settings The Ghost identifies itself as Hamlet’s father, in confirmation of what Hamlet already thought, and explains how it can be there. He tells Hamlet that the way Claudius murdered him was by pouring poison into his ear (used as a metaphor for lying, for using language to hide reality)
Hamlet Hamlet despairs at the burden the Ghost has given him: “The time is out of joint. / O cursed spite! That ever I was born to set it right!” (188-89)
Quotes ”Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast” (42 -G)”My most seeming virtuous queen” (46 -G)
Themes Appearance Vs. Reality: The ghost tells Hamlet what has actually happened, as opposed to the story Claudius is telling.Religion, Honour + Revenge: The ghost asks Hamlet to avenge his death.Poison, Corruption and Death: The ghost tells Hamlet that he was killed by his brother who poisoned him whilst asleep in the garden.
a4 sc6 A sailor gives Horatio letters from Hamlet. The letter says that a pirate attacked Hamlet’s ship. Hamlet was taken prisoner and returned to Denmark for a ransom, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern continue on to England. Horatio is to send the sailors to Claudius, and then to find Hamlet.
a4 sc7 Alone with Claudius, Laertes asks why Claudius didn’t punish Hamlet for killing Polonius. Claudius answers: First, he loves Gertrude and she’s Hamlet’s mother; second, Hamlet is loved by the people, so punishing him might have caused a revolt. A messenger enters with letters from Hamlet. Claudius is bewildered at Hamlet’s return. Laertes is pleased: now he’ll get his chance at revenge. Claudius comes up with a plot. Claudius says Laertes’ skill with a sword recently aroused Hamlet’s envy, and Claudius thinks they could lure Hamlet into a duel with Laertes. Claudius reveals his plan: they will poison Laertes’s sword. The slightest scratch will kill Hamlet. As a backup, Claudius decides to poison a glass of wine and offer it to Hamlet during the duel. Gertrude rushes in with news that Ophelia has drowned. While gathering flowers she fell into the river and sang songs as her clothes grew heavy and pulled her under. Laertes, weeping, exits. Claudius fears Ophelia’s death might reignite Laertes anger and rebellion. He and Gertrude follow Laertes to calm him down.
a5 sc1 In a cemetery, two gravediggers discuss whether the body to be put in the grave they’re digging should receive a Christian burial. The first grave digger argues that because the dead woman did not try to escape the water her death was a suicide. The second says that if she had not been a noblewoman she would not have received a Christian burial. The first grave digger asks a riddle: who builds stronger than the mason, shipbuilder, or carpenter? Answer: The grave-maker, whose “houses” last until doomsday. Hamlet and Horatio enter. The second gravedigger exits. The first gravedigger throws up a skull he has found in the grave he’s digging, then another. Hamlet wonders what sort of people the skulls belonged to when alive, and comments that their earthly possessions mean nothing to them now. The grave digger says that he became a grave digger on the day that Old Hamlet defeated Old Fortinbras in battle, which was also the same day that Hamlet was born.
a5 s1 2 Hamlet asks the gravedigger how long it takes a body to decompose. The grave digger points to a skull that was once Yorick, a court jester. Hamlet is shocked: he knew Yorick. Hamlet examines the skull. He realizes that death will claim everyone, and says no amount of makeup can hold off the inevitable. Hamlet then wonders if the bodies of great kings like Alexander and Caesar now are dust used to plug holes. Horatio says Hamlet is overthinking things. Hamlet and Horatio hear a noise and hide. Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, a priest, and other lords enter in a funeral procession with a coffin. The priest refuses to provide further religious services because Ophelia’s death seemed like suicide. Laertes says his sister will be an angel while the priest howls in hell. Laertes jumps into Ophelia’s grave to embrace her once more. Hamlet, shocked and distraught at Ophelia’s death, follows Laertes into Ophelia’s grave and claims to have loved Ophelia more than forty-thousand brothers could. They grapple until Hamlet exits in a rage.
a5 sc 2 In Elsinore, Hamlet tells Horatio that he discovered that the letters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern bore to England asked that Hamlet be executed. Hamlet switched the letter with one that requested Rosencrantz and Guildenstern be executed. Hamlet says he has no sympathy for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who gave up their honour in favor with the king. But he is sorry he fought with Laertes, who only wanted to avenge his own father. A dandyish nobleman, Osric, enters. Hamlet gets him to agree first that it’s cold, then that it’s actually hot. Osric announces that Claudius has wagered Hamlet can defeat Laertes in a duel. Hamlet agrees to fight. Horatio says that Hamlet will lose the fight and urges him to call off the duel, but Hamlet says there’s no use trying to escape death: it will come no matter what. Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and the entire court enter to watch the duel. Hamlet apologizes to Laertes. Laertes won’t accept the apology until he can consult an expert on honour. The two men select their swords. Laertes picks the poisoned one.
a5 sc2 2 Claudius announces that if Hamlet gets one of the first three hits he will drink to Hamlet’s health and then drop a jewel into the cup and give it to Hamlet. The duel starts. Hamlet scores the first hit. Claudius drops the jewel into the wine. Hamlet, concentrating on the duel, says he’ll drink the wine later. Hamlet scores the second hit. Gertrude lifts the poisoned cup to drink in Hamlet’s honour. Claudius tries to stop her, but can’t tell her why without revealing his plot. She drinks. They duel. Laertes wounds Hamlet, drawing blood. They scuffle, and in the scuffle end up exchanging swords. Hamlet wounds Laertes. Gertrude falls. Claudius claims Gertrude fainted because she saw Hamlet and Laertes bleeding, but Gertrude says the wine was poisoned. She dies.
ac5 sc2 3 Laertes, who knows he’s dying of his wound from the poisoned sword, reveals Claudius’s treachery. Hamlet stabs Claudius and then forces him to drink the poisoned wine. Claudius dies.Laertes forgives Hamlet and asks for forgiveness. Laertes dies. Hamlet forgives him. Horatio wants to kill himself, but Hamlet forbids it: Horatio must tell Hamlet’s story to the world. In the distance a cannon sounds. Fortinbras is returning victorious from Poland. Hamlet says that Fortinbras should be made King of Denmark, then dies. Fortinbras and the English ambassadors enter. Amazed at the carnage, the ambassadors announce that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Horatio begins to tell the story of what has happened in Denmark. Fortinbras orders Hamlet be honoured as a soldier, since he would have made a great king.

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