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A legendary prince of Denmark, hero of a tragedy by Shakespeare. The story is based on one in Saxo Grammaticus's Historiae Danicae, in which the young prince is opposed to the usurping uncle who has murdered Hamlet's father and married his mother.

In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, adjured by his father's ghost to seek revenge, is torn between hatred of his usurping uncle and love for his mother; in allusive use, his name may indicate not only tragedy but also an ultimately fatal indecision.

Hamlet without the prince a performance or event taking place without the principal actor or central figure. The phrase derives from an account given in the Morning Post of September 1775, of a theatrical company in which the actor who was to play the hero ran off with the innkeeper's daughter; when the play was announced, the audience was told ‘the part of Hamlet to be left out, for that night.’

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William Shakespeare (1564—1616) playwright and poet