On a cold night on the ramparts of Elsinore, the Danish royal castle, the sentries Bernardo and Marcellus discuss a ghost resembling the late King Hamlet which they have recently seen, and bring Prince Hamlet's friend Horatio as a witness.
After the ghost appears again, the three vow to tell Prince Hamlet what they have witnessed.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tell Hamlet that they have brought along a troupe of actors that they met while traveling to Elsinore.
Hamlet, after welcoming the actors and dismissing his friends-turned-spies, asks them to deliver a soliloquy about the death of King Priam and Queen Hecuba at the climax of the Trojan War.
As he enters to do so, the king and queen finish welcoming Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two student acquaintances of Hamlet, to Elsinore.
William Shakespeare Hamlet Essay
The royal couple has requested that the students investigate the cause of Hamlet's mood and behaviour.
When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive, Hamlet greets his "friends" warmly but quickly discerns that they are spies.
Hamlet becomes bitter, admitting that he is upset at his situation but refusing to give the true reason why, instead commenting on "what a piece of work" humanity is.
In the 400 years since its inception, the role has been performed by numerous highly acclaimed actors in each successive century.
Three different early versions of the play are extant: the First Quarto (Q1, 1603); the Second Quarto (Q2, 1604); and the First Folio (F1, 1623).