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Laertes returns from France and finds his sister insane from grief over the loss of her father, and viewing this innocent wreck parading palace halls, exclaims:
"Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens! is it possible a young maid's wits Should be as mortal as an old man's life?"
Ophelia unconsciously sings:
"They bore him barefaced on the bier;
Holding a spray of flowers in her hands she fitfully plucks them and murmurs:
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance;
And there is pansies, that's for thoughts;
Hamlet and his party in sailing for England encounter a war-like pirate ship, and in the fight and grapple Hamlet alone is taken prisoner and his keepers go to destruction.
He suddenly appears at Elsinore, and goes to
the churchyard, where a grave is being prepared for Ophelia, who was drowned in a garden stream in her mad ramblings.
Hamlet converses philosophically with the grave diggers about the bones, skulls and greatness of a politician, courtier, lady, lawyer, tanner; and when the skull of the old king's jester is thrown out of the grave after a sleep of twenty-three years, Hamlet, speaking to Horatio, says:
"Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio;
And tell her, let her paint an inch thick,
The funeral procession with the corpse of Ophelia now appears, Laertes, King, Queen, train, and priests attending.
The priests tell Laertes that were it not for "great command" his sister's body "should in ground unsanctified have lodged till the last trumpet," because of alleged suicide.
Laertes peremptorily says:
"Lay her in the earth
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
Laertes and Hamlet, both overpowered with frantic grief, leap into the new-made grave and struggle for precedence of affection, the former exclaiming:
"Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,
Hamlet, replying to the King, Queen and Laertes, says:
"I loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers,
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Hamlet tells his friend, Horatio, how on his voyage to England he discovered that King Claudius gave commission to his enemies to send his head to the block. Hamlet says:
"Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well, When our deep plots do pall; and that should teach us
There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
King Claudius seeing no other way to get rid of Hamlet, consults his secret courtiers and brews up the passion existing between Laertes and himself, proposing that they fence with rapiers for a great prize, the King betting that in twelve passes of swords Laertes makes not three hits on Hamlet.
The grand contest for excellence in sword-play comes off in the main hall of the palace, while the King, Queen, lords and courtiers await the entrance of Hamlet.
The rapier point handed by the King to Laertes, was dipped in deadly poison, so that it but touch the flesh of Hamlet certain death prevailed, and even of the wine cups set on the table to quench the thirst of the artistic fencers, one was poisoned and intended for Hamlet's dissolution.
Laertes was in the poison plot, and Hamlet felt in his soul that foul play was intended, but in the general scramble and conclusion he hoped to wipe off the score of his vengeance from the slate of royal iniquity and slaughter.
Trumpet and cannon sound for beginning the sword contest.
First passes favored Hamlet, and the King, grasping the poison wine cup, says:
"Hamlet, this pearl is thine;
Here's to thy health!" (Offering him the cup.)
"Give Laertes the cup,
I'll play this bout first; set it by a while."
Hamlet makes another pass and touches Laertes, and the Queen grasps the poison cup in her excitement and drinks to her son.
The King impulsively says:
"Gertrude, do not drink!" (Aside) "It is the poisoned cup!"
The Queen, as God and Fate would have it, says stubbornly:
"I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me!"
In the third round Laertes wounds Hamlet with the poisoned-pointed rapier, and in the struggle Hamlet grasps Laertes' rapier and in turn wounds his antagonist.
At this moment the Queen falls off her throne, and dying, says to Hamlet:
"O, my dear Hamlet; the drink, the drink; I am poisoned!"
Laertes then falls, and Hamlet, seeing through the plot, exclaims:
"O, villainy! Ho! let the door be locked;