Hamlet: Scene-by-Scene


1.1.  The changing of the watch.  First appearance of the ghost.

1.2.  The full court, followed by Hamlet alone, followed by the interview with the guards.

  • Claudius thanks the court for their support of his marriage
  • He names Hamlet heir to the throne
  • He and Gertrude counsel Hamlet to end his mourning because “all that lives must die.”
  • Hamlet’s “O that this too too sullied flesh” soliloquy.
  • Horatio and the guards tell Hamlet about the ghost.

1.3.  The Polonius family advice-and-farewell scene.  Laertes takes leave of Ophelia and Polonius.

1.4.  The guard platform.  Hamlet’s “oft it chances in particular men” speech.  Second appearance of the ghost.

1.5.  The ghost’s story.  Hamlet’s “Remember thee?” soliloquy.  The guards swear secrecy.

2.1.  Polonius and Reynaldo plot; Ophelia’s “as I was sewing in my closet” speech.

2.2.  Various business.

  • Claudius receives Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the ambassadors from Norway.
  • Polonius reveals the “cause” of Hamlet’s madness using Ophelia’s letter as evidence and sets up the plan to loose Ophelia upon him.
  • Polonius “boards” Hamlet (“you are a fishmonger” exchange).
  • R&G greet Hamlet; he suspects their motives and interrogates them.
  • The players arrive.
  • “What a rogue and peasant slave am I!” soliloquy: “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”

3.1.  The “nunnery scene.”

  • R&G report to Claudius.
  • Claudius and Polonius hide themselves while Ophelia reads upon a book and waits for Hamlet
  • “To be or not to be” soliloquy.
  • “Get thee to a nunnery” exchange between Oph. and Hamlet
  • Claudius decides to send Hamlet to England.

3.2.  The play.

  • Hamlet’s advice to the players.
  • The audience arrives.
  • The dumbshow followed by “The Murder of Gonzago.”
  • R&G (and then Polonius) tell Hamlet to speak with this mother in her closet.
  • “Now could I drink hot blood” soliloquy.

3.3.  Claudius at prayers.

  • Claudius’s “O my offense is rank” monologue.
  • Hamlet’s “Now might I do it pat” monologue.

3.4.  The closet scene (also known as the “bedroom scene” since the 1920s).  Third appearance of the ghost.

4.1.  Gertrude reports the death of Polonius.  R&G sent to find Hamlet and the body.

4.2.  R&G pursue Hamlet.

4.3.  Hamlet reveals location of body, receives his orders for England.

4.4.  Hamlet meets Fortinbras.  “How all occasions do inform against me” soliloquy.

4.5.  The madness of Ophelia.  Laertes bursts in, demanding revenge for his father and threatening Claudius’s throne.

4.6.  Letters from Hamlet explaining his escape from the pirates.

4.7.  Claudius and Laertes plan revenge.  Gertrude’s report of Ophelia’s death.

5.1.  Gravediggers’ scene.

  • Two gravediggers jest.
  • Hamlet returns.
  • Meditation upon Yorick’s skull.
  • Ophelia’s funeral.
  • Hamlet and Laertes fight.

5.2.    The duel.

  • Horatio and Hamlet discuss R&G.
  • Osric delivers the challenge.
  • Hamlet’s resolution: “The readiness is all.”
  • The duel: Laertes wounds H, they exchange rapiers, and Hamlet wounds Laertes.
  • Gertrude drinks the poison.
  • Hamlet kills Claudius after Laertes confesses.
  • Laertes and Hamlet exchange forgiveness.
  • Horatio wishes to commit suicide, like an “antique Roman.” Hamlet asks him to stay alive to “tell my story.”
  • Fortinbras arrives.