Act 5, Scene 2

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The big fight arrives, and Denmark gets a new king.

Characters

HamletBefore the duel, the prince reveals to Horatio that he sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths in his place. He is wounded by Laertes with the poisoned rapier, but in the ensuing fight the swords are switched and Laertes is injured with it as well. Hamlet finally stabs and poisons Claudius, killing him before he himself dies.HoratioHoratio watches the duel and, when Hamlet is fatally wounded, promises his friend that he will tell Hamlet’s story so that he is not forgotten.OsricA courtier who announces the duel.LordA Lord arrives to tell Hamlet that it's time for the duel to begin.ClaudiusThe king is revealed by Laertes as the mastermind behind the duel and is killed by a wounded Hamlet.GertrudeDuring the duel, the queen drinks from the poisoned cup intended for Hamlet and dies.LaertesLaertes fights Hamlet with the poisoned rapier and fatally wounds him before being wounded himself. As he is dying, he asks for Hamlet’s forgiveness and outs Claudius as the real villain.FortinbrasThe prince of Norway arrives to fight for the Danish throne only to find the entire royal family dead. After hearing the story from Horatio, he claims the throne for himself and orders a soldier’s funeral for Hamlet.LordsAttendants of the duel.AmbassadorThe English ambassador brings news that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

Summary

Hamlet tells Horatio that he’s aware of Claudius’s plot. As it turns out, Hamlet had Claudius’s letters calling for the death of Hamlet altered so that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would be killed upon their arrival in England. A courtier named Osric arrives to tell Hamlet it’s time for his duel with Laertes. The court enters to watch the duel. Before they duel, Hamlet takes the opportunity to apologize to Laertes for his insane behavior, but Laertes wants to go through with the fight no matter what because his reputation is on the line. Laertes selects the poisoned and sharpened rapier, and the two go at it. When Claudius offers Hamlet the poisoned goblet of wine, Hamlet refuses, and Gertrude picks up the cup instead. Toasting Hamlet, she drinks the poison, ensuring her eventual death. Meanwhile, Laertes wounds Hamlet with the poisoned blade, and the two continue to scuffle, somehow switching swords in the process. Hamlet wounds Laertes with the poisoned blade as well. Gertrude dies, prompting Laertes to point out that this is all Claudius’s fault. Finally, Hamlet seizes the opportunity and stabs Claudius with the poisoned blade. Before he dies, Laertes begs for Hamlet’s forgiveness, which he grants. Hamlet, also dying, commands Horatio to tell this story, so that everyone can understand what happened. Just then, Fortinbras arrives to claim the throne and instructs the court to give Hamlet a fine funeral because he would have made a fine king.

 

Character Interviews

MyShakespeare | Hamlet 5.2 Interviews