.. Ophelia, a better vantage point to watch the king. Hamlet is playing the madman again and continues his cynical remarks to Ophelia. In the play, the actress queen vows eternal love for her husband and says that should he die, she would never remarry. She then leaves the actor king, who falls asleep.
The wicked nephew comes in and pours poison into his ears. Hamlet comments on the play, saying that later, the wicked nephew marries the king’s wife. Claudius gets up abruptly to leave, and the rest of the court follow. Hamlet now has the proof of guilt he needs. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come in to tell Hamlet that the king is ill and that his mother wants to see him. Polonius appears and repeats the summons.
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They all leave. Hamlet, in a soliloquy, says he will speak harshly to his mother but do her no bodily harm. Act Ill, Scene III – On a pretext that mad Hamlet is a threat to him, Claudius asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take his nephew to England. Polonius then reports that Hamlet is on his way to his mother’s room where Polonius will eavesdrop on the conversation between mother and son. Alone at last, Claudius tries to pray, but cannot. He acknowledges to himself that he cannot pray for forgiveness while he keeps the rewards his evil deed brought him, the crown and Gertrude. Claudius does not see Hamlet come in.
Finding his uncle alone and kneeling. Hamlet’s first impulse is to kill him. Then he realizes that if he kills Claudius at prayer, his soul may go to Heaven. Hamlet decides to wait. Act Ill, Scene IV – Hamlet is so harsh to his mother that she fears for her life and cries out. Hidden behind the wall hanging, Polonius shouts too.
Hamlet thinks he hears the king, and he slashes the hanging, killing Polonius. Hamlet realizes from Gertrude’s replies to his accusations that she knew nothing of her husband’s murder. He berates her for marrying Claudius. The ghost appears, but Gertrude cannot see it. When Hamlet talks to it, she is certain he is mad.
He tells her he is only feigning madness, but she must not let the king know that. He then leaves, taking Polonius’s corpse with him. Act IV, Scene I – Gertrude tells Claudius that Hamlet, in his madness, has killed Polonius. Claudius realizes that Hamlet is sane and probably intended the sword thrust for him. But he says to Gertrude that because Hamlet is mad, he is a threat to all of them. He tells her that the public will be critical that Hamlet was not restrained before this.
He plans to send Hamlet to England immediately and will inform his councilors of the murder and his plans for Hamlet’s departure. Thus he, hopes to avert a scandal which might weaken his own position. He sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find Polonius’s body and take it to the chapel. Act IV, Scene II – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern approach Hamlet, asking where Polonius’s body is. He is flippant with them and still feigns madness.
He tells them. in effect, that the king is using them and will discard them when he is through. Act IV, Scene III – Alone, Claudius voices his thoughts. He must be careful in his treatment of Hamlet because the people love him and would resent his being punished. Rosencrantz reports that Polonius’s body has not been found. Then Guildenstern brings in Hamlet.
When the king asks Hamlet where he has put Polonius’s corpse, Hamlet says it is food for the worms. Claudius is outwardly patient with Hamlet and tells him that, for his own safety, he must leave for England immediately. After Hamlet goes out, the king instructs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to get Hamlet aboard ship at once; it is to sail that night. Alone again, Claudius reveals in a soliloquy that he has sent letters to the king of England, asking that Hamlet be put to death. The king is under obligation to Claudius and will do his bidding.
Act IV, Scene IV – Fortinbras and his troops are marching across Denmark to Poland. Hamlet meets one of the officers and finds that these Norwegians are going to risk their lives with little justification, for a bit of worthless land. He then berates himself that with so much justification to act, he himself has taken no revenge. Act IV, Scene V – Gertrude has been told that Ophelia is talking incoherently and her words are making people suspicious about Polonius’s death. She agrees to see the girl. Ophelia comes in singing snatches of song interspersed with a few words that make sense.
She is oblivious of her surroundings. Claudius, realizing Ophelia’s mental state, asks Horatio to follow her and watch out for her. Claudius then recites to Gertrude all the woes that have befallen their kingdom – Polonius’s death, Hamlet’s hasty departure, and Ophelia’s madness. Laertes has returned to Denmark, convinced that Claudius is responsible for his father’s death. After a commotion outside the door, Laertes comes in.
He addresses Claudius as vile king, asks where and how his father died, and vows revenge. While Claudius tries to calm him and assures him that he had no part in Polonius’s death, Ophelia comes in. Laertes realizes that she is mad. Claudius sympathizes with him for his two sorrows, says again that he had nothing to do with Polonius’s death, and promises him revenge on the guilty one. Act IV, Scene VI – Horatio receives a letter from Hamlet in which he describes a pirate attack on his ship and being captured.
He tells Horatio that the pirates have brought him back to Denmark and asks Horatio to come to him. Act IV, Scene VII – Claudius has convinced Laertes that Hamlet killed Polonius and intended to kill Claudius himself. A note arrives from Hamlet, announcing his return. Laertes wants to take immediate revenge, but Claudius says there is a way he can have his revenge, yet make Hamlet’s death seem accidental. Claudius’s scheme involves a fencing match with Hamlet, for which Laertes will use an unblunted sword with a poisoned tip. Gertrude comes in with ‘the sad news that Ophelia is drowned.
Laertes leaves, griefstricken. Act V, Scene I – While they are digging a grave for a gentlewoman, the sexton and his helper argue about whether or not she should have Christian burial since she drowned herself. Hamlet and Horatio approach, unnoticed, as the gravedigger tosses out a skull he has just uncovered. Hamlet speculates ‘that it may have been the skull of someone who held an important position. Now its owner is no more, and the skull is tossed rudely aside.
When Hamlet asks the sexton whose grave he is preparing, the man does not give him a straight answer, but does identify the skull as Yorick’s. Yorick was the court jester whom Hamlet, as a child, knew and loved. Now only his bones remain. Hamlet generalizes to Horatio that thus the greatest and the least eventually return to dust and obscurity. Hamlet and Horatio see a funeral procession approaching. In it are the king, the queen, and members of the court. Out of sight of the mourners, Hamlet and Horatio watch.
Hamlet recognizes Laertes and soon realizes it is Ophelia’s funeral. When Laertes, overcome with grief, leaps into the grave. Hamlet comes forward and leaps in too. Laertes attacks Hamlet who defends himself, Hamlet assumes that Laertes attacked because he was determined to show his unsurpassed grief for his sister. Hamlet then says that his love for Ophelia was greater than any brother’s.
Gertrude and Claudius beg Laertes to restrain himself since Hamlet is obviously mad. Act V, Scene II – Hamlet describes to Horatio how, when he was aboard ship, he stole the packet of letters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were delivering to the king of England. Hamlet read them and discovered that Claudius was asking the king to have him beheaded. He then substituted some letters he wrote himself, asking that the bearers (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) be put to death immediately. Next day, the sea fight occurred, and he returned to Denmark with the pirates. Horatio agrees with him that he must take his revenge quickly before Claudius learns what has happened in England.
A courtier, Osric, comes in to tell Hamlet that Claudius has set up a fencing contest and a wager, pitting Hamlet against Laertes, if Hamlet will agree. Hamlet does, but tells Horatio that he has misgivings about the match. Horatio urges him not to go through with it, but Hamlet does not heed him. Before the match, Hamlet asks Laertes’s pardon if, in his madness, he has wronged him. Laertes answers in a hypocritical way, seeming to accept Hamlet’s explanation of his behavior. Falsely, Claudius seems to be Hamlet’s champion, saying cannon fire, drums, and trumpets will mark Hamlet’s success.
He then drinks to Hamlet. Hamlet is now winning, and Claudius urges him to drink too, but Hamlet is not ready. Instead, Gertrude drinks from the poisoned cup that Claudius had intended for Hamlet. Laertes wounds Hamlet with the unblunted sword, they scuffle, and change swords. Hamlet now has the sword with the poisoned tip, and he wounds Laertes.
The king tries to stop the match. Gertrude collapses. Both contestants are bleeding. Laertes realizes that his own trickery will now be the cause of his death. Dying, Gertrude calls out to Hamlet that the drink is poisoned. Laertes now collapses but confesses to Hamlet about the poisoned sword; he puts the blame on Claudius.
Hamlet wounds Claudius and gives him the poisoned wine. Claudius dies. Just before Laertes dies, he asks Hamlet to exchange forgiveness with him. Hamlet is dying. Horatio is about to commit suicide, but Hamlet says he must live to tell Hamlet’s story and clear his name. Fortinbras arrives, victorious, and Hamlet, dying. predicts Fortinbras will be Denmark’s new king. Fortinbras assumes the authority, gives a tribute to Hamlet, and says he will have a hero’s burial. Shakespeare.