Act 5, Scene 2

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

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.

 

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