Hamlet Characters

Hamlet The prince of Denmark, son of Gertrude, nephew of Claudius, and heir to the throne. He loves and later destroys Ophelia. His mother’s marriage to Claudius makes him mistrust and even hate all women. He is so complex that even he doesn’t understand himself.
Claudius Hamlet’s uncle and usurper to the throne of Denmark. Power-hungry and lustful, he murdered his brother and married his widow.
Gertrude Hamlet’s mother. Married her husband’s brother. Though she is a good woman and loving mother, she is weak-willed and unable to control her personal passions; her quick marriage confounds her son.
Polonius The Lord Chamberlain of Denmark, and father to Laertes and Ophelia. He loves them deeply and wishes to protect, even to the point of spying on them. He is pompous and long-winded, always careful to be on the good side of power. His advice is often hypocritical.
Laertes Son of Polonius and brother to Ophelia. He is a true big brother, and loves his family deeply. He seeks to revenge the death of his father and sister’s madness. He acts on his desire for revenge where Hamlet mulls it over for five acts.
Ophelia Daughter of Polonius and sister to Laertes. Hamlet loves her and she loves him. She is passive throughout the play. She follows her brother’s and father’s advice; she is torn asunder by Hamlet’s behavior. Even her death is passive. Her song and flowers tell of life not expressed in the play.
Horatio A friend of Hamlet’s from university at Wittenberg. He is Hamlet’s confidante in his effort to take revenge against Claudius. Hamlet values his friend’s self-restraint: He is the character in Hamlet least moved by passion, and the only principal character who survives the carnage of the final scene .
The Ghost The spirit that claims to be Hamlet’s dead father, forced to endure the fires of Purgatory because he was murdered by Claudius in his sleep without being able to ask forgiveness for his sins. The Ghost orders Hamlet to get revenge against Claudius, but spare Gertrude. Evidence in the play suggests that the Ghost really is the spirit of Hamlet’s father, though Hamlet himself wonders at times if the Ghost might be a demon in disguise.
Fortinbras A prince of Norway, whose father, Old Fortinbras, died in battle with Old Hamlet and lost lands to Denmark. Fortinbras the younger seeks to revenge his father’s death and retake the lost lands. He is persuaded by his uncle to attack Poland instead. He has Hamlet’s vote to rule Denmark as Hamlet dies. As another son seeking revenge for his father, Fortinbras offers another “double” of Hamlet.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Friends of Hamlet’s from Wittenberg who help Claudius and Gertrude try and figure out the source of Hamlet’s melancholy.
Gravediggers Two commoners employed to dig the graves in the local churchyard; they discuss whether or not Ophelia’s death was suicide. The first gravediggers trades witticisms with Hamlet.
Yorick A jester at Elsinore in Hamlet’s youth. His only appearance in the play is his skull.
First Player The leader of the troupe of actors who come to Elsinore; Hamlet is familiar with him and he uses the acting troop to catch the conscience of the king.