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marriage of his mother, so quickly following his father's death, and with a brother of her former husband. While he is soliloquizing, Horatio, with Marcellus and Bernardo, the officers of the guard, enter, and recount to him the occurrences of the previous night. Satisfied from their description that it is his father's spirit they have seen, he determines to watch with them, that he may learn, if possible, the cause and object of the mysterious visitation. 3 In the third scene, Laertes, taking leave of his sister Ophelia, cautions her to fear the wooing of Hamlet, who has professed love for her. Polonius, coming in, gives his blessing and some good advice to his son, and when he goes out the old chamberlain also bids his daughter be wary of the attentions of the young Prince.
4. The fourth scene is, as before, at midnight, on the platform in front of the castle. Here, according to appointment, Hamlet has joined Horatio and Marcellus in the watch for the Apparition. While Hamlet is commenting on the disgraceful orgies with which his mother's wedding is celebrated, the Ghost makes its appearance. Hamlet speaks to it, conjures it to tell the reason of its coming, and what it would the living should do. The Apparition makes no answer, but beckons Hamlet to follow, which he does and, when out of the hearing of his companions, the Ghost makes known that he is the Spirit of Hamlet's father; that his death was not occasioned by the sting of a serpent, as had been reported, but that he was poisoned, while sleeping in his garden, by his brother, who now wears his crown, and has wedded his widowed queen. Then, charging Hamlet to avenge his father's murder on his perfidious uncle, the Ghost vanishes as it "scents the morning air."
Horatio and Marcellus, fearing some harm to Hamlet, are has
tening to seek him, when he meets them, and in answer to their inquiries speaks at first jestingly of his interview with the Ghost, but afterwards causes them to swear that they will reveal nothing of the events of the night, nor indicate by any word or gesture, however odd or strange his act or speech should hereafter be, that they could, if they would, give a reason for his conduct. The solemnity of the oath is increased by the voice of the Ghost beneath calling on them to swear.
At the opening of the second act we are at Polonius' house, where he is dispatching Reynaldo, his servant, to Paris, to learn something of Laertes' way of living in that city. As he goes out, Ophelia enters in great alarm to inform her father that, while she was sewing in her room, Hamlet came in,— staring wildly, his dress disordered, and apparently out of his mind, and seizing her by the wrist gazed steadfastly on her face for a time, then, dropping her hand, left her presence, with his eyes fixed on her to the last. After questioning his daughter, and learning that she had obeyed his injunction, and treated Hamlet coldly, returning his letters, and refusing to see him, Polonius concludes that this rejection of his love by Ophelia has made Hamlet mad, and determines to so advise the King and Queen, who had noticed, and were much disturbed by, his eccentric behavior.
In the second scene of this act we meet Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two friends of Hamlet. They have been sent for by the King, in the hope that in free intercourse with Hamlet, without arousing his suspicion that they are acting on the King's prompting, they may get from him the cause of his distraction. Polonius, now coming in, announces the return of the ambassadors from Norway, and also that he has discovered the cause of Hamlet's lunacy. The ambassadors having been heard, Polonius proceeds,
with many words and in an inflated style, to inform the King and Queen that it is his daughter's rejection of Hamlet's addresses that has made him mad. To satisfy the King that such is the case, Polonius proposes that the King conceal himself where he can overhear a conversation between Hamlet and Ophelia, arrangement of which she is to be advised. The King and Queen go out. Haml enters; and his liscordant alk with Polonius confirms his opinion of the cause of Hamlet's disordered mind.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come in ; but, instead of probing Hamlet's madness, they are completely outwitted by him. He is interested, however, when they tell him of a company of players that is just now about the court; and he determines in his own mind to have a play enacted before the King and Queen, in which he will insert some lines describing a scene like the murder of his father, while he himself will watch the effect of the performance on the King. The act closes with a soliloquy by Hamlet, wherein he blames himself for his delay in executing his vengeance, expresses doubt of the truth of the Ghost's revelation, but concludes, that, if the King is guilty, the play will test his guilt beyond question.
" The third act begins with the relation by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of their visit to Hamlet. Then comes the meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia, as planned by her father. The King, who, as contemplated, has been a hidden listener, does not think that Hamlet's speech and actions are occasioned by love, nor does he deem them altogether due to madness. His guilty conscience is quick to apprehend some danger to himself; and he resolves that Hamlet shall be sent to England without delay, intending that he shall there be put to death.
The next scene embraces the play before the King and Court,
which comes so near the circumstances of the murder as related by the Ghost, that the King rises, and leaves the hall, followed by all in attendance except Hamlet and Horatio. 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern soon reënter with a message to Hamlet from his mother, who desires to speak with him in her chamber He complies with her request, and in an interview, casting aside all disguise of madness, reproaches her in bitter terms for her disloyalty to his father in her hasty and unnatural marriage with the brother and murderer of her former husband. Affrighted by the violence of his speech, she calls for help. The cry is repeated by Polonius, who is concealed behind the drapery of the room, through which Hamlet pierces with his rapier (supposing the eavesdropper to be the King), and kills the unseen old man. Overcome by the earnestness of her son's appeals, the Queen displays contrition, promises repentance, and further promises that she will not make known to the King the fact that Hamlet's apparent madness is assumed.
In the fourth act the Queen reports to the King that Hamlet in fit of madness has killed Polonius. The King sends for Hamlet, tells him that his safety requires that he should leave the country, and that the vessel is ready to take him to England. Following Hamlet's departure there is a scene in which Ophelia appears in disheveled dress, singing bits of old ballads, her mind distracted by grief for the death of her father.
Laertes now arrives from Paris, in hot haste to avenge his father's murder. He at first thinks the King accessory to the deed, but is soon convinced, after meeting him, that he is also an object of Hamlet's enmity. While the King and Laertes are in conference, messengers come in, bringing letters from Hamlet, from which we gather that he has been captured by pirates, and
by them landed, naked and alone, on the shore of Denmark, and
that he intends to come to Elsinore at once. Whereupon the King
contrives a plan to take Hamlet's life on his return to court. The King is to have Hamlet and Laertes engage in a friendly fencing match, in which Laertes is to kill Hamlet by using, as if inadvertently, a foil without a blunted point. To this Laertes readily agrees, and adds that he will have his weapon's point so envenomed with a deadly poison that the merest scratch with it will be mortal; and, to make all sure, the King is to prepare a cup of poisoned wine, of which Hamlet may be induced to drink between the heats of the contest. Hardly are the details of this plot completed, when the Queen enters with the news of the accidental drowning of Ophelia.
The fifth act opens in a graveyard, where Hamlet, who has just reached Elsinore, is moralizing over a skull which the gravedigger has thrown out with the earth while digging a grave. The King, the Queen, Laertes, and other mourners approach in funeral procession, following the body of Ophelia. At the burial, a vio lent quarrel arises between Hamlet and Laertes; but they are finally reconciled.
The fencing match takes place the next day. In one of the bouts, Hamlet receives a slight wound from Laertes' poisoned foil, and the fencers become incensed. In the excitement there is an exchange of weapons, and Laertes is punctured with his own deadly instrument. In the meantime the Queen, who is ignorant of the poisoned cup, drinks of it, and immediately falls dead. Laertes now tells Hamlet that neither he nor himself have half an hour to live, and confesses the treacherous plot devised by himself and the King; hearing which, Hamlet rushes upon the King, and stabs him to death.