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Hamlet: Structure and Plot

  • Page ID
    186677
  • Structure of Hamlet

    As we begin our study of Hamlet, it's helpful to have an understanding of how the play -- and other tragedies like it -- is structured. It can help you anticipate what to expect in each act.

    HAMLET is structured like the traditional plays of the Elizabethan Age with five acts. This structure is:

    Act I

    Introduction

    Presents the setting and main characters.
    Presents the inciting incident (the event) that sets in motion the play's central conflict, or struggle.

    Act II

    Rising Action or Complication

    Develops the central conflict.

    Act III

    Crisis or Turning Point

    Presents a decisive occurrence that determines the future course of events in the play.

    Act IV

    Falling Action

    Presents events that happen as a result of the crisis.

    Act V

    Resolution or Catastrophe

    Presents the event that resolves, or ends the central conflict. (In a tragedy, this event is called the catastrophe because it marks the ultimate fall of the central character.