Westwell (First Gravedigger), Dennis Clinton (Second Gravedigger), Hugh Ross (Osric), Bille Brown (Reynaldo), Michael Siberry (Fortinbras/Player Queen), Bille Brown/Richard Cordery (Barnardo)

1984 RST/1985 Barbican: Ron Daniels
Maria Bjornson (design); Chris Ellis (lighting); Nigel Hess (music) Roger Rees (Hamlet), Brian Blessed (Claudius), Virginia McKenna (Gertrude), Frances Barber (Ophelia), Frank Middlemass (Polonius), Nicholas Farrell (Horatio), Richard Easton (Ghost), Kenneth Branagh (Laertes), Christopher Ravenscroft (Rosencrantz), Arthur Kohn (Guildenstern), Bernard Horsfall (Player King), Sebastian Shaw (First Gravedigger), Derek Crewe (Second Gravedigger), Andrew Hall (Osric), James Simmons (Fortinbras), Jim Hooper (Reynaldo)

1987 Small-scale Tour: Roger Michell
Alexandra Byrne (design); Chris Parry (lighting) Philip Franks (Hamlet), Richard O'Callaghan (Claudius), Maggie Steed (Gertrude), Tessa Peake-Jones (Ophelia), David Collings (Polonius), Malcolm Sinclair (Horatio), Bob Goody (Ghost/Gravedigger), Michael Mueller (Laertes), David Acton (Rosencrantz), Iain Mitchell (Guildenstern), Mark Hadfield (Osric/Reynaldo)

1988 Tour/1989 RST/1989 Barbican: Ron Daniels
Antony McDonald (design); Thomas Webster (lighting); Claire Van Kampen (music) Mark Rylance (Hamlet), Peter Wight (Claudius), Clare Higgins (Gertrude), Rebecca Saire (Ophelia), Patrick Godfrey (Polonius), Jack Ellis (Horatio), Russell Enoch (Ghost/Player King), John Ramm (Laertes), Andrew Bridgmont (Rosencrantz), Patrick Brennan (Guildenstern), Jimmy Gardner (First Gravedigger), William Oxborrow (Second Gravedigger), Paul Lacoux (Osric), Jared Harris (Fortinbras), Andrew Havill (Reynaldo)

1992-93 Barbican/1993 RST: Adrian Noble
Bob Crowley (design); Alan Burrett (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music) Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet), John Shrapnel (Claudius), Jane Lapotaire (Gertrude), Joanne Pearce (Ophelia), David Bradley (Polonius), Rob Edwards (Horatio), Glifford Rose (Ghost), Richard Bonneville (Laertes), Michael Gould (Rosencrantz), Angus Wright (Guildenstern), Jonathan Newth (Player King), Richard Moore (First Gravedigger), Howard Crossley (Second Gravedigger), Guy Henry (Osric), Ian Hughes (Fortinbras/Reynaldo)

1997 RST/1997 Barbican/1998 Washington and New York: Matthew Warchus
Mark Thompson (design); Hugh Vanstone (lighting); Gary Yershon (music) Alex Jennings (Hamlet), Paul Freeman (Claudius), Susannah York/Diana Quick (Gertrude), Derbhle Crotty (Ophelia), David Ryall (Polonius), Colin Hurley (Horatio), Edward Petherbridge (Ghost/Player King), William Houston (Laertes), Richard Cant (Rosencrantz), Rhashan Stone (Guildenstern), Paul Jesson (Gravedigger), Toby Longworth (Osric)

2001 RST/2001-02 Barbican: Steven Pimlott
Alison Chitty (design); Peter Mumford (lighting); Jason Carr (music) Samuel West (Hamlet), Larry Lamb (Claudius), Marty Cruickshank (Gertrude), Kerry Condon (Ophelia), Alan David (Polonius/Gravedigger), John Dougall (Horatio), Christopher Good (Ghost/Osric), Finn Caldwell (Player King), Ben Meyjes (Laertes), Wayne Cater (Rosencrantz), Sean Hannaway (Guildenstern), Conor Moloney (Gravedigger), Adam Kay (Reynaldo), Hattie Morahan (Gentlewoman/Player)

2004 RST/2004 Albery: Michael Boyd
Tom Piper (design); Vince Herbert (lighting); John Woolf (music) Toby Stephens (Hamlet), Clive Wood (Claudius), Siân Thomas (Gertrude), Meg Fraser (Ophelia), Richard Cordery (Polonius), Forbes Masson (Horatio), Greg Hicks (Ghost/Player King/Gravedigger), Gideon Turner (Laertes), John Mackay (Rosencrantz), John Killoran (Guildenstern), Jonathan Forbes (Osric), Ian Drysdale (Barnardo), Neil Madden (Francisco), Sion Tudor Owen (Marcellus), Trystan Gravelle (Fortinbras), Edward Clarke (Voltimand), Anita Booth (Player Queen), Jessica Tomchak (Lady)

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