The play's structure and depth of characterisation have inspired much critical scrutiny.
One such example is the centuries-old debate about Hamlet's hesitation to kill his uncle, which some see as merely a plot device to prolong the action, but which others argue is a dramatisation of the complex philosophical and ethical issues that surround cold-blooded murder, calculated revenge, and thwarted desire.
The protagonist of Hamlet is Prince Hamlet of Denmark, son of the recently deceased King Hamlet, and nephew of King Claudius, his father's brother and successor.
Claudius hastily married King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and took the throne for himself.
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).
Each version includes lines and entire scenes missing from the others.
Claudius had murdered his own brother and seized the throne, also marrying his deceased brother's widow.
Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play, and is ranked among the most powerful and influential tragedies in English literature, with a story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others".