The Ultimate (Unofficial) Guide to Hamlet


Photo by Zeke Williams

Meg Arenz (12) and Ethan Rask (11) both play a Hamlet- Princess Hamlet and King Hamlet. King Hamlet comes back from the dead as a ghost to ask his daughter to avenge him. Photo by Zeke WIlliams

By Emily Price

To be or not to be, that is the question. Or一the real question一 what even is William Shakespeare’s Hamlet about?

The language of Shakespeare, though fairly simple in concept, can be quite confusing and misleading. The Lincoln High School Theatre Department is putting on our rendition, Hamlet, for the first time ever onstage and if you go, you might want to know what is going on.

Lincoln High’s production of Hamlet will debut Thursday April 25th at 7 p.m. Two additional showings will be on Friday April 26th at 7 p.m. and Saturday April 27th at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door, or you can buy one from any cast member.

Here is your ultimate (unofficial) guide to Hamlet, written by me, actress of Rosencrantz in Hamlet.


Before we get into the plot, let’s explain the main characters and their motives. First, you have Prince, or in our show’s case, Princess Hamlet. Traditionally Hamlet is portrayed as a male, but in Lincoln High’s version, she is a woman. Hamlet is around age 17 and is heir to her father’s throne.

Her father is King Hamlet一he doesn’t really do much other than die and come back as a ghost asking Hamlet to avenge his death. His cause of death at first isn’t explicitly known, but it turns out that his brother Claudius killed him

After three months of King Hamlet being dead, Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, marries Claudius. This all may seem okay, right? Until it is explained that Claudius was King Hamlet’s brother, making him Hamlet’s uncle and creating a quite inappropriate relationship.

Photo by Zeke Williams
Delani Young (11) and Meg Arenz (12) portray Ophelia and Hamlet in Lincoln High’s production of “Hamlet”, premiering on April 25, 2019 at 7 p.m. Two more showings will take place the 26th at 7 p.m. and the 27th at 2 p.m. Photo by Zeke Williams

Another character to be aware of is Ophelia, Princess Hamlet’s love interest. Hamlet has made moves on Ophelia before, but Ophelia has not reciprocated those feelings because her mother, Polonius, is against them being in a relationship. Her older brother, Laertes, also warned her that Hamlet was trouble. Hamlet takes her anger out on Ophelia throughout the show even though Ophelia is not the root of the problem.

Two last characters to keep note of are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. These two are college friends of Hamlet that have been called upon by King Claudius and Queen Gertrude to find the root of Hamlet’s recent depression. So that’s all of the main characters, and now on to discussing the plot.

Hamlet is sad and in a mood the King and Queen do not understand. She is sad about her father dying, but Gertrude and Claudius cannot seem to comprehend why Hamlet is still grieving his death.

Following this misunderstanding, there’s a wedding party for Gertrude and Claudius where the majority of the characters are introduced, Laertes goes to France for college, and Ophelia tells her mother about Hamlet’s crush on her (both Laertes and Polonius tell her not to associate with Hamlet because she is bad news).

Photo by Zeke Williams
Meg Arenz (12) pouts as Hamlet while Carl Schack (11) as King Claudius tries to figure out the root of her problems. Tickets for the show are $5 and are available from any cast member, as well as at the door. Photo by Zeke Williams

Claudius and Gertrude bring Hamlet’s college friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on him and figure out what’s wrong, but Hamlet starts to get suspicious of them quickly. On top of all of this, security around the castle has started to notice the ghost of King Hamlet around the castle, and tell Hamlet. She confronts the ghost, and the ghost tells her that he was killed by his brother, the now King Claudius. Thus, Hamlet is feeling a mess of emotions.

Polonius tells the King and Queen that the root of Hamlet’s problems is her daughter’s unrequited love, so they send Ophelia to talk to Hamlet and listen in on the conversation. Hamlet rejects Ophelia and convinces the onlookers that she is, indeed, mad.

An acting troupe comes to entertain the royal family, and Hamlet hatches a plan. She has the actors put on a play that mirrors the way that the ghost of King Hamlet says he was killed by Claudius. If Claudius reacts during the play, then Hamlet would take matters into her own hands. The actors do the play, and when the King is murdered, Claudius storms out. Hamlet now knows with certainty that he did kill her father.

Claudius starts to get nervous, and Queen Gertrude starts to question her husband’s motives. She has a conversation with Hamlet while Polonius spies behind a curtain. Hamlet thinks that Claudius is hiding, so she shoots the curtain, and ends up killing Polonius. The Queen is frightened, and her and Claudius agree on sending Hamlet to England.

Photo by Zeke Williams
Emily Price (12) and Emma Harner (10) play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (respectively), Hamlet’s (Meg Arenz, 12) college friends who spy on her for the King and Queen. Photo by Zeke Williams

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern accompany Hamlet to England. What Hamlet doesn’t know is that they have a letter for her execution written by none other than King Claudius. She expects something is going on, goes through their stuff while they sleeping, and finds the letter. Hamlet switches out the letter with one demanding the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, jumps over the side of the ship, and then rides home on a ship with pirates一this is only the beginning of the craziness.

Meanwhile back at the castle, Ophelia has gone mad due to her father’s death. Her brother Laertes comes back from France and is left to deal with his father’s death and his crazy sister. Ophelia’s madness spirals and she drowns herself. Laertes blames Claudius for his father’s death, but Claudius explains that it was Hamlet who killed him. Laertes is not happy with that, to say the least.

Hamlet returns to Poland, much to Claudius’s surprise. She finds out that Ophelia is dead, which breaks her heart because after everything, she did love her. Laertes challenges Hamlet to a duel, and she accepts. King Claudius decides that is not enough, and during the duel, fills a cup with poison to give Hamlet while she duels. During the duel, Gertrude drinks from the cup intended for Hamlet and dies.

Photo by Zeke Williams
Meg Arenz (12) poses with a skull, an item that is often associated with Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”. Photo by Zeke WIlliams

Hamlet forces Claudius to drink the poison and dies. Laertes covered his blade in poison and gets Hamlet when she is not looking, causing her to die. Everybody. Dies. Except one of the guards, Horatio, who delivers the last lines of the show.

The plot of Hamlet is almost as confusing as the language Shakespeare uses. However, if understood, will keep you on the edge of your seat even if you know how the play turns out.

Trust me, I know that I, Rosencrantz, die at the end every time, but I always root for myself in the end.