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Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, a tragedy by William Shakespeare, one of his most well-known and oft-quoted plays.

Written between 1598 and the summer of 1602, this masterpiece of Elizabethan theater first appeared in print in 1603 in a version known as First Quarto, a pirated version with no authority. The authorised Second Quarto followed shortly after the first, while a slightly altered and reduced version was published in the First Folio of Shakespeare's complete works. See Folios and Quartos (Shakespeare).

The play concerns the moral and psychological dilemma of Hamlet, whose father has been murdered by his uncle, Claudius. Claudius took the throne of Denmark following the King's death and in the younger Hamlet's absence, as well as married and bedded Hamlet's mother, Gertrude.

In theatre, Hamlet is perhaps the most often produced work, in almost every western country, and it is considered a crucial test for mature actors; notably Hamlet's soliloquy (Act Three, Scene One), the most popular passage of this play, is so well known that it allows the public to immediately evaluate the actor's capabilities. The To be or not to be, that is the question verses will expose to general evidence virtues and faults of the interpreter.

The core of the plot in Hamlet: the disinherited Prince's plan of revenging his fathers's murder by feigning madness, is found in the Gesta Danorum by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus. Shakespeare's immediate source, however, is the Histoires Tragiques de François de Belleforest (Paris, 1570), who was dependent on Saxo. Of the names of the characters, only Hamlet and Gertrude derive from Saxo; the remainder seem to be Shakespeare's own invention.

Thomas Kyd is believed to have written a lost Hamlet, which Shakespeare knew.

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According to the Internet Movie Database (http://us.imdb.com/Tsearch?title=hamlet&restrict=Movies+and+TV) there have been 22 movies with the simple title Hamlet plus another 16 with that title that were made for TV. Another 50 productions have included this name as part of the title or have used a foreign language variation of the name.

The first such movie, Le Duel d'Hamlet, was produced and directed by Clément Maurice[?] in France in 1900, and starred Sarah Bernhardt (reprising her stage role) as Hamlet. Pierre Magnier[?] played Laertes.

1948: Hamlet, directed by Laurence Olivier

Received four Academy Awards

Best Picture - Laurence Olivier producer
Best Actor - Laurence Olivier as Hamlet
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White - Roger K. Furse[?]
Best Art Direction, Set Decoration, Black-and-White - Carmen Dillon[?] and Roger K. Furse

It was nominated for a further three awards

Best Director - Laurence Olivier
Best Supporting Actress - Jean Simmons as Ophelia
Best Music Score - William Walton

Notable other appearances include Patrick Troughton as the player king, Stanley Holloway as the gravedigger, Peter Cushing as Osric, Felix Aylmer[?] as Polonius, Terence Morgan[?] as Laertes, John Gielgud as the uncredited voice of the ghost, and Christopher Lee as an uncredited spear carrier.

1969: Hamlet[?], directed by Tony Richardson

Claudius played by Anthony Hopkins

1990: Hamlet, directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Hamlet played by Mel Gibson, Gertude played by Glenn Close

1996: Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh

A "full text" version, this movie runs in excess of 3 hours.
Hamlet played by Kenneth Branagh

2000: Hamlet, directed by Michael Almereyda[?]

Set in modern Manhattan

A hamlet is also a small inhabited place. While it is generally an unofficial term, in New York State and the Northwest Territories there are officially-designated municipalities, generally smaller than villages, classified as hamlets.

There is also a place in the State of North Carolina named Hamlet: see Hamlet, North Carolina.

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