The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1602. Set in the Kingdom of Denmark, the play dramatizes the revenge Prince Hamlet exacts on his uncle Claudius for murdering King Hamlet, who is Claudius's brother and Prince Hamlet's father, and then succeeding to the throne and taking as his wife Gertrude, the old king's widow and Prince Hamlet's mother. The play vividly portrays both true and feigned madness-from overwhelming grief to seething rage-and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption. Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in English literature, with a story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others." The play was one of Shakespeare's most popular works during his lifetime and still ranks among his most-performed, topping the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance list since 1879. It has inspired writers from Goethe and Dickens to Joyce and Murdoch, and has been described as "the world's most filmed story after Cinderella." Shakespeare based Hamlet on the legend of Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum as subsequently retold by 16th-century scholar Fran ois de Belleforest. He may also have drawn on or perhaps written an earlier (hypothetical) Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet. He almost certainly created the title role for Richard Burbage, the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's time. In the 400 years since, the role has been performed by highly acclaimed actors from each successive age. 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. Denmark has a long-standing feud with neighbouring Norway, and an invasion led by the Norwegian prince, Fortinbras, is expected. The play opens on a cold winter midnight on "platform before the castle" of Elsinore, the Danish royal castle. The sentry Francisco is keeping trusty guard when two figures appear in the darkness. He calls out, "Who's there?" and receives answer that it is the other sentry Bernardo come to relieve him. As Francisco retires to bed, he encounters Horatio and Marcellus who are coming to visit Bernardo. Bernardo and Marcellus discuss the recent appearance of a curious intruder which they describe as a "dreaded sight" which they have already bumped into twice on the battlements, but which Horatio is inclined to dismiss as "but our fantasy." Marcellus has brought Horatio along to "watch the minutes of this night" in case the scary ghost appears again to fright. The ghost appears, and is described by the three witnesses as looking like the late King Hamlet. They endeavour to open a conversation with it, but "it is offended" and "stalks away." The three men take this opportunity to discuss Danish politics, noting that Denmark has begun military preparation because Fortinbras has "shark'd up a list of lawless resolutes / For food and diet." The ghost of Hamlet wanders back. When it declines to talk to them they attack it with daggers, but it escapes. Marcellus admits that this was a bad idea: "We do it wrong... to offer it the show of violence / For it is... invulnerable." They decide to tell prince Hamlet that his father's ghost is up and about.