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The Tragedy of Hamlet

Prince of Denmark

Act One:

Scene One: A guard platform of the castle. BARNARDO and FRANCISCO enter. They greet each other; they are on guard duty at midnight, and it is bitter cold. Barnardo tells Francisco to tell Horatio and Marcellus to hurry. HORATIO and MARCELLUS enter; Marcellus asks if the ghost has appeared tonight as it has twice before. Barnardo tells Horatio that at one last night, the ghost of King Hamlet appeared in his military garb. The GHOST OF KING HAMLET enters, and Barnardo tells Horatio to speak to it, for he is a scholar (he knows Latin). The ghost stalks away without answering them. Horatio remarks that the ghost wore the same armor that Hamlet did when he fought the king of Norway, and had the same expression as when he defeated the Poles. Marcellus remarks that the Danes are working hard, as if they are preparing for some great occurrence. Horatio tells him that Fortinbras, nephew of Fortinbras the elder of Norway, who was killed by King Hamlet, is preparing for battle. Horatio says that things are as they were just before Caesar was killed. The ghost reappears, but leaves again when the cock crows. Marcellus suggests that he strikes it with his partisan (sword). Horatio wishes to tell young Hamlet of this occurrence.

Scene Two: The castle. CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark is addressing his court along with GERTRUDE, his Queen. He says that he has taken Gertrude, the wife of his late brother, for his own wife, although Hamlet has just recently died. He mentions Fortinbras' threats, and dismisses them as unimportant. He says that he has written to the King of Norway, Fortinbras' uncle, to prevent any plans by yuong Fortinbras. He is sending CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND as messengers to the King of Norway. LAERTES comes upon the court with a request: he wishes to return to France. The king asks POLONIUS, Laertes' father, if he has his permission, which he does. The King and Queen implore HAMLET to cast off his dark mood, for his father's death was natural. The King says that his grief is sweet and commendable, but he is merely being stubborn with unmanly grief. He tells Hamlet to stay instead of returning to school in Wittenberg. Hamlet agrees to stay. All leave, except for Hamlet. He laments that suicide is against God's law, for life seems meaningless. He feels that Claudius is unworthy of the title of king and unworthy of his mother. Horatio enters, and Hamlet asks him why he is not in Wittenberg. Horatio says that he is merely being lazy. Hamlet asks him whether he is there for his father's funeral or his mother's wedding. They compliment the former king. Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost. They tell Hamlet that the ghost looked troubled. Hamlet vows to visit the watch to see the ghost.

Scene Three: A room. Laertes bids farewell to his sister, OPHELIA. She is in love with Hamlet, but Laertes doubts his true affections for her. He warns that he may love her now, but his will is not his own. He warns her to be chaste. Ophelia tells him not to admonish her if he himself is not as pure. Polonius enters, and gives Laertes advice- to thine own self be true. Laertes advice is rather two-faced. After Laertes leaves, Polonius speaks to Ophelia about Hamlet. He believes that Hamlet is insincere and that she is foolish. He tells her to be less willing to meet with Hamlet.

Scene Four: A guard platform. It is cold again, and almost twelve. The king is having a drunken party. The ghost enters. Hamlet speaks to it, and it beckons Hamlet to come. Marcellus warns him not to follow, but Hamlet says that his soul is as eternal as the ghosts, so he cannot worry. Horatio worries, but Hamlet still follows. Marcellus remarks that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Scene Five: The battlements. The ghost speaks to Hamlet. He tells Hamlet to avenge him, for he is sentenced to walk the night as purgatory. He is forbidden to tell all of the details, however. The ghost tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius, the incestuous and adulterate beast. He seduced Gertrude before the murder. Claudius poured a glass of cursed hebona into his ear, killing him. The ghost warns Hamlet to avenge him, but to leave Gertrude to be judged by heaven. He bids adieu. The ghost exits, and Horatio and Marcellus return. Hamlet tells them that ther is an arrant knave in Denmark, and makes them swear to secrecy about the business. The ghost cries out for them to swear. Hamlet remarks about the strange and unexplainable phenomena. They swear. Hamlet implores the ghost to wear, for Hamlet will set all right.

Act Two:

Scene One: A room. Polonius instructs REYNALDO to give Laertes money and messages; however, before he visits him, Reynaldo is supposed to find out which Danes are in Paris and inquire about his behavior indirectly by trashing it (but lightly). This way he is to find out whether Laertes is innocent or wild. Ophelia enters, and tells Polonius that Hamlet came upon her with a paled expression and messy manner. He took her wrist and stared into her eyes, gave a sigh, let go, then left. Polonius says that they will seek the King, for it is the very ecstasy of love that afflicts him. He believes that Ophelia has driven him insane.

Scene Two: The castle. The King and Queen welcome ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN and discuss Hamlet's erratic behavior with them. The King asks them to find out what is wrong so that they could cure him. The Queen sends the two to find Hamlet. Polonius enters. He tells the King that the ambassadors from Norway are returned with good news. Polonius says that he may have found the cause of Hamlet's insanity. The Queen believes that it is King Hamlet's death and her marriage. Voltemand and Cornelius come back. They tell the King that the King of Norway ordered his nephew's recruitments to end. The King offered Fortinbras sixty thousand crowns as an annual gift to attack the Poles. They now ask permission to travel through Denmark to Poland. The King agrees, and the ambassadors exit. Polonius feels that the madness is called by Ophelia. He reads a poem that Hamlet sent to Ophelia. Polonius vows that if it is not what he says, he should be decapitated. The three plan to spy on Hamlet while he speaks with Ophelia. Hamlet enters, reading a book. Hamlet calls Polonius a fishmonger and not an honest man. Polonius feels that this is an indcene to only a few, but Laertes is suspicious of the obscure means of death and funeral. Claudius vows that, where guilt is found, the ax will fall.

Scene Six: The castle. Horatio receives a letter from Hamlet. Hamlet was captured by pirates.

Scene Seven: The castle. Laertes is now convinced that Claudius had nothing to do with the murder. Claudius says that he did not execute Hamlet because Gertrude feeds on his life and because Hamlet is so popular with the commoners. Laertes vows revenge. The messenger brings Claudius letters from Hamlet. It reads that Hamlet will return to Denmark, having been released by the pirates. Claudius vows to manipulate Hamlet in a scheme which he has worked out so that Hamlet's death will be seen an accident. Claudius tells Laertes how Hamlet became jealous of a Norman gentleman who rode horseback- Lamord. Claudius also knows that Hamlet is rather jealous of Laertes' skill in fencing. Claudius challenges Laertes to avenge his father's death. Laertes will challenge him, and anonit his sword with poison he bought from a mountebank, which would prove fatal. Gertrude enters with news that Ophelia drowned herself. She was at a willow beside the brook filled with dead men's fingers. She climbed the tree and fell from it into the brook, where she drowned. Claudius worries that her death will inflame Hamlet's rage.

Act Five

Scene One: A churchyard. Two clowns (gravediggers) enter. One CLOWN asks the OTHER if Ophelia is to receive a Christian burial, despite her suicide. Yes, for the coroner decreed that she will get one. The other remarks that if she were not a gentlewoman, she would have been buried without Christian burial. One clown remarks that Adam was the first man who ever had a coat of arms. They have a riddle: what is he that builds stronger than either the mason, shipwright, or carpenter. The other remarks the gallowsmaker, for that frame outlives a thousand tenants. The clown says that it is a gravemaker, for the houses he makes last till doomsday. He order the Other to go to Yaughan for beer. The Clown sings, and throws up a skull from a grave. Hamlet enters, and remarks that that skull was once of a live human. Hamlet remarks that it might have been a nobleman or a lawyer. The clown tells Hamlet who is to be buried, and says that he has been a gravedigger since Hamlet was born, thirty years before. They remark that Hamlet was sent to England, where they are even more crazy. Hamlet asks how Hamlet lost his wits. The clown remarks that a tanner's body will outlast all others. The clown shows Hamlet the skull, which has lied there twenty-three years. It is of Yorick, the King's jester. Hamlet laments Yorick's passing. Hamlet wonders if Alexander looked this way when he was buried. The king and queen and Laertes enter with the coffin. The priest refuses to sing a requiem for her, and Laertes becomes angry. Gertude scatters flowers in teh coffin. Laertes leaps into the grave, and Hamlet follows. They fight, and attendants part them. Hamlet tells him that he loved Ophelia, but Claudius says that he is mad. Hamlet asks Laertes what he would do for Ophelia. The king decrees that Ophelia's grave shall have a living monument.

Scene Two: The castle. Hamlet reveals the rest of the story to Horatio. On the ship, Hamlet found in Rosencrant and Guildenstern's packs a letter asking England to execute Hamlet upon his arrival. Hamlet devised a new commission from the king- that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern be executed. Hamlet worries not, because they were part of a foul deed. Hamlet laments that he forgot himself in front of Laertes. OSRIC enters, welcoming Hamlet back in Denmark. Hamlet believes Osric to be a kiss-up. Osric mentions how Laertes has arrived, and how he is such a gentleman. Hamlet shuts up Osric by complimenting Laertes even higher than Osric. Osric mentions Laertes' skill with weaponry- rapier and dagger. Osric mentions that the king wagered six Barbary horses, against which Laertes pawned six French rapiers and poniards. The king bet that in a dozen rounds Laertes would not outscore Hamlet by more than three hits. A lord says that the Queen desires Hamlet to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes before they fence. Hamlet mentions to Horatio that Laertes has not practiced lately, but Hamlet has. The king summons Hamlet and Laertes together. Hamlet apologizes, but says that he was mad at the time, thus is not responsible. Laertes says that his feelings are satisfied. They prepare to fence. Claudius plans to put a pearl in Hamlet's cup of wine so that, if he wins, he will drink and die from poisoning. Hamlet strikes Laertes twice, so Gertrude unknowingly takes his glass and toasts him. Claudius orders her not to drink. She does, adn while Hamlet and Laertes fight, she falls. They have each hit each other, and are bleeding. Gertrude dies. Laertes falls, and tells Hamlet about the unction. He says that the King is to blame. Hamlet stabs Claudius, then forces him to finish the poisoned drink. The king dies. Laertes dies. Hamlet implores Horatio to report the tragedy to the uninformed. Horatio wants to commit suicide, but Hamlet will not let him. There is a noise; Osric informs them that it is Fortinbras. Hamlet predicts that Fortinbras will be the new king of Denmark. Hamlet dies. Fortinbras comes, wondering what tragedy has occurred. Horatio says that he will hear of unnatural acts. Fortinbras decrees that four captains bear Hamlet like a soldier to the platform, for he had been put to the test as king. He orders that the soldiers shoot the cannons.