Summary Of Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
Summary of Hamlet SUMMARY OF THE PLAYAct I, Scene i:The play begins on the outer ramparts of Elsinore castle. It is late andBernardo, a guard, is on duty waiting for Francisco to relieve him from hiswatch. Bernardo is nervous because the previous two nights he and Franciscohave seen a figure who appears to be the ghost of the recently deceasedking wandering around. Francisco approaches, accompanied by Horatio (Hamlet’s only friend andconfident). Even though Horatio dismisses the idea of a ghost, the guardsstart to retell the previous nights’ encounters. As the guards begin, theghost appears before them- much to Horatio’s surprise. The guards urge Horatio to speak with the ghost. Because Horatio is astudent, they feel he should be able to communicate with the ghost, andtheir previous attempts to talk with it have failed. Horatio’s attemptsalso fail. The scene ends with Horatio stating that he will go and informhis friend Hamlet of these incredible events. Act I, Scene ii:This scene opens in contrast to the first scene. The first scene takesplace on the dark, cold isolated ramparts; this scene begins in a brightlylit court, with the new king, Claudius, celebrating his recent wedding tohis new wife, Gertrude. Everyone in the court appears happy and joyful, except one character who issitting off to the side. He is dressed in black, the colour of mourning,and does not like what he sees. The lone figure is Hamlet, the maincharacter of the play. He is wearing black because it has been only twomonths since his father, Hamlet senior the ghost on the battlements, diedand he still is mourning his father’s death. To further upset Hamlet, Claudius’ new bride is Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. Hamlet is upset because his mother married Claudius so soon after becominga widow. To add to all the injustices Hamlet is feeling at this time,Claudius is also related to Hamlet. Hamlet’s uncle is now his father-in-lawand Gertrude’s brother-in-law is now her husband. Claudius conducts several pieces of business during the beginning of thisscene. He first tries to take measures to prevent a war with Norway, thendiscusses Laertes’ request to leave court and go back to school. Claudiusagrees with Polonius, Laertes’ father, that Laertes’ plan of going back toschool is a good one. He gives Laertes permission to go. This familial scene brings Claudius’ mind to Hamlet. He recognizes Hamletis upset and he tries to make amends and urges Hamlet to stay in Denmark,instead of returning to school. After his mother echoes Claudius’ request,Hamlet agrees to stay. Hamlet is left on stage after everyone else leaves. He speaks a soliloquyexpressing his anger at the present circumstances in his life and discusseshis depression as a result of these events. The scene ends with Horatio,Marcellus and Bernardo entering and talking with Hamlet about the ghostthey have seen. Hamlet agrees to join them this coming night to see theghost himself. Note: a soliloquy is the thoughts of a character being expressed out loud. These thoughts deal with the true feelings of a character and give insight into what a character is thinking about and how his mind works. This first soliloquy is one several spoken by Hamlet throughout the play. Each one gives us further insight into what Hamlet is feeling at the time. Text: Act I, Scene ii—————————————————————————Act I, Scene iii:This scene opens with Laertes saying his goodbyes to his sister Ophelia,before he leaves for school. We find out from their discussion that Hamlethas been seeing Ophelia and is very serious about their relationship. Hehas been alone with Ophelia on many occasions and has professed his lovefor her during these times. He has also given her gifts during thesevisits. Leartes, who knows about his sister’s suitor, tries to warn Ophelia thatbecause Hamlet is destined to become King, he can never be serious in hisrelationship with her. Hamlet may seem virtuous and noble at this time, hewarns, but he will leave her to fulfill his duties to the kingdom when thetime comes. She promises to be careful in this relationship and re-asserts that Hamlethas never taken advantage of her, nor has he ever been anything but agentleman in their relationship. The conversation ends with Ophelialecturing her brother that he should practice what he preaches and not fallinto any casual relationships foolishly, and not to worry about her. At this point, Polonius enters and gives his son one more lecture before heleaves on how to conduct himself when he goes back to school. The fatherlyadvice includes thoughts on not borrowing or lending money, because it cancause more problems than it is worth. He also tells his son not to saythings that might make others think he is foolish, to hold his tongue andto be careful of getting into quarrels, but once in one give a good showfor yourself. Finally, before Leartes leaves, Polonius tells him to be’true to himself.’ In other words, if you do the right things for the rightreasons you can never do any wrong to others. The scene ends with Polonius discussing with Ophelia her relationship withHamlet. He, like Laertes, does not trust Hamlet’s intentions, becauseHamlet is young and young men have no honour; they have only one thing ontheir minds- sex. Although Ophelia has no reason to distrust Hamlet’sintentions, she obeys her father’s wishes and agrees she will not seeHamlet any more. Text: Act I, Scene iii—————————————————————————Act I, Scene iv:It is the night following Horatio’s first encounter with the ghost and itfinds him, the guards and Hamlet on the platform waiting for the ghost. There is a celebration going on in the castle and Hamlet explains toHoratio that it is customary for the king to hold a celebration wherecannons are shot off in honour of the King’s health. This celebration issomething Hamlet does not agree with; it is too excessive and othercountries look upon the Danes as foolish because of it. The ghost appears and Hamlet, realizing that it does look like his father-the old king-, approaches it and asks that it speak to him. At this point,Hamlet doesn’t know whether or not the ghost is there for good or evilpurposes. The ghost beckons Hamlet. When Hamlet considers going with theghost, Horatio and Marcellus try to dissuade him. They are concerned forhis safety. If the ghost is there for evil purposes, it might lead Hamletto his death. Hamlet forces his way past them and follows the ghost. Thescene ends with Horatio and Marcellus following Hamlet to try and protecthim. Text: Act I, Scene iv—————————————————————————Act I, Scene v:On another part of the platform, the ghost tells Hamlet that he is indeedHamlet’s father and that he was murdered. The ghost asks Hamlet to revengehis ‘most foul, strange, and unnatural murder’ and Hamlet heartily agrees. Hamlet is shocked when the ghost goes on to tell him that he was murderedby his own brother, Claudius. Unlike the story Claudius told the court,that a serpent stung and killed the old king, the ghost tells Hamlet thatduring his afternoon nap in the orchard Claudius crept in and poured poisonin the king’s ear. The ghost goes on to tell Hamlet about how Hamlet’s own mother wasadulterous with Claudius, before the ghost’s death. He alos has Hamletpromise him that he will leave her deeds to be judged and punished by God,and that Hamlet should not take revenge on her himself. The dawn comes,forcing the ghost to return to the hellish underworld he must inhabit,because of the wrongful deeds he did prior to his own death. Hamlet is very angry about the events the ghost told him of, and swearsthat he will remember the ghost and what the ghost asked of him. He alsoswears that he will forget all trivial matters and that his life will befocused on one event, avenging his father’s murder. Horatio and Marcellus find him and Hamlet has them swear that they willreveal to no one the events surrounding the ghost. The ghost calls up frombelow for them to swear when they seem hesistant to do so. Before the sceneends, Hamlet warns his friends that he will put on an ‘antic disposition’for everyone to see. In other words, he will pretend to be crazy until hecan avenge his father’s death. Text: Act I, Scene v—————————————————————————Act II, Scene i:As we find out later in the scene, apparently Hamlet has been following theplan he told Horatio about, putting on an ‘antic disposition.’The scene opens with Polonius sending Reynaldo to Wittenberg to giveLaertes money. Although Reynaldo’s quest at first appears straight-forward,Polonius also gives Reynaldo the added duty of spying on Laertes. BecausePolonius is concerned for his family name, he wants to find out all aboutLaertes’ actions and goings-on. Even though Reynaldo states that he was going to make some discreetinquires into Laertes’ actions, he is shocked when Polonius tells him to dowhatever he can, short of dishonouring Laertes, to find out what Laertes isup to; including making up stories about incidents that didn’t happen inhopes of freeing men’s tongues to tell stories concerning Leartes thatReynaldo may not have heard about. Even though Reynaldo doesn’t agree withPolonius’ way of gathering information, he gives in to Polonius’ request. Ophelia enters as Reynaldo leaves and her father, seeing that she isdistressed, asks her what is troubling her. Ophelia relates a strangeencounter she has just had with Hamlet. He came to see her in completedissarray. His clothes were a mess and his appearance was pale and sickly. She goes on to say that Hamlet grabbed her hand and studied her at armslength. He didn’t say anything, but after a perusal of her face he shookhis head threee times and gave out a wail that was piteous and profound. Hethen dropped her arm and, without taking his eyes off Ophelia, walked outof the room. Polonius, thinking that Hamlet is still madly in love with Ophelia,believes his request for Ophelia to stop seeing Hamlet is the cause of hisrecent apparent madness. He tells Ophelia that they must report thisincident to the King. They leave, after Polonius chastises himself formaking what appears to be a wrong judgement regarding Hamlet’s truefeelings for Ophelia. Text: Act II, Scene i—————————————————————————Act II, Scene ii:The action takes place two months after Hamlet has met with the ghost. Thescene opens with Claudius and Gertrude talking to two of Hamlet’s friends,Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It seems that Hamlet has been actingstrangely for the past couple of months, and no one is able to find outwhy. Although Gertrude guesses it is because of the death of his father andher overhasty marriage, Claudius is not so sure this is the reason. BecauseClaudius and Gertrude are unable to find out the reason for Hamlet’smadness they send for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with the hopes that theywill be able to find out the truth. Both gentlemen agree to spy on Hamletto find out the cause of his madness after Gertrude tells them they willgain the king’s money, thanks and recognition. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern leave to find Hamlet. Polonius enters at thesame time as the messengers sent to Norway return with news regardingFortinbras. Polonius tells the King and Queen that he has found out thecause of Hamlet’s madness, and will tell them after they hear the news fromthe messengers. Voltimand and Cornelius enter and report to the king that they met withFortinbras’ uncle and have found a way to stop Fortinbras’ plan to attackDenmark. The uncle, after finding out the true goal of Fortinbras’ army,rebukes Fortinbras for his deeds and tells him to forget this plan. Fortinbras obeys his uncle’s wishes and with his uncle’s help decides touse his army to attack the “Polacks.” The king looks over a paper that hasFortinbras’ plans for crossing safely through Denmark on his way to fightthe Polacks, and turns his attention to Polonius. Polonius tells the King and Queen about his suspicion that Hamlet’s madnessis caused by Ophelia’s rejecting Hamlet’s affections. Although the queenbelieves Polonius’ speech is too long-winded, and chastises him for hisround-about ways, he brushes her off and continues with his theories. Asproof of his suspicions, he reads a letter Hamlet wrote to Ophelia thatexpresses his love and feelings for her. Seeing that the king and queendon’t agree with his assumptions as whole heartedly as he does, Poloniustries to prove his theory by approaching Hamlet himself. He ushers the Kingand Queen out as Hamlet approaches. Although Polonius tries his best to pin down Hamlet’s thoughts, he fails. Hamlet not only manages to evade Polonius’ questions, but he seizes theopportunity and slanders Polonius and his foolish, meddling ways withoutPolonius’ realization. Polonius leaves after realizing that there is a lotof meaning in Hamlet’s rantings. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter and Hamlet greets them affectionately. Hamlet is pleasant and cheerful to them until he finds out that they arethere to spy on him and report to the King the reason for Hamlet’s madness. Although Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are hesitant to admit they were sentfor, they cannot deny it further when Hamlet convinces them that he knowsthey were sent for. The focus of the conversation changes to acting and the theatre whenRosencrantz informs Hamlet that players (entertainers) are on their way tothe castle to perform a play for the King. They discuss the use of childactors in the theatre and Hamlet takes another opportunity to insultPolonius when he comes in to tell Hamlet about the players. When Hamletmakes a remark about a ‘fair daughter’ in a play, Polonius believes he ishinting at Ophelia. They are interrupted by the entrance of the players.
Hamlet greets the players warmly and asks the leader to recite a passage heonce heard player speak. Hamlet remembered the recital because the playerspoke it in such an honest and passionate way. The player recites a passageconcerning the death of Priam, during the Trojan war. After the speech,Hamlet asks Polonius to take excellent care of the players and to find themquarters. Hamlet talks with the First Player about inserting some linesthat Hamlet will make up into the play they are presenting tomorrow. Theplayer agrees to Hamlet’s request and leaves. Rosencrantz and Guildensternleave and Hamlet is alone on stage to give his second soliloquy. Hamlet is angry with himself for procrastinating and failing to takerevenge for his father’s death. He is upset because he is unable to showthe passion in real life that the player can show on stage. He can’tbelieve that an actor can show anger and even cry for a fictitious eventwhen he can’t, despite all his reasons to show these emotions. He tries toincite his passion by stating events that would make him angry, butrealizes all he is doing is talking about what he should do. Realizing thathe isn’t further helping himself with these speeches, he makes a plan thatwill give him the proof he needs to show Claudius’ guilt in Hamlet’sfather’s death. Because there is still doubt about whether or not the ghost was Hamlet’sfather asking Hamlet to avenge his death, or an evil spirit trying to getHamlet into trouble, Hamlet decides to get proof of Claudius’ guilt beforeproceeding further. Hamlet believes he can obtain his proof by watchingClaudius’ reaction to a murder acted out by the players similar to that ofHamlet’s father’s murder. Text: Act II, Scene ii—————————————————————————Act III, Scene i:This scene opens with Claudius, the King, asking Rosencrantz andGuildenstern if they have discovered the cause of Hamlet’s madness. Afteradmitting they did not find the cause, but were treated well by Hamlet,they inform the King and Queen that Hamlet is happy that there is going tobe a play presented tomorrow and he hopes that Claudius and Gertrude willattend. Pleased that there is something that amuses Hamlet, they bothdecide to attend the play and they urge Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to tryand stimulate his interest further. Claudius asks Gertrude to leave beca so that he and Polonius can observe aclandestine meeting they set up between Hamlet and Ophelia. They tellOphelia to pretend she is praying and they go and hide. Hamlet enters andgives a soliloquy on his thoughts about himself committing suicide. He seesOphelia, and when she tries to return some gifts that he had given her, heclaims he never gave her any. They have a discussion wherein Hamlet deniesever loving Ophelia and berating her and women in general for theirtrickery and pretentiousness. When Hamlet leaves, Claudius and Polonius enter. Claudius is convinced thatHamlet’s madness does not stem from his love for Ophelia, but that it issomething else that is afflicting his soul. Claudius realizes that Hamlet’sactions are a danger to those around him. He decides to send Hamlet toEngland, hoping a change of atmosphere will settle his heart. The sceneends with Claudius stating that Hamlet should be watched. Text: Act III, Scene i—————————————————————————Act III, Scene ii:Hamlet gives some last minute instructions to the players and they proceedto get ready to perform the play. Hamlet confides in Horatio that he has aplan to test his uncle’s guilt. He tells Horatio that he has asked theplayers to reinact the murder of Hamlet’s father. By seeing Claudius’reaction to the murder, Hamlet will know for sure whether or not the ghostwas telling the truth. Horatio agrees to watch the king’s reaction. The play, The Mousetrap, is introduced and gets underway. When the murderscene is enacted, Claudius calls for lights and storms out. Hamlet andHoratio discuss the king’s reactions and both are convinced that Claudiuskilled the old king. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter, tell Hamlet the king is very upset andthen they ask him why he has been so upset lately. Hamlet, tired of theirmeddling, confronts them and demands to know why they are trying all thesegames to get information from him. He tells them that he is too smart to becaught in their traps. Polonius enters and tells Hamlet that the Queenwishes to speak with him. Text: Act III, Scene ii—————————————————————————Act III, Scene iii:This scene gives insight into Claudius’ thoughts and gives the audienceproof regarding Hamlet’s and the ghost’s assertions that Claudius killedHamlet’s father. The king, frightened, prepares to send Hamlet to England, with Rosencrantzand Guildenstern to accompany him. Polonius enters and tells the King thatGertrude is going to talk to Hamlet and try and come to an understandingregarding his madness, while he (Polonius) hides and listens to theconversation. Polonius leaves and Claudius is left on stage. In Claudius’ soliloquy, he admits to killing his brother and starts torealize the difficulties he is in. He tries to attone for his sins bypraying, but he finds that although he can say the words to ask forforgiveness, he doesn’t believe what he is saying. Unbeknownst to Claudius,Hamlet enters while Claudius is at prayer. Although this seems like theperfect opportunity for Hamlet, a chance to kill Claudius after provingClaudius’ guilt in the murder, Hamlet refuses to go ahead with the deed. Heis afraid that because Claudius is praying, Claudius’ sins will beforgiven. Because Hamlet doesn’t want Claudius to have a chance to go toheaven, or to purgatory where Hamlet’s father now resides, he leaves. NOTE: It is ironic that when Hamlet has an opportunity to kill Claudius and get away with killing him, he hesitates because he doesn’t want there to be a chance that Claudius wouldn’t suffer in the afterlife. What Hamlet didn’t know was that Claudius couldn’t pray and if he had killed Claudius, he would have had his revenge. Another thing to note, if Hamlet kills Claudius now, the deaths that occur later in the play would not have happened. Text: Act III, Scene iii—————————————————————————Act III, Scene iv:Polonius hides behind a curtain as Hamlet enters into mother’s chamber. When the Queen is confronted by an angry and erratic Hamlet, she panics andscreams for help. When Polonius hears her scream, he thinks Hamlet istrying to kill her and he yells out. Hamlet, who suspects that Claudius ishiding behind the curtain, draws his sword and stabs at the sound. The Queen, horrified at what Hamlet has done, tries to chastise him, butHamlet says his deed is nowhere as bad as killing a king and marrying theold king’s wife. Hamlet goes on to explain to the Queen all that hebelieves she has done wrong, including wronging her old husband’s memory. He tries to show her the differences between the old king andClaudius,attributing only good qualities to his father and negativequalities to Claudius. Hamlet gets excited when confronted with Gertrude’s misplaced love; hedoesn’t understand how she can forget her husband so easily. The ghostenters. The Queen thinks Hamlet is mad (crazy), because she cannot see theghost Hamlet sees. The ghost reminds Hamlet that Hamlet is to leave thejudgement of Gertrude to God and not to harm her. Hamlet tries to convinceGertrude that the ghost is real, but fails. Hamlet tells Gertrude to forgo any romantic encounters with Claudius, tosave herself, and tries to get her to help with the plans he is making forrevenge on Claudius. He asks her to tell Claudius that she believes thatHamlet is of sound mind, that he is only pretending to be mad. He alsowarns her not to try and play the type of game he is playing. Hamlet,dragging Polonius’ body behind him, leaves a very shaken Gertrude afterreminding her that he must leave for England. Text: Act III, Scene iv—————————————————————————Act IV, Scene i:Gertrude explains to Claudius that she believes Hamlet is truly mad andthat as proof, he has killed Polonius and taken away the body. Claudius,after being thankful that he wasn’t the one killed, asks where Hamlet went. She cannot tell him, and Claudius tries to comfort her by telling her thatthey will soon be rid of him, because of his trip. Claudius calls forRosencrantz and Guildenstern. After telling them that Hamlet has killedPolonius, he asks them to go and find Hamlet, get Polonius’ body and to putPolonius’ body in the chapel. The scene ends with Claudius informing Gertrude that they must inform thecourt of what has happened and the reasons why they are sending Hamletaway. He is afraid that if he doesn’t present Hamlet as being the onlyguilty person, people might start to think Claudius had something to dowith the murder. Text: Act IV, Scene i—————————————————————————Act IV, Scene ii:Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come across Hamlet, who has by this timesafely hidden Polonius’ body. Although Rosencrantz and Guildenstern demandthat Hamlet tell them where the body is he refuses. They then tell Hamletthe King wishes to see him; they leave with him. Text: Act IV, Scene ii—————————————————————————Act IV, Scene iii:Claudius informs some of his Lords of his plan to send Hamlet away.. Hetells them that a dangerous man cannot run loose, and that Hamlet will begiven the opportunity to think about his crimes; Hamlet will not bepunished. Hamlet, according to Claudius, is trying to protect his secret ofkilling the old king. If he sends Hamlet away and Hamlet meets with an”accident”, then he can maintain his innocence by claiming he previouslyhad the opportunity to have Hamlet killed, but he choose to send him awayinstead. When Hamlet is brought before Claudius, he at first doesn’t tell the kingwhere the body is. Hamlet waits for his own opportunity to inform the kingof Polonius’ whereabouts. The king sends some attendants to retrieve thebody. Claudius informs Hamlet that Hamlet must be sent away immediately, becauseof Polonius’ murder. When Hamlet is taken away, and Claudius is left onstage alone, we are told that Claudius is preparing a trap for Hamlet. Claudius is sending notes to the king of England informing him that Hamletis to be executed immediately after his arrival. Claudius is looking outfor his own self-interest. Text: Act IV, Scene iii—————————————————————————Act IV, Scene iv:Fortinbras’ army is on the outskirts of Denmark. Fortinbras sends hiscaptain in to tell Claudius how his campaign went. Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern meet up with the captain, who informsthem the army that they see is Fortinbras’. The Captain discusses thefutility of the battle that they fought, where thousands of men died, overa barren patch of land. The captain leaves and Rosencrantz and Guildensternpreceed Hamlet to the ship; they are taking Hamlet to England. Hamlet is left alone on stage. In this soliloquy, he compares his inactionto date with Fortinbras’ action. Once again his view of himself isnegative. He criticizes himself for the things he has still leftunaccomplished. NOTE: There is a parallel between this soliloquy and the one in Act II, Scene ii. Hamlet is comparing his inadequacies and indecisions with other characters who appear to be more direct and willing to take the initiative, and who have better control over their emotions. The reader is to be reminded of the comparison between The First Player’s show of emotion and Hamlet’s inabiltiy to show that type of emotion. Although Hamlet has many valid reasons to pursue his revenge against Claudius, he has held off. Fortinbras has no real reason to attack Poland, but he will because it provides him with a task which reflects his personality. Text: Act IV, Scene iv—————————————————————————Act IV, Scene v:Gertrude encounters a “mad” Ophelia in this scene. Unlike Hamlet’s feignedmadness, Ophelia really is insane. She sings about death and behaveserratically. Claudius enters and Ophelia’s songs hint at grief regarding her father’sdeath. Claudius is amazed at Ophelia’s condition and asks how long she hasbeen like this. When Ophelia leaves, he asks Horatio to follow her and toprotect her from doing herself harm. While Claudius laments all the misfortunes that have befallen Opheliarecently, a noise is heard outside the castle. Laertes has come back toElsinore after he hears about his father’s death. Laertes believes thatClaudius had something to do with the death of Polonius. Although Laertes is upset over the events that have recently occurred andis seeking revenge against Claudius for his father’s death, Claudiusmanages to talk him out wanting to harm him. Claudius uses his courage andcunning to disarm Laertes and convinces him that all Laertes’ misfortunesare caused by Hamlet. Text: Act IV, Scene v—————————————————————————Act IV, Scene vi:Horatio meets with sailors who have messages from Hamlet. They give Horatioa letter which recounts Hamlet’s adventures on his sea voyage. It seemsthat pirates attacked the ship that Hamlet was on and through misadventure,Hamlet was captured and taken prisoner. Everyone else on the ship escapedunharmed and continued on to England. The note also tells Horatio thatHamlet has an incredible story to tell him when he arrives back tomorrow, astory that will make Horatio “dumb”. Text: Act IV, Scene vi—————————————————————————Act IV, Scene vii:Claudius convinces Laertes that he is innocent in Laertes’ father’s deathand that Hamlet is to blame. A messenger enters with Hamlet’s letter and Claudius is amazed to find thatHamlet is still alive. Claudius reads the letter to Laertes. Hamlet iswriting to inform the King that he has returned to Denmark and tha hewishes to meet with Claudius tomorrow. Claudius, concerned about Hamlet’s untimely return, advises Laertes to havea dueling match with Hamlet. In this match, Claudius plans to have Laerteskill Hamlet. They plan to cover the tip of Laertes’s sword with poison. Once Hamlet is struck with the sword, he will die. Hamlet’s death will endClaudius’ worries about anyone finding out about his involvement in hisbrother’s death. To further ensure Hamlet’s demise, Claudius intends topresent Hamlet, if he scores the first “hit”, with a poisoned goblet ofwine. This way, Hamlet will be kille