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Hamlet in brief

2009.02.17 — Culture | Language | by Roland Grant


Alas, poor Yorick. [Tysto mod of source]

While watching a movie adaptation of Hamlet (I won't muddy the waters with which version), it occurred to me that a lot of the play is just words, words, words. If there weren't so much talking, it would be a lot simpler—so simple, I suspect, that sixth graders could put it on. Brevity being the soul of wit, as I always say, what follows is Hamlet in brief.

I haven't changed anything. I've only deleted the "unnecessary" bits—never whole scenes—to condense the flowery speeches and added more stage directions. I've also highlighted the most famous lines in red. As such, it may be helpful for those studying Hamlet to get the jist of the scenes before tackling the full text or to refresh the memory of events.

Full original text from Project Gutenberg



By Will Shakespeare

Act 1Act 2Act 3Act 4Act 5



HAMLET, Prince of Denmark.

Claudius, KING of Denmark, Hamlet's Uncle.
Gertrude, QUEEN of Denmark, and Mother to Hamlet.
HORATIO, Friend to Hamlet.
GHOST of Hamlet's Father, the former King of Denmark.

POLONIUS, Lord Chamberlain.
LAERTES, Son to Polonius.
OPHELIA, Daughter to Polonius.
REYNALDO, Servant to Polonius.

FRANCISCO, soldiers

CORNELIUS, Danish Ambassadors to Norway.

GUILDENSTERN, Former Schoolfellows of Hamlet.

FORTINBRAS, Prince of Norway.
A CAPTAIN in the Norwegian Army.

A GENTLEMAN, Courtiers.


1st CLOWN, a Gravedigger.
2nd CLOWN, his Companion.


Players: PROLOGUE.

Lords, Ladies, Soldiers, Sailors, Messengers, and Attendants.


Scene: Elsinore.


ACT 1.

Scene 1. Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle.

Enter BARNARDO, a very nervous sentry, and Francisco, another sentry, at opposite sides.

Barnardo [Seeing someone] Who's there?

Francisco Nay, answer me. Bernardo?

Barnardo He. Have you had quiet guard?

Francisco Not a mouse stirring. [Seeing others] Stand, ho! Who is there?


Horatio Friends.

Barnardo Welcome Horatio. Welcome Marcellus.

Horatio Has this thing appeared again tonight?

Barnardo I have seen nothing.

Marcellus Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy.

Enter GHOST in royal armor.

Marcellus Look!

Barnardo Like the king that's dead.

Horatio What art thou? Speak!

The ghost is about to speak, but the cock crows. Exit GHOST by fading away.

Barnardo How now, Horatio! Is not this more than fantasy?

Horatio [Shaken] Let us impart what we have seen to Hamlet.

They exit.


Scene 2. A Room of State in the Castle.

Enter Claudius KING of Denmark, Gertrude the QUEEN, HAMLET dressed in black,

King Though our dear brother's death be green, our sometime sister have we taken to wife. For all, our thanks. Now to Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras, bear this greeting.

VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS exit with the message.

King And now, Laertes, what wouldst thou beg?

Laertes My lord, I came to Denmark to show my duty in your coronation. Now my thoughts bend again toward France.

King Your father— What says Polonius?

Polonius My lord, I consent.

King Take thy fair hour, Laertes. Hamlet, son, the clouds still hang on you.

Hamlet My lord, I am too much i'th' sun.

Queen Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off. All that lives must die.

King 'Tis sweet to mourn your father, but think of us as a father.

Queen Hamlet, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.

Hamlet I shall obey you, madam.

King 'Tis a fair reply. Madam, come away.

Flourish. All except HAMLET exit.

Hamlet O that this too, too solid flesh would melt! Frailty, thy name is woman! A little month and she married with my uncle!


Horatio Hail!

Hamlet I am glad to see you well. But what is your affair in Elsinore?

Horatio My lord, I came to see your father's funeral.

Hamlet Do not mock me. I think it was to see my mother's wedding.

Horatio Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.

Hamlet The funeral meats did coldly furnish the marriage tables. Methinks I see my father. I shall not look upon his like again.

Horatio My lord, I think I saw him yesternight. Two nights, these gentlemen encountered a figure like your father. And I the third night kept the watch, where the apparition comes.

Hamlet Did you not speak to it?

Horatio I did, but it vanished.

Hamlet Strange. What looked he?

Horatio A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.

Hamlet I will watch tonight. Upon the platform I'll visit you.

All but HAMLET exit.

Hamlet My father's spirit! All is not well.



Scene 3. A Room in Polonius' House.


Laertes Let me hear from you. For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favour: hold it a toy, not permanent.

Ophelia No more?

Laertes Perhaps he loves you now, but his will is not his own, for he is subject to his birth.

Ophelia I shall this good lesson keep. But do not show me the thorny way to heaven while himself the primrose path of dalliance treads.

Laertes O, fear me not.


Polonius Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, for shame! My blessing with thee. Beware of a quarrel. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. This above all—to thine own self be true.

Laertes Humbly do I take my leave, my lord.


Ophelia Lord Hamlet—

Polonius 'Tis told me he hath given private time to you. What is between you?

Ophelia He hath made many tenders of his affection to me.

Polonius Affection! Pooh! Do not believe his vows. I would not talk with Lord Hamlet.

Ophelia I shall obey, my lord.

They exit.


Scene 4. The Platform.


Hamlet It is very cold. What hour now?

Horatio I think it lacks of twelve.

Marcellus No, it is struck.

Enter GHOST.

Horatio Look.

Hamlet Angels defend us!

GHOST beckons to HAMLET. HAMLET goes to follow.

Horatio Do not, my lord.

Hamlet I do not set my life at a pin's fee. Hold off your hands!

GHOST and HAMLET exit.

Marcellus Let's follow. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

They exit.


Scene 5. Another Part of the Platform.


Ghost Mark me. I am thy father's spirit. If thou didst ever thy father love, revenge his murder.

Hamlet Murder!

Ghost Murder most foul. 'Tis given out that, sleeping in mine orchard, a serpent stung me. But know: the serpent that did sting thy father now wears his crown.

Hamlet Mine uncle?

Ghost Ay. Sleeping within my orchard, thy uncle stole with juice of cursed hebenon, and in mine ears did pour the distilment. Thus was I dispatched. Let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for incest. But taint not thy mind against thy mother.

[The GHOST is startled by a distant bell.]

Ghost Remember me.


Hamlet Remember thee? Thy commandment alone shall live in my brain! O most pernicious woman! O smiling, damned villain!


Horatio What news, my lord?

Hamlet Swear upon my sword never to speak of this that you have seen.

Ghost [Cries off stage.] Swear!

They swear.

Horatio This is wondrous strange!

Hamlet There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come, I shall put an antic disposition on. You know aught of me. Swear.

Ghost Swear.

They swear.

Hamlet Rest, spirit! Gentlemen, the time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!

They exit.


ACT 2.

Scene 1. A Room in Polonius' House.

OPHELIA is sewing. HAMLET comes to her, dressed and acting very strangely. She becomes frightened.



Polonius Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo. Inquire of his behaviour.

Reynaldo Well, my lord.


Polonius Ophelia, what's the matter?

Ophelia Alas, my lord, I have been so affrighted.

Polonius With what?

Ophelia Lord Hamlet, with a look as if he had been loosed out of hell.

Polonius I will go seek the king. Have you given him any hard words of late?

Ophelia No, my good lord, but I did repel his letters.

Polonius That hath made him mad. I am sorry. I feared he meant to wreck thee. Come.

They exit.


Scene 2. A Room in the Castle.


King Something have you heard of Hamlet's transformation. Being brought up with him, rest here in our court and draw him on to pleasures.

Queen You shall receive such thanks as fits a king.

Guildenstern We lay our service at your feet.

King Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.

Queen Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz. Bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.



Polonius Th' ambassadors from Norway, my lord, are joyfully returned.

King Good news.

Polonius And I think that I have found the cause of Hamlet's lunacy.

King O speak of that.

Polonius First th' ambassadors.

King Bring them in.


King He hath found the source of all your son's distemper.

Queen I doubt it is no other but his father's death and our o'erhasty marriage.

King Well, we shall sift him.


King Welcome, my good friends. Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?

Voltemand Most fair return of greetings. Fortinbras receives rebuke from Norway and makes vow never more to give th' assay of arms against your majesty.

King It likes us well. We thank you for your labour.


Polonius This business is well ended. My liege, and madam, since brevity is the soul of wit, I will be brief. Your noble son is mad. [He rambles for some time.] I have a daughter who hath given me this. [Reads.] "Ophelia, never doubt I love thee best. Thine evermore, HAMLET."

King But how hath she received his love?

Polonius When I had seen this hot love, I did speak: `Lord Hamlet is a prince; this must not be'. She took my advice, and he fell into a madness.

King Do you think 'tis this?

Queen It may be.

KING and QUEEN exit.

Enter HAMLET, reading a book.

Polonius Do you know me, my lord?

Hamlet You are a fishmonger.

Polonius Not I, my lord.

Hamlet Then I would you were so honest a man.

Polonius What do you read, my lord?

Hamlet Words, words, words.

Polonius [aside] Though this be madness, yet there is method in't. [To HAMLET.] My lord, I will take my leave of you.

Hamlet Take anything—my life.

Exit POLONIUS, frightened.

Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN. Hamlet is happy to see them.

Guildenstern Mine honoured lord!

Rosencrantz My most dear lord!

Hamlet My excellent good friends. How do you both?

Guildenstern On Fortune's cap we are not the very button nor the soles of her shoe.

Hamlet Then you live in the middle of her favours.

Guildenstern Her privates.

Hamlet O, she is a strumpet. What have you deserved at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison? [They are confused.] Denmark's a prison.

Rosencrantz We think not so, my lord.

Hamlet To me it is a prison.

Rosencrantz Then your ambition makes it one.

Hamlet Shall we to th' court? What make you at Elsinore?

Rosencrantz [Guiltily] To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.

Hamlet There is a confession in your looks. The king and queen have sent for you.

Guildenstern [Confessing] My lord, we were sent for.

Hamlet I will tell you why. I have lost all my mirth. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! the paragon of animals! And yet, man delights not me. [They smile.] No, nor woman neither.

Rosencrantz My lord, if you delight not in man, what entertainment? Players are coming to offer you service.

Hamlet [very happy now] Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. But my uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived. I am but mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly I know a
hawk from a handsaw.

Re-enter POLONIUS.

Polonius Well be with you, my lord. The actors are come hither. The best actors in the world.

Hamlet [acting mad again] O what a treasure hadst thou! One fair daughter.

Polonius [aside] Still on my daughter.


Polonius You are welcome all.

He exits, gesturing for the players to follow.

Hamlet 'Tis well. We'll hear a play tomorrow. [To 1st PLAYER.] Can you play The Murder of Gonzago?

1st Player Ay, my lord.

Hamlet Study a speech I would set down.

1st Player Ay, my lord.

Hamlet Very well.


Hamlet My good friends, I'll leave you till night.

Rosencrantz Good my lord!


Hamlet [Thinking up a plan] I'll have these players play the murder of my father. The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.



ACT 3.

Scene 1. A Room in the Castle.


King And can you get from him why he puts on this lunacy?

Rosencrantz He will by no means speak.

Queen Did you assay him to any pastime?

Rosencrantz Madam, certain players have order this night to play before him.

Polonius True. He beseeched your majesties to see the matter.

King With all my heart. Good gentlemen, drive his purpose to these delights.

Rosencrantz We shall, my lord.


King Sweet Gertrude, leave us too, for we have sent for Hamlet.

Queen [leaving] Ophelia, I wish that your beauties be the happy cause of Hamlet's wildness.

Ophelia Madam, I wish it may.


Polonius Ophelia, read on this book: with devotion we sugar o'er the devil himself.

At the words, the KING suddenly looks ashamed.

Exit KING and POLONIUS to spy on OPHELIA and HAMLET.


Hamlet To be, or not to be, that is the question. To die: to sleep, perchance to dream— Aye, but in that sleep, what dreams may come? The dread of something after death makes us bear those ills we have.

Hamlet [seeing Ophelia] The fair Ophelia!

Ophelia My lord, I have remembrances of yours. [She offers his love letters.] Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

Hamlet [laughing] Are you honest? I did love you once.

Ophelia Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

Hamlet You should not have believed me. I loved you not.

Ophelia [heartbroken] I was deceived.

Hamlet Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? We are arrant knaves, all. Get thee to a nunnery.

Ophelia [weeping] O heavenly powers, restore him!

HAMLET exits.

Ophelia O what a noble mind is o'erthrown! O, woe is me!

Re-enter KING and POLONIUS.

King Love! What he spake was not like madness. Thus, he shall speed to England for the demand of our tribute.

Polonius Yet do I believe his grief sprung from neglected love. [hugs Ophelia] Let his mother entreat him to show his grief. If she find him not, to England send him.

King It shall be so.

They exit.


Scene 2. A Hall in the Castle.

Enter HAMLET and THREE of the PLAYERS.

Hamlet Speak the speech as I pronounced it.



Hamlet How now, my lord. Will the king hear this piece of work?

Polonius And the queen too, and that presently.

Hamlet Bid the players make haste.



Hamlet Horatio, there is a play tonight; one scene of it comes near my father's death. Observe my uncle. If his guilt do not unkennel, it is a damned ghost that we have seen.

Horatio Well, my lord.

Sound a flourish. They take their seats.

Danish march.
LORDS attending, with the GUARD carrying torches.

The KING greets HAMLET, but HAMLET acts like a lunatic.

Hamlet [To ROSENCRANTZ] Be the players ready?

Rosencrantz Ay, my lord.

Queen Hamlet, sit by me.

Hamlet No, good mother, here's metal more attractive. [cozying up to OPHELIA]

Ophelia [taken aback] You are merry, my lord.

Hamlet What should a man do but be merry? Look how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within two hours.

Ophelia Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.

Hamlet Die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year.

Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters.

Enter a KING and a QUEEN, very lovingly, the QUEEN embracing him. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck.
He lies him down upon a bank of flowers. She, seeing him asleep, leaves him.

Anon comes in another MAN, takes off his crown, kisses it, pours poison in the sleeper's ears, and leaves him.

The QUEEN returns, finds the KING dead, and makes passionate action. The POISONER, with some two or three MUTES, comes in again, seeming to condole with her. The dead body is carried away.

The POISONER woos the QUEEN with gifts. She seems harsh awhile, but in the end accepts his love.

The players exit.

Ophelia 'Tis brief, my lord.

Hamlet As woman's love. [To QUEEN.] Madam, how like you this play?

Queen The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

King [unnerved] What do you call the play?

Hamlet "The Mousetrap." A' poisons him i'th' garden for's estate. His name's Gonzago.

The king rises, a little stunned. All rise in deference.

Polonius Lights!

Exit all but HAMLET and HORATIO.

Hamlet O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word. The poisoning?

Horatio I did very well note him.

Hamlet Ah, ha!


Guildenstern Good my lord, the king is marvellous distempered with choler.

Rosencrantz Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper?

Hamlet Sir, I lack advancement.

Rosencrantz You have succession in Denmark!

Re-enter PLAYERS, with recorders.

Hamlet O, the recorders! Let me see one. [Drawing ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN aside.] Will you play upon this pipe?

Guildenstern I have not the skill.

Hamlet You would play upon me. Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?

Re-enter POLONIUS.

Polonius My lord, the queen would speak with you, and presently.

Hamlet Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a weasel?

Polonius [Humoring him] It is like a weasel.

Hamlet I will come to my mother by and by.

Polonius I will say so.


Hamlet Leave me, friends.

Exit all but HAMLET.

Hamlet 'Tis now the very witching time of night. Now could I drink hot blood. Now to my mother. I will speak daggers to her, but use none.



Scene 3. A Room in the Castle.


King I like not his madness. Therefore prepare you and he to England.

Rosencrantz We will haste us.


King O, my offence is rank; it smells to heaven. What form of prayer can serve my turn? `Forgive me my foul murder'?


Enter HAMLET, behind.

Hamlet [Drawing his sword.] No. [Sheathing his sword.] When he is about some act that has no salvation in't, then his soul may be damned.


King [Rising.] My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.



Scene 4. The Queen's closet.


Hamlet [Within.] Mother!

POLONIUS hides behind the arras.


Hamlet Now, mother, what's the matter?

Queen Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

Hamlet Mother, you have my father much offended.

Queen Have you forgot me?

Hamlet No, would it were not so, you are my mother. [pushing her to a mirror] See the inmost part of you.

The QUEEN cries out for help. POLONIUS cries out and moves behind the arras.

Hamlet [Drawing.] A rat? Dead for a ducat!

He thrusts his sword through the arras. POLONIUS dies. The QUEEN screams.

Hamlet Is it the king?

Queen What a bloody deed is this!

Hamlet Almost as bad as kill a king and marry with his brother.

Queen As kill a king?

Hamlet lifts up the arras and discovers POLONIUS.

Hamlet Fool, I took thee for thy better. [To QUEEN.] Peace!

Queen What have I done?

Hamlet [showing pictures of his father and uncle] Look: two brothers. [pointing to his father] See what a grace was seated on this brow. This was your husband. Look. [pointing to his uncle] Here IS your husband. Have you eyes? O shame! where is thy blush?

Queen O Hamlet, speak no more!

Hamlet Nay, but to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, making love over the nasty sty!

Queen These words like daggers enter in mine ears.

Hamlet A murtherer and a villain! A king of shreds and patches!

Enter GHOST. HAMLET shrieks and shrinks in fear.

Hamlet Do you not come your tardy son to chide?

Queen Alas, he's mad!

Ghost [to HAMLET] Do not forget thy purpose.

Queen O gentle son, to whom do you speak?

Hamlet [shying and pointing at the GHOST] My father, as he lived.


Queen This is the very coinage of your brain.

Hamlet It is not madness. [grabbing her] Confess yourself to heaven. [The QUEEN weeps.] I must be cruel only to be kind.

Queen What shall I do?

Hamlet By no means ravel out that I am but mad in craft.

Queen Be thou assured.

Hamlet I must to England; you know that?

Queen Alack! I had forgot.

Hamlet There's letters seal'd; and my two schoolfellows must marshal me to knavery. Let it work; for 'tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petard.[Dragging POLONIUS away.] Good night, mother.

Exit HAMLET with the dead body. The QUEEN remains.


ACT 4.

Scene 1. The Queen's Closet.

Enter the QUEEN, the KING, and ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN. She shows them the bloody carpet.

Queen Mad as the sea and wind, whips out his rapier, and kills the good old man.

King O heavy deed! We will ship him hence. [to ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN] Friends both, go seek him out.


King Come, Gertrude, we'll call up our wisest friends.

They exit.


Scene 2. Another Room in the Castle.



Rosencrantz What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?

Hamlet To be demanded of a sponge—what replication should be made by the son of a king?

Rosencrantz Take you me for a sponge, my lord?

Hamlet Ay, sir. The king, when he needs what you have gleaned, is but squeezing you, and you shall be dry again.

Rosencrantz My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go with us to the king.

Hamlet Bring me to him.

They exit.


Scene 3. Another Room in the Castle.

Enter KING, with two or three LORDS.

King How dangerous is it that this man goes loose! Yet must not we put the strong law on him: he's loved of the distracted multitude.


King Now, Hamlet, where's Polonius?

Hamlet At supper.

King At supper! Where?

Hamlet Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. Worms are e'en at him [pointing] up the stairs.

King [To some LORDS.] Go seek him there.

Hamlet A' will stay till you come.


King Hamlet, for that which thou hast done, the bark is ready, and everything is bent for England.

Hamlet [To the KING] Good. Farewell, dear mother.

King Thy loving father, Hamlet.

Hamlet Father and mother is man and wife, man and wife is one flesh, and so my mother. Come, for England.


King [To ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.] Delay it not; I'll have him hence tonight.

Exit all.


Scene 4. A Plain in Denmark.


Fortinbras Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king. Tell him that Fortinbras craves a march over his kingdom.

Captain I will do't, my lord.



Hamlet Good sir, whose powers are these?

Captain They are against some part of Poland, the nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras. We go to gain a little patch of ground.

The CAPTAIN exits.

Rosencrantz Will't please you go, my lord?

Hamlet I'll be with you straight.

Exit all but HAMLET.

Hamlet Witness this army, led by a tender prince to imminent death. O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody!



Scene 5. Elsinore. A Room in the Castle.


Queen Let her come in.


Enter OPHELIA, distracted by madness.

Queen How now, Ophelia?

OPHELIA sings madly.

Queen [distraught] Nay—

Enter KING.

Queen Alas, look here, my lord.

Ophelia [lunatic] God be at your table!

King Conceit upon her father. How long hath she been thus?

OPHELIA continues mad antics and is led out.


King O, when sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.

A noise within.

Queen Alack, what noise is this?

King Where are my Switzers?

Noise within. The doors burst open.

Enter LAERTES, armed; DANES following. The DANES stay back. LAERTES approaches the KING in a fit of anger.

Laertes Vile king, give me my father.

Queen [Holding LAERTES.] Calmly, good Laertes.

King What is the cause, Laertes, that thy rebellion looks so giant-like?

Laertes Where is my father?

King Dead.

Queen But not by him.

Laertes How came he dead? I'll be revenged.

OPHELIA cries outside.

Laertes What noise is that?

Re-enter OPHELIA.

Laertes Kind sister!

OPHELIA babbles, distracted by madness, tossing flowers.

Laertes Madness.

OPHELIA exits, wandering in madness.

Laertes Do you see this, O God?

King We shall labour with your soul to give it content.

Laertes Let this be so.

All exit.


Scene 6. Another Room in the Castle.


Servant Seafaring men, sir. They say they have letters for you.

Enter SAILORS. They bow, and HORATIO returns the bow.

1st Sailor There's a letter for you, sir, from th' ambassador bound for England.

Horatio [Reads.] "Horatio, two days at sea, a pirate gave us chase. Finding ourselves too slow, we put on valour, and in the grapple I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt me mercy. Let the king have the letters I have sent, and repair to me with speed. These good fellows will bring thee where I am.



Horatio Come, I will give you way for these your letters.

They exit.


Scene 7. Another Room in the Castle.


King Put me in your heart for friend. He which hath your noble father slain pursued my life.

Laertes It well appears. But tell me why you proceeded not against these feats.

King O, his mother lives almost by his looks. The other motive is the great love the general gender bear him.

Laertes And so have I a noble father lost; a sister driven into desp'rate terms. But my revenge will come.

King I loved your father as we love ourself. Imagine—

Enter a MESSENGER, with letters.

Messenger Letters, my lord, from Hamlet.

King Laertes, you shall hear them. [to Messenger] Leave us.


King [Reads.] "High and mighty, you shall know I am set naked on your kingdom. Tomorrow shall I see your kingly eyes, when I shall recount my strange return.


Laertes Let him come. I shall tell him, `Thus diest thou.'

King Laertes, I will work him to an exploit; and for his death no blame shall breathe. Even his mother shall call it accident.

Laertes What part is that, my lord?

King Your rapier. We'll wager on your heads. He will not peruse the foils; so that with ease, you may requite him for your father.

Laertes I bought an unction. I'll touch my point with this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly, it may be death.

Enter QUEEN.

Queen Your sister's drowned, Laertes.

Laertes Drowned! O, where?

Queen The brook. She chanted old lauds till her garments pulled the poor wretch to muddy death.

Laertes Alas. Adieu, my lord.

He exits.


ACT 5.

Scene 1. A Churchyard.

Enter TWO CLOWNS with spades and mattocks.

1st Clown Is she to be buried in Christian burial?

2nd Clown She is.

1st Clown How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her own defence?

2nd Clown She should have been buried out o' Christian burial.

Enter HAMLET and HORATIO afar off.

Exit 2nd CLOWN.

1st CLOWN diggs and sings.

Hamlet Has this fellow no feeling that a' sings at grave-making?

Horatio Custom hath made him easy.

Hamlet 'Tis so.

1st CLOWN sings and throws up a skull.

Hamlet Whose grave's this, sirrah?

1st Clown Mine, sir.


Hamlet Who is to be buried in't?

1st Clown One that was a woman, sir; but she's dead.

Hamlet How absolute the knave is! How long hast thou been a gravemaker?

1st Clown It was that very day that young Hamlet was born—he that is mad and sent into England.

Hamlet Why was he sent into England?

1st Clown Why, because he was mad. 'Tis no great matter there. There the men are as mad as he.

Hamlet How long will a man lie i'th' earth ere he rot?

1st Clown Faith, if a' be not rotten before a' die, a' will last you some eight year or nine year. Here's a skull now hath lain you i'th' earth three-and-twenty years.

Hamlet Whose was it?

1st Clown A whoreson mad rogue! A' poured a flagon on my head once. This was Yorick's skull, the king's jester.

Hamlet [Takes the skull.] Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest. Now get you to my lady and tell her, let her paint an inch thick. Make her laugh at that.

[Puts down the skull.]

Hamlet To what base uses we may return, Horatio!

Enter a PRIEST, the KING, the QUEEN, LAERTES, and a coffin, with LORDS attending.

Hamlet But soft awhile! Here comes the king. Who is that they follow?

[HAMLET and HORATIO stand aside.]

Laertes What ceremony else?

Hamlet That is Laertes, a very noble youth.

Priest She should in ground unsanctified have lodged, and pebbles should be thrown on her. Yet here she is allowed.

Laertes Lay her i'th' earth, and from her flesh may violets spring, churlish priest.

Hamlet [aside] What, the fair Ophelia!

Queen [Scattering flowers.] Sweets to the sweet; farewell. I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife.

Laertes Hold off the earth till I have caught her once more in mine arms.

[Leaps into the grave.]

Laertes Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead.

Hamlet [Advancing.] What is he whose grief bears such an emphasis? This is I, Hamlet the Dane.

[Leaps into the grave.]

Laertes The devil take thy soul!

[Grappling with HAMLET.]

King Pluck them asunder.

[All shout. The LORDS part them, and they come out of the grave.]

Hamlet I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not make up my sum.

King O, he is mad, Laertes.

Queen For love of God, forbear him.

Hamlet Show me what thou'lt do. Weep, fight, eat a crocodile? I'll do't. Be buried with her, and so will I.

Queen This is mere madness.


King I pray thee, good Horatio, wait upon him.


King [To LAERTES.] Strengthen your patience. Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son. An hour of quiet shortly shall we see.

Exit all.


Scene 2. A Hall in the Castle.


Hamlet My heart would not let me sleep. Rashly, up from my cabin in the dark I fingered their grand commission; where I found, Horatio, a command that my head should be struck off.

Horatio Is't possible?

Hamlet Read it. [Handing him the commission] I devised a new commission, an earnest conjuration from the king that he should the bearers put to death.

Horatio [Seeing the request to have Hamlet killed] Why, what a king is this!?

Hamlet He that hath killed my king and whored my mother — is't not perfect conscience to quit him with this arm? [raises his arm as if to strike]

Horatio It must be shortly known to him from England the business there.

Hamlet The interim is mine. But I am very sorry, good Horatio, that to Laertes I forgot myself. I'll court his favours.

Horatio [seeing someone coming] Peace, who comes here?

Enter OSRIC, doffing his hat.

Osric Your lordship is welcome back to Denmark.

Hamlet I humbly thank you, sir. [Aside to HORATIO.] Dost know this water-fly?

Horatio No, my good lord.

Hamlet 'Tis a vice to know him.

Osric Sweet lord, I should impart a thing to you from his majesty.

Hamlet I will receive it, sir. [Motions to him to put his hat on again.]

Osric [Humoring him] I thank your lordship, it is very hot.

Hamlet No, 'tis very cold.

Osric [Humoring him.] It is cold, my lord, indeed.

Hamlet But yet it is very sultry for my complexion.

Osric [Humoring him.] Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry. But, my lord, his majesty has laid a great wager on your head. Sir, here is Laertes; an absolute gentleman.

Hamlet I take him to be a soul of great article.

Osric You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is, sir, for his weapon.

Hamlet What's his weapon?

Osric Rapier and dagger.

Hamlet That's two of his weapons—but well.

Osric The king, sir, hath wagered with him six Barbary horses against six French rapiers, that in a dozen passes, he shall not exceed you three hits.

Hamlet Sir, let the foils be brought. I will win for him an I can.


Horatio This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.

Enter a LORD.

Lord My lord, his majesty sends to know if you hold to play with Laertes. The king and queen and all are coming down.

Hamlet In happy time.

Lord The queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes before you fall to play.

Hamlet She well instructs me.

[Exit LORD]

Horatio You will lose this wager, my lord.

Hamlet I do not think so. Since he went into France, I have been in continual practice.

Enter KING, QUEEN, LAERTES, LORDS, OSRIC, and ATTENDANTS with Trumpets, drums,
and cushions; foils and gauntlets; a table, and flagons of wine on it.

King Come, Hamlet, come.

[Puts LAERTES's hand into HAMLET's.]

Hamlet Give me your pardon, sir. I have done you wrong. What I have done, I here proclaim was madness.

Laertes I am satisfied in nature. But in my terms of honour I stand aloof.

Hamlet I will this wager frankly play. [to ATTENDANTS] Give us the foils.

Laertes Come, one for me.

Hamlet I'll be your foil, Laertes.

Laertes You mock me, sir.

Hamlet [Raising his hand to swear] No, by this hand.

King Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet, you know the wager?

Hamlet Very well, my lord; your grace has laid the odds o'th' weaker side.

King I do not fear it.

[Laertes tests the feel of his fencing foil and rejects one for another. Hamlet keeps his.]

[They prepare to play.]

King [Motions for wine] If Hamlet give the first or second hit, let all the battlements their ordnance fire, and the king shall drink to Hamlet's breath. Begin; and, judges, bear a wary eye.

Hamlet Come on, sir.

Laertes Come, my lord.

[They play. Hamlet scores a touch on Laertes.]

Hamlet One.

Laertes No.

Hamlet Judgement.

Osric A hit, a very palpable hit.

Laertes Well, again.

King Give me drink. [Dropping a poisoned pill in the goblet] Hamlet, this pearl is thine; here's to thy health.

[He raises the cup but does not drink. Drum and trumpets sound, and shot goes off.]

King Give him the cup.

Hamlet I'll play this bout first. Come.

[They play. Hamlet scores a touch again.]

Hamlet Another hit; what say you?

Laertes A touch, a touch, I do confess.

King Our son shall win.

Queen He's fat and scant of breath. [Offering her handkerchief] Here, Hamlet, rub thy brows.

Hamlet [Taking it] Good madam.

The QUEEN takes the poisoned cup from the KING.

King Gertrude, do not drink.

Queen I will, my lord; pardon me.

[She drinks and offers it to Hamlet.]

Hamlet By and by.

Queen Come, let me wipe thy face.

Laertes [To the KING, a little reluctant] My lord, I'll hit him now.

King I do not think't.

Hamlet Come for the third, Laertes. You do but dally.

Laertes [angered] Come on.

[They play. They lock and dash apart without a score.]

Osric Nothing neither way.

Laertes Have at you now!

[LAERTES wounds HAMLET. Then, in scuffling, they change rapiers, and HAMLET wounds LAERTES.]

King Part them; they are incensed.

Hamlet Nay, come again.

[The QUEEN falls. ATTENDANTS gasp and rush to her.]

Horatio They bleed on both sides. [Goes to HAMLET.]

Osric How is't, Laertes?

Laertes Why, I am justly killed with mine own treachery.

Hamlet [Seeing the QUEEN in distress] How does the queen?

King She swoons to see them bleed.

Queen No, no, the drink, the drink! O my dear Hamlet; the drink, the drink! I am poisoned.


Hamlet O villainy! Ho! Let the door be locked. Treachery, seek it out!

[Exit OSRIC.]

[LAERTES falls.]

Laertes Hamlet, thou art slain. No med'cine in the world can do thee good. The king's to blame.

Hamlet The point envenomed too! Then, venom, to thy work.

[Stabs the KING.]

All Treason! Treason!

The KING cries out for help.

Hamlet [Forcing the poisoned cup on him] Here, thou damned Dane, drink off this potion. Follow my mother.

[KING dies.]

Laertes He is justly served; it is a poison tempered by himself. Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.


Hamlet I follow thee. I am dead, Horatio. Report my cause aright.

Horatio Never believe it. Here's yet some liquor left. [Makes to drink it.]

Hamlet As thou'rt a man, give me the cup. Draw thy breath in pain to tell my story.

[March afar off, and shot within.]

Hamlet What warlike noise is this?

Osric Young Fortinbras from Poland gives this warlike volley.

Hamlet O, I die, Horatio. But I do prophesy th' election lights on Fortinbras. He has my dying voice. The rest is silence.

[HAMLET dies.]

Horatio Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

[March within.]

Horatio Why does the drum come hither?


Fortinbras O proud death, what feast, so many princes?

1st Ambassador Our affairs from England come too late. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Where should we have our thanks?

Horatio [Indicating Claudius] Not from his mouth. But give order that these bodies be placed to the view; and let me speak to th' world how these things came about.

Fortinbras Let us haste to hear it. With sorrow I embrace my fortune, this kingdom.

Horatio Let this same be presently performed, lest more plots and errors happen.

Fortinbras Let four captains bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage. Take up the bodies. Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

Exit, marching, bearing off the dead bodies; after which a peal of ordnance is shot off.

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