Act I, Scene I
Location: Elsinore. A platform before the castle.
Characters: Barnardo, Francisco, Horatio, Marcellus, Ghost of Old Hamlet.
Events: The guards Marcellus and Barnardo ask a wise friend of Young Hamlet’s: Horatio to join them at night to see a recurring ghost that has appeared at the battlement two nights consecutively, hoping that he will know how to proceed. Sceptical at first, Horatio believes that the rumour of a ghost lingering is nonsense. However, at the exact time as the previous nights, a ghost appears as predicted by the guards and the spirit resembles Denmark’s former king, King Hamlet, who had recently passed away. Horatio witnesses the ghost’s appearance is left stunned. He efforts to make the ghost speak, however, the spirit vanishes when Horatio exerts himself and scares the ghost off with a threat of violence, warning the ghost to speak up and explain itself. Horatio, an educated scholar, discusses the possibility of the incident being an ominous event. He explains that King Hamlet killed Norway’s King Fortinbras in battle recently, and the two Kings had agreed that the victor in battle would claim the loser’s territory, meaning that Denmark had gained Norway’s land. Horatio knows that Denmark’s armed forces have been at the top of their game recently because of King Fortinbras’, son Young Fortinbras, is seeking revenge and plans on winning back his country’s lost land. Horatio decides inform Hamlet, about the night’s events, in hope that the ghost will speak to young Hamlet – his son.
Quotes: “If thou art privy to thy country’s fate Which happily foreknowing may avoid, O speak”– Horatio. This quote shows Horatio’s desperation for clarification on his prophesying of that something dark lies ahead in the future of Denmark.
Act I, Scene II
Location: Elsinore. A room of state in the castle.
Characters: Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes, Hamlet, Voltemand, Cornelius, Horatio, Marcellus, Barnardo.
Events: The scene opens with newly crowned King of Denmark – Claudius’s inauguration speech, where the audience learn that Claudius is the deceased King Hamlet’s brother and Young Hamlet’s uncle. It is also revealed that Claudius has married his dead brother’s wife, Hamlet’s mother Gertrude. The newly crowned King encourages that it is time to leave King Hamlet’s death in the past and focus on the fact that Young Fortinbras is demanding his father’s lost land that now belongs to Denmark. Claudius sends the Danish ambassador to Norway to the new King of Norway to deliver a letter, addressing the issue of Fortinbras pressuring of Claudius returning Norway’s lost land. It is hoped by Claudius that this will stop Fortinbras in his plan of winning back his country’s previously owned territory as Claudius believes that the Norwegian King is unaware of what his nephew, Young Fortinbras is planning. Claudius then shifts his attention to Hamlet, puzzled over the question of why he is upset and bothered. Claudius clearly wants him to move on from his father’s death as he even states that Hamlet is acting “unmanly” due to his ongoing mourning. Gertrude is also concerned about Hamlet and wants him to stop wearing black in the grief of his father, while she has moved on quickly and has remarried. Hamlet becomes aggrieved by his Claudius and Gertrude’s lack of understanding of his grief and he wishes to go back to France to continue with his studies. However, Claudius wants Hamlet to remain in Denmark with him and Gertrude in the “cheer and comfort of our eye.” Once Gertrude begs Hamlet to stay with them in Denmark, Hamlet agrees. In celebration of the fact that Hamlet will be staying in Denmark as well as in the honour of the inauguration, Claudius hosts a party for everyone. As the characters exit, Hamlet remains alone. In a soliloquy, Hamlet reveals that he wishes that suicide was not a sin in the eyes of God. He is disgusted and confused over his mother’s fast recovery of his father’s and her husband’s death and the fact that she remarried in such a short time – and to Hamlet’s uncle and her dead husband’s brother when she loved King Hamlet so dearly when he lived. He releases his extreme anger towards his mother, and this anger he even turns on women in general as he quotes: “Frailty, thy name is woman!” When Horatio, his good friend enters, Hamlet cheers up. Horatio explains the sightings of the previous night. In disbelief, Hamlet is shocked to hear about the event and in hope of connecting with the ghost, Hamlet agrees to stay up that night at the time that the ghost is predicted to appear.
Quotes: “Tis an unweeded garden That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature” – Hamlet. Hamlet uses metaphor and compares his life to an unweeded garden that no one cares for, signifying Hamlet’s feeling of lacking control over his emotional situation.
Act I, Scene III
Location: Elsinore, A room in Polonius’ house.
Characters: Laertes, Ophelia, Polonius.
Events: Claudius’ counsellor, Polonius’, son Laertes, is prepared to leave for on ship to France for his studies as his sister Ophelia comes to say goodbye. During their conversation, it is revealed that Hamlet has been pursuing Ophelia and sending her love letters. Laertes is clearly against the idea of Hamlet and Ophelia being together and convinces Ophelia that Hamlet’s flirting will only continue for a minute before he becomes uninterested. He states that even if his affection was genuine, Hamlet is a slave under his family’s obligations which would complicate any relationship due to his royal responsibilities that need to be prioritised over all things else. Polonius enters and gives Laertes his last blessing as he leaves and Laertes reminds Ophelia not to forget what he has told her. When Laertes has left, Polonius asks what he was referring to, and when he too finds out what is going between Hamlet and Ophelia, he expresses discouragement and the belief of that Hamlet is fooling Ophelia. Polonius is possibly more against his daughter being with Hamlet than Laertes.
Quote: “‘Tis in my memory locked, and you yourself shall keep the key of it.” – Ophelia, promising Laertes that she will keep what he has told her locked her in mind.
Act I, Scene IV
Location: Elsinore. A platform before Elsinore castle.
Characters: Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, Ghost.
Events: Hamlet, Horatio and the guard Marcellus wait at the battlement for the ghost to appear for the fourth time while the coronation party can be heard from the castle. Hamlet discusses his embarrassment of Denmark’s tradition to drink heavily at festivities when the Ghost catches them off guard. Instantly, Hamlet recognises the ghost as his father and in confusion and frustration, he begs for the ghost to answer his questions. The ghost then beckons Hamlet to follow him as if he wants to speak with Hamlet alone. Even though Horatio and Marcellus strongly encourage Hamlet to stay, holding him back, worried for Hamlet’s life and that the ghost may be an evil spirit, Hamlet insists and exits with the ghost. Still concerned for the safety of Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus decide to follow Hamlet and the ghost in secret, just in case.
Quote: “O, answer me! Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death, Have burst their cerements” – Hamlet. Hamlet expressing his confusion to his father, questioning the meaning of his returning from death.
Act I, Scene V
Location: Elsinore. Another part of the platform before Elsinore castle.
Characters: Ghost, Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus.
Events: Hamlet, who followed the ghost in hope of answers is in luck. The ghost reveals that he is the spirit of Hamlet’s father and that Hamlet must listen very carefully to what he has to say. While the whole of Denmark has been told that Old Hamlet had been killed by a venomous snake that bit him in his sleep, the spirit of Old Hamlet unveils to his son that his death was caused by the man that now wears his crown, Claudius. Infuriated, the ghost tells Hamlet, that Claudius poured poison in his ear, robbing him of his life, his crown and his queen all at once. The spirit remarks that though Gertrude acts so virtuous, her lustfulness has led her to replace her devoted husband with “garbage.” The ghost asks Hamlet to seek revenge, without harming Gertrude or corrupting his mind. Hamlet vows to avenge his father’s murder and the ghost vanishes. Soon after the ghost exits, Horatio and Marcellus who had followed Hamlet, enter. Hamlet reveals everything that the ghost said to Horatio and Marcellus in demand that they swear by his sword to keep the information sealed. He states that if he becomes insane in the future, it is no exception to tell anyone about what the Ghost had told Hamlet and makes his two companions swear to keep it strictly confidential under all circumstances.
Quotes: “But know, thou noble youth, The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown.” – Ghost. The spirit of Old Hamlet uses metaphor to portray Claudius to have the qualities of the snake that is believed by the public to have killed Old Hamlet. It also signifies how Claudius has robbed the King of both his life and crown.
“It is ‘Adieu, adieu. Remember me.’ I have sworn ’t.” – Hamlet. Hamlet vows that he will remember what his father has said and this is important as the play will be based on what he has been told by the ghost.
Act II, Scene I
Location: Elsinore. A room in Polonius’ house.
Characters: Polonius, Reynaldo, Ophelia.
Events: In hope of that Laertes is studying his music in France like he is supposed to and in suspicion that he may not be, Polonius sends his servant to Paris to spy on Laertes and find out if he is up to no good. Ophelia then enters and tells Polonius that Hamlet had paid her a visit, unkempt and desperately avid. Polonius regrets having made Ophelia cease her connections with Hamlet as he realises that his initial impression of Hamlet fooling Ophelia, simply mucking about, was false: it seems that Hamlet is truly in love with Ophelia. He rushes to inform Claudius about the incident.
Quotes: “This is the very ecstasy of love, Whose violent property fordoes itself And leads the will to desperate undertakings” – Polonius. Polonius admits that he believes that Hamlet loves Ophelia and remarks on that love is a strong emotion that can cause people to self-destruct.
Act II Scene II
Location: Elsinore. A room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: King, Queen, Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius, Voltemand, Cornelius, First Player (Player King), Player Queen, Player Prologue, Player Lucianus.
Events: To find out the reasoning behind Hamlet’s strange behaviour and endless sadness, Claudius and Gertrude ask Hamlet’s two childhood friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to investigate for them. They agree to talk to Hamlet and they exit to meet him. Polonius then enters to inform Claudius and Gertrude that the ambassadors are back from Norway. The ambassador’s report that Fortinbras was indeed preparing for a war directed towards Denmark, however, King Norway sent out his messengers to stop him as soon as he was informed by Voltemand and Cornelius, making Fortinbras swear to never threaten Denmark again. Now King Norway has ordered him to attack Poland and asks to lead his soldiers through Denmark on their way to Poland, assuring the safety of Denmark. The ambassadors give the King a document for him to sign, that Claudius says he will read through in the near future. Polonius then goes on to explain the relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet and suggests that Hamlet’s love for Ophelia is driving him to insanity. Claudius and Polonius arrange for Ophelia to meet Hamlet while Claudius and Polonius will be spying on them to find out if the prince truly is in love with Ophelia. Hamlet enters, and Polonius finds that it’s clearer than ever that Hamlet has gone insane – he can’t speak any sense. Shortly after, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern approach Hamlet who is thrilled to see them, but soon becomes disappointed when he finds out that their visit has been organised by Claudius and Gertrude. When Hamlet finds out that actors are coming to the castle to perform a play coming to the castle he cheers up as he is fond of theatre. He welcome’s all the actors and we learn that Hamlet knows them well. The play that the actors will be performing the next day, “The Murder of Gonzago,” is modified by Hamlet to have many similarities to the way the murder of King Hamlet has been described by his father’s spirit. To make sure that his father’s claim is valid, he plans to make Claudius sit through and watch the play to discover any signs of guilt.
Quotes: “The spirit that I have seen May be the devil, and the devil hath power T’ assume a pleasing shape. Yea, and perhaps Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds More relative than this. The play’s the thing Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” – Hamlet. Hamlet debates between whether the ghost is the devil in disguise – trying to make Hamlet kill someone who is actually innocent to ensure his damnation; or is the ghost, in fact, his father’s spirit sent from heaven, speaking the truth. He decides to keep a careful eye on Claudius to see whether he acts suspicious, believing that the outcome of his reaction to the play will confirm or invalidate his guilt.
Act III, Scene I: To be or not to be?
Location: Elsinore. A room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Lords, Hamlet.
Events: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report back to Claudius and Gertrude that they were unable to learn the cause of Hamlet’s unhappiness and strange behaviour, stating that as he danced around their questions, they were unable to find the answer. However, they remark on Hamlet’s enthusiasm for the play and that he wanted the King and Queen to attend. This gladdens Claudius and Gertrude and they agree to watch the play later that evening. Alone, Polonius and Claudius arrange for Ophelia to meet Hamlet in the lobby, while Polonius and Claudius hide, intending to spy on their ‘encounter’ to determine if love is causing Hamlet’s suffering mind. Hamlet enters, and throughout a soliloquy, he contemplates the idea suicide in a soliloquy (see quote). In the midst of his thoughts, Ophelia approaches him and obeys her father’s orders by returning the letters and gifts she had been given by Hamlet. In full denial, Hamlet contradicts ever sending Ophelia gifts or letters and ever loving her as he works himself into a rage, lamenting the dishonesty of her beauty, aiming his anger towards Ophelia and women in general. After Hamlet’s exits in outrage, Ophelia questions how such a graceful and noble prince has turned to the opposite. Claudius and Polonius come out from hiding, and Claudius uses the incident as a clarification to prove that Ophelia is not the reason why Hamlet has been driven to madness, still unaware of what’s causing his misery and odd acts. They plan for Hamlet to meet with his mother in hope of him revealing what’s troubling his mind – once again with Claudius and Polonius spying on the two. If this plan does not succeed it has been decided that Hamlet will be sent to England for a fresh start to clear his mind.
Quote: “To be, or not to be? That is the question— Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?” – Hamlet. Hamlet is debating whether it’s better to put up with endless misery or whether to put an end to your issues, all at once. This soliloquy is where the iconic quote and the most well-known line in English literature “To be or not to be? That is the question” is found.
Act III, Scene II
Location: Elsinore. A hall in Elsinore castle.
Characters: Hamlet, Polonius, Guildenstern, Rosencrantz, Horatio, Polonius, King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Lords, Guard, First Player (Player King), Player Queen, Prologue, Lucianus
Events: Hamlet prepares the actors for the play, instructing them on how to act in order to depict the murder of his father, hopefully prompting a reaction out of Claudius. Horatio enters and Hamlet tells him about his plan to watch Claudius’ body language during the scene which illustrates Old Hamlet’s murder. Horatio will be analysing Claudius’ behaviour very carefully as well, and they agree to compare notes when the play is over. When the performance begins, Hamlet insists on sitting beside Ophelia who he speaks crudely and offensively to during the show. The play is opened with a brief summary of the play where a King is poisoned to death and his murderer wins the love of his previously loyal Queen with gifts. The play follows the same plot. When the performance reaches the scene that depicts Old Hamlet’s murder by the now-King, Claudius becomes upset and leaves, bringing an end to the play. As the characters exit, only Hamlet and Horatio remain. Hamlet and Horatio use the King’s reaction as proof that Claudius is guilty and that the ghost was right. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter and explain that Claudius is very angry and that Gertrude wants to see Hamlet in her room. Once again Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to figure out the nature of Hamlet’s distress and madness. Hamlet accuses them of trying to play him like an instrument and it’s clear that Hamlet is annoyed. Polonius enters and orders Hamlet to go and speak to Gertrude. He promises to speak to his mother soon and asks for everyone to leave. Alone he shows his fury towards his mother, and while he plans to speak to her aggressively during their meeting he promises himself not to express his anger through violence.
Quotes: “I will speak daggers to her but use none.” – Hamlet. Hamlet decides to limit his aggression to words only.
Act III, Scene III
Location: Elsinore. A room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: King, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius, Hamlet.
Events: Claudius has prepared Hamlet’s departure to England and instruct Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to leave with Hamlet and keep track of his behaviour. Polonius comes to inform Claudius that he is about to hide behind the tapestry in Gertrude’s chamber to spy on her meeting with Hamlet – once again in an effort to discover what is causing Hamlet’s strange behaviour. When Polonius exits, Claudius, alone, reflects on his sin of murdering his Old Hamlet and while he senses strong guilt for the crime he committed, he can’t admit regret it as the aftermath of the murder served him with the crown of Denmark and his now beloved wife. He tries to pray but understands that asking for forgiveness is hopeless and futile. While Claudius is praying, Hamlet slips in, and given the opportunity he prepares to kill the King, avenging his father’s murder. However, he soon realises that if he kills Claudius while praying, Claudius will go straight to heaven. He draws his sword and decides to wait, resolving to kill Claudius when he is sinning, ensuring his damnation.
Quote: “May one be pardon’d and retain th’ offense?” – Claudius. Claudius feels terribly guilty for his crime after the play yet he does not fully regret the murder of his brother. This makes him wonder if he can be forgiven by God but still enjoy the fruits of his crime – he comes to the realisation that this idea is not realistic.
“Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” – Claudius. The King comes to the conclusion that praying is pointless when he understands that he does not have any reason to be forgiven.
Act III, Scene IV
Location: Elsinore. The Queen’s room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: Queen Gertrude, Polonius, Hamlet, Ghost.
Events: Polonius hides behind the tapestry of Gertrude’s room before Hamlet arrives. Hamlet enters and he and his mother begin to argue, Gertrude angry that Hamlet is upsetting Claudius and Hamlet appalled by his mother’s cold-hearted act of marrying her dead husband’s brother. Afraid that Hamlet is becoming violent, Gertrude cries out for help – and from behind the tapestry, Polonius does the same, worried for Gertrude’s safety. When Hamlet hears the cries from behind the tapestry, he suspects it is Claudius and stabs his sword through the curtain, unknowing that he has killed Polonius instead of his father’s murderer. When he pulls the tapestry to discover that he has killed Polonius, he loses his respect for Polonius and believes that he deserved to die if he snoops around spying in that manner. He continues to verbally attack Gertrude, arguing that she should have never married his uncle and he accuses Claudius of murder. The ghost appears to stop Hamlet from causing any harm towards his mother. He tells Hamlet to refocus on his mission, sharpen his appetite for revenge and keep track of what Hamlet is really set out to accomplish. Gertrude who can’t see the ghost perceives that Hamlet is talking to the dead air and starts to really believe that Hamlet has reached total and full insanity. Seeing her son driven to madness upsets Gertrude, and Hamlet begs Gertrude believe that he is not mad and that he is only pretending as well as he urges her to leave Claudius and regain her conscience. Gertrude promises to help him and keep his secret. Hamlet is then reminded that he is leaving for England, and he states that he has a dramatic lack of trust for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern considering their recent behaviour. He leaves Gertrude’s room dragging Polonius’s’ body behind him.
Quotes: Dialogue between Hamlet and Gertrude:
Gertrude: “Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.”
Hamlet: “Mother, you have my father much offended…”
Hamlet uses wordplay to demonstrate his sanity and also his desire to detach himself from Claudius. He is proving that while – yes – Hamlet did insult Claudius, Gertrude insulted his true father by marrying his brother and killer.
Act IV, Scene I
Location: Elsinore. A room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: King, Queen, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern.
Events: Struck with panic, Gertrude informs Claudius about Polonius’ death. Claudius is afraid that he will look guilty for not restraining Hamlet and believes that Hamlet’s madness is becoming dangerous for the people who surround him, this makes him happy that he will soon be off to England. He sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find the body and bring it to the chapel as he goes to announce the death of Polonius.
Act IV, Scene II
Location: Elsinore. Another room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern.
Events: After Hamlet has gotten rid of Polonius’ body, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern approach Hamlet looking for it. Hamlet refuses to give away the body’s location and accuses Rosencrantz of being a sponge who soaks up the King’s approval, rewards and decisions. Hamlet then asks for them to escort him to the King.
Act IV Scene III
Location: Elsinore. Another room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: King, Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern.
Events: Claudius decides that Hamlet’s behaviour is dangerous, but he does not want to punish him too hard because the people of Denmark admire Hamlet very highly. Rosencrantz enters and reports to Claudius that he can not bring Hamlet to reveal where he has hidden the body. Guildenstern enters with Hamlet who again refuses to share the location of Polonius’ body. He states that Polonius is being eaten by worms and that everyone will be eaten by worms at some point – even Kings. Finally, he reveals that Polonius near the stairs in the lobby and Claudius sends some attendants to collect his body. Claudius demands Hamlet to leave for England earlier than planned and orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to get him aboard the ship to England as quickly as possible. When the characters exit leaving Claudius alone, the King unveils his plan to have Hamlet executed when he arrives in England.
Quote: “Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service—two dishes, but to one table. That’s the end.”
Act IV Scene IV
Location: Near Elsinore. A plain in Denmark.
Characters: Fortinbras, Captain, Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern.
Events: Scene IV in Act IV restores the focus of the play as Hamlet encounters Fortinbras with his army on their way to battle over a piece of land that has very little value. This encounter acts as a reminder for Hamlet. Fortinbras’ determination and will risk his life for such little gain fascinates Hamlet as he has so much to gain from earning his revenge on his uncle – yet he procrastinates and lacks the motivation. This the catalyst acting as Hamlet’s final determination to avenge Claudius, declaring in a soliloquy that from that point on his thoughts are bloody.
“How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on th’ event—
A thought which, quartered, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward—I do not know
Why yet I live to say “This thing’s to do,”
Sith I have cause and will and strength and means
To do ’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me.
Witness this army of such mass and charge
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puffed
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honor’s at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father killed, a mother stained,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep—while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
That for a fantasy and trick of fame
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? Oh, from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!”
– This soliloquy illustrates a turning point for Hamlet’s as he refocuses on what he really needs to do and to get it done.
Act IV, Scene V
Location: Elsinore. A room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: Horatio, Queen, Gentleman, Ophelia, King, Messenger, Laertes, Laertes’ followers.
Events: A gentleman convinces Gertrude to speak to Ophelia, and it’s revealed that her father’s death has driven her mad. Both Gertrude and Claudius are moved by Ophelia’s trouble and orders Horatio keeps a close eye on her. Claudius reveals that Laertes has secretly returned from his studies in France, spreading rumours that Claudius is responsible for the murder of Polonius. A messenger enters to inform Gertrude and Claudius that Laertes has returned to Denmark to overthrow the King and is leading a rebellion against the Danish government. Suddenly the doors are smashed open and Laertes enters enraged with a crowd of protesters who follow him. Gertrude and Claudius try to calm Laertes by acknowledging the death of his father and by the fact that Claudius is not guilty. Ophelia enters, speaking senselessly and Laertes’ fury turns to sadness as he sees his sister who has lost her mind. He grieves for her sanity that has been robbed of her by the death of Polonius. Once again, Claudius begs Laertes to believe in his innocence and he insists that he is mourning the loss of Polonius too. He offers to explain everything that has happened and any redress that Laertes might call for.
Act IV, Scene VI
Location: Elsinore. Another room in Elsinore castle.
Characters: Horatio, Gentleman, Sailors.
Events: A sailor visits Horatio to give him a letter from Hamlet. The letter reveals that Hamlet was captured by pirates on his journey to England and that they have now returned him to Denmark. The letter asks Horatio to escort the sailors to the King and Queen because they have messages for them as well. Hamlet also states that he has information about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and asks for Horatio to come and meet him as soon as possible.
Act IV, Scene VII
Location: Elsinore. A Churchyard.
Characters: King, Laertes, Messenger, Queen.
Events: Claudius convinces Laertes that Hamlet is the one to blame for Polonius’ murder, and explains that he can not punish Hamlet publically due to the Danish people’s and especially Gertrude’s love for the prince. Laertes is encouraged by the King to take private revenge on Hamlet, serving them both. A messenger enters and delivers a letter from Hamlet, informing the two that he has returned to Denmark. Claudius and Laertes make a plan to kill Hamlet discreetly, making it look like an accident. Hamlet has always been jealous of Laertes’ skillfulness in fencing, and Claudius thinks that by arranging a duel between the two Laertes will be given the opportunity to kill Hamlet, by poisoning the tip of his sword with poison so strong, only a scratch with the sword on Hamlet’s skin will be enough to take him out. In case this idea fails to succeed, Claudius will be waiting with a cup of poisoned wine to give Hamlet after the match. Gertrude enters and tells Laertes and Claudius that troubled Ophelia has drowned in a river. Laertes flees the room, anguished from losing his sister so soon after his father’s death.
Quote: “Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, And therefore I forbid my tears. But yet It is our trick; nature her custom holds, Let shame say what it will. When these are gone, The woman will be out.—Adieu, my lord. I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze, But that this folly drowns it.” – Laertes.
Act V, Scene I
Location: Elsinore. A churchyard.
Characters: Gravediggers, Hamlet, Horatio, King, Queen, Laertes, Doctor of Divinity, Lords, Attendants.
Events: Two gravediggers prepare Ophelia’s grave and wonder why she is being given a Christian burial seeing that her death is a suspected suicide. They assume it’s because she was of an upper class. Hamlet enters with Horatio, watching the gravediggers at work from a distance, unknowing that the grave is being dug for Ophelia. Fascinated by the skulls that the gravediggers excavate from the ground, Hamlet wonders who these skulls belonged to, what occupation they had and what they looked like when they had skin on their faces and hair on their heads. He picks up a skull and he is told that the skull belonged to Old Hamlet’s jester, Yorick. Hamlet is shocked and tells Horatio that he used to know Yorick as a child. He plays with the idea that everyone will eventually become a worthless skull, being buried in the ground or tossed out of a grave to prepare a new grave for a dead person who has the same destiny: who too will eventually become a trivial skull. Finally, everyone will become the dust of insignificance, whether they’re a slave, beggar or royalty.
A crowd of people grieving, including Claudius, Gertrude and Laertes enter with Ophelia’s casket and the funeral begins. Hamlet and Horatio watch from a distance, still unaware that Ophelia is the one being buried. They learn that the death may have been a suicide. As Laertes begins to speak at the Funeral, Hamlet realises that Ophelia is the one being buried. Gertrude then speaks and admits that she had always hoped for Hamlet to marry Ophelia. Laertes, anguished, leaps into the grave to farewell Ophelia one last time. Grief-stricken, Hamlet bursts upon the company and declares that no one loved Ophelia as much as he did – not even how much 40, 000 brothers could love her together. He too leaps into the grave and Laertes and Hamlet begin to wrestle. They are pulled apart and Gertrude and Claudius decide once again that Hamlet is mad. Hamlet storms off with Horatio, and Claudius urges Laertes to remain calm and patient, reminding him of their plan for revenge.
That skull had a tongue in it and could sing once. How the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were Cain’s jawbone, that did the first murder! It might be the pate of a politician, which this ass now o’erreaches, one that would circumvent God, might it not?
There’s another. Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be in ’s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries. Is this the fine of his fines and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? Will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in this box, and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?
Let me see. (takes the skull) Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. —Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chapfallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.—Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.
Acrt V, Scene II
Location: Elsinore. A hall in Elsinore Castle.
Characters: Hamlet, Horatio, Osric, Lord, King, Queen, Laertes, Fortinbras, English Ambassadors, Attendants.
Events: Hamlet tells Horatio that he found a letter among Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s belongings that ordered the English authorities to execute Hamlet while he was aboard the ship to England. Shocked and with absolutely no sympathy for his “friends” who have betrayed him multiple times, he edited the letter, substituting his name with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s meaning that they would now be dead if the ship has arrived in England. However, he states that he does feel remorse for losing control over himself at Ophelia’s funeral with Laertes. Afterall, Laertes is in a similar situation to his own – wishing to avenge the man that killed his father – and this makes Hamlet promise himself to treat Laertes well from now on. Osric, a young courtier enters and informs Hamlet that the King is betting six horses on a fencing duel between Hamlet and Laertes, and asks for Hamlet’s confirmation to partake. Hamlet agrees to the match.
Moments before the duel is due to begin, Hamlet tells Horatio that he is not scared of dying and that whatever will happen in the match is meant to happen. Hamlet shakes hands with Laertes and apologises for his wrongdoings, asking for forgiveness. He blames his misdeeds on his mental illness, insisting that he himself never committed any crimes, rather his troubled mind did. Laertes says that though he can not forgive Hamlet or accept his apology, he will accept his love as love. The match begins and Claudius waits with a cup of poisoned wine to give to Hamlet in case the initial plan of Laertes killing him with the poisoned sword fails. Hamlet is wounded with the poisoned sword and somehow, while scuffling, they manage to exchange swords which leads to Hamlet then wounding Laertes with the poisoned sword. Laertes proclaims that he has fallen into his own trap as he declares, “I am justly kill’d with my own treachery.” Gertrude then drinks the poisoned wine against Claudius’ advice and collapses. In despair, Gertrude tells Hamlet that she has been poisoned and not to drink the wine, she then dies. Enraged Hamlet orders to find out who is responsible. Laertes with only moments left to live comes clean and explains that the sword who has wounded them both has been dipped in poison and that the wine that the Queen has drunk was too. He holds Claudius responsible. The public blames the King for treason and Hamlet forces Claudius to drink the poisoned wine, who instantly dies. Hamlet doesn’t only avenge his father’s murderer but also his mother’s and his own. In his last words, Laertes forgives Hamlet at the same time as he asks for Hamlet’s forgiveness for the circumstances.
Now with Polonius, Ophelia, Laertes, the Queen and the King dead Hamlet is left to determine the future of his nation before the entire monarchy of Denmark has been wiped out. Hamlet faces the fact that he is reaching his end and begs Horatio who wants to join him to death to not drink from the cup of poison wine and to stay alive: so the story can be told and set straight.
On the brink of death – Hamlet tells Horatio that he wishes for young Fortinbras to take over the Danish Kingdom. Fortinbras enters with English ambassadors who announce the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The newcomers ask for an explanation and Horatio promises to tell the story. Fortinbras claims the throne and orders for Hamlet to be interred with military honours as he declares that he believes that Hamlet would have been a great soldier and a great king if he were given the chance.
Quotes: “We defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is’t to leave betimes? Let be.” – Hamlet.
“Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane, Drink off this potion. Is thy union here? Follow my mother.” – Hamlet.