A hall in the castle.
Enter HAMLET and HORATIO
HAMLET
So much for this, sir: now shall you see the other;
You do remember all the circumstance?
HORATIO
Remember it, my lord?
HAMLET
Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting,
That would not let me sleep: methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly,
And praised be rashness for it, let us know,
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,
Rough-hew them how we will,--
HORATIO
That is most certain.
HAMLET
Up from my cabin,
My sea-gown scarf'd about me, in the dark
Groped I to find out them; had my desire.
Finger'd their packet, and in fine withdrew
To mine own room again; making so bold,
My fears forgetting manners, to unseal
Their grand commission; where I found, Horatio,--
O royal knavery!--an exact command,
Larded with many several sorts of reasons
Importing Denmark's health and England's too,
With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my life,
That, on the supervise, no leisure bated,
No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,
My head should be struck off.
HORATIO
Is't possible?
HAMLET
Here's the commission: read it at more leisure.
But wilt thou hear me how I did proceed?
HORATIO
I beseech you.
HAMLET
Being thus be-netted round with villanies,--
Ere I could make a prologue to my brains,
They had begun the play--I sat me down,
Devised a new commission, wrote it fair:
I once did hold it, as our statists do,
A baseness to write fair and labour'd much
How to forget that learning, but, sir, now
It did me yeoman's service: wilt thou know
The effect of what I wrote?
HORATIO
Ay, good my lord.
HAMLET
An earnest conjuration from the king,
As England was his faithful tributary,
As love between them like the palm might flourish,
As peace should stiff her wheaten garland wear
And stand a comma 'tween their amities,
And many such-like 'As'es of great charge,
That, on the view and knowing of these contents,
Without debatement further, more or less,
He should the bearers put to sudden death,
Not shriving-time allow'd.
HORATIO
How was this seal'd?
HAMLET
Why, even in that was heaven ordinant.
I had my father's signet in my purse,
Which was the model of that Danish seal;
Folded the writ up in form of the other,
Subscribed it, gave't the impression, placed it safely,
The changeling never known. Now, the next day
Was our sea-fight; and what to this was sequent
Thou know'st already.
HORATIO
So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to't.
HAMLET
Why, man, they did make love to this employment;
They are not near my conscience; their defeat
Does by their own insinuation grow:
'Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensed points
Of mighty opposites.
HORATIO
Why, what a king is this!
HAMLET
Does it not, think'st thee, stand me now upon--
He that hath kill'd my king and whored my mother,
Popp'd in between the election and my hopes,
Thrown out his angle for my proper life,
And with such cozenage--is't not perfect conscience,
To quit him with this arm? and is't not to be damn'd,
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil?
HORATIO
It must be shortly known to him from England
What is the issue of the business there.
HAMLET
It will be short: the interim is mine;
And a man's life's no more than to say 'One.'
But I am very sorry, good Horatio,
That to Laertes I forgot myself;
For, by the image of my cause, I see
The portraiture of his: I'll court his favours.
But, sure, the bravery of his grief did put me
Into a towering passion.
HORATIO
Peace! who comes here?
Enter OSRIC
OSRIC
Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.
HAMLET
I humbly thank you, sir. Dost know this water-fly?
HORATIO
No, my good lord.
HAMLET
Thy state is the more gracious; for 'tis a vice to
know him. He hath much land, and fertile: let a
beast be lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at
the king's mess: 'tis a chough; but, as I say,
spacious in the possession of dirt.
OSRIC
Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I
should impart a thing to you from his majesty.
HAMLET
I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of
spirit. Put your bonnet to his right use; 'tis for the head.
OSRIC
I thank your lordship, it is very hot.
HAMLET
No, believe me, 'tis very cold; the wind is
northerly.
OSRIC
It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed.
HAMLET
But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my
complexion.
OSRIC
Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry,--as
'twere,--I cannot tell how. But, my lord, his
majesty bade me signify to you that he has laid a
great wager on your head: sir, this is the matter,--
HAMLET
I beseech you, remember--
HAMLET moves him to put on his hat
OSRIC
Nay, good my lord; for mine ease, in good faith.
Sir, here is newly come to court Laertes; believe
me, an absolute gentleman, full of most excellent
differences, of very soft society and great showing:
indeed, to speak feelingly of him, he is the card or
calendar of gentry, for you shall find in him the
continent of what part a gentleman would see.
HAMLET
Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you;
though, I know, to divide him inventorially would
dizzy the arithmetic of memory, and yet but yaw
neither, in respect of his quick sail. But, in the
verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of
great article; and his infusion of such dearth and
rareness, as, to make true diction of him, his
semblable is his mirror; and who else would trace
him, his umbrage, nothing more.
OSRIC
Your lordship speaks most infallibly of him.
HAMLET
The concernancy, sir? why do we wrap the gentleman
in our more rawer breath?
OSRIC
Sir?
HORATIO
Is't not possible to understand in another tongue?
You will do't, sir, really.
HAMLET
What imports the nomination of this gentleman?
OSRIC
Of Laertes?
HORATIO
His purse is empty already; all's golden words are spent.
HAMLET
Of him, sir.
OSRIC
I know you are not ignorant--
HAMLET
I would you did, sir; yet, in faith, if you did,
it would not much approve me. Well, sir?
OSRIC
You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is--
HAMLET
I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with
him in excellence; but, to know a man well, were to
know himself.
OSRIC
I mean, sir, for his weapon; but in the imputation
laid on him by them, in his meed he's unfellowed.
HAMLET
What's his weapon?
OSRIC
Rapier and dagger.
HAMLET
That's two of his weapons: but, well.
OSRIC
The king, sir, hath wagered with him six Barbary
horses: against the which he has imponed, as I take
it, six French rapiers and poniards, with their
assigns, as girdle, hangers, and so: three of the
carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very
responsive to the hilts, most delicate carriages,
and of very liberal conceit.
HAMLET
What call you the carriages?
HORATIO
I knew you must be edified by the margent ere you had done.
OSRIC
The carriages, sir, are the hangers.
HAMLET
The phrase would be more german to the matter, if we
could carry cannon by our sides: I would it might
be hangers till then. But, on: six Barbary horses
against six French swords, their assigns, and three
liberal-conceited carriages; that's the French bet
against the Danish. Why is this 'imponed,' as you call it?
OSRIC
The king, sir, hath laid, that in a dozen passes
between yourself and him, he shall not exceed you
three hits: he hath laid on twelve for nine; and it
would come to immediate trial, if your lordship
would vouchsafe the answer.
HAMLET
How if I answer 'no'?
OSRIC
I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.
HAMLET
Sir, I will walk here in the hall: if it please his
majesty, 'tis the breathing time of day with me; let
the foils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the
king hold his purpose, I will win for him an I can;
if not, I will gain nothing but my shame and the odd hits.
OSRIC
Shall I re-deliver you e'en so?
HAMLET
To this effect, sir; after what flourish your nature will.
OSRIC
I commend my duty to your lordship.
HAMLET
Yours, yours.
Exit OSRIC
He does well to commend it himself; there are no
tongues else for's turn.
HORATIO
This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.
HAMLET
He did comply with his dug, before he sucked it.
Thus has he--and many more of the same bevy that I
know the dressy age dotes on--only got the tune of
the time and outward habit of encounter; a kind of
yesty collection, which carries them through and
through the most fond and winnowed opinions; and do
but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.
Enter a Lord
Lord
My lord, his majesty commended him to you by young
Osric, who brings back to him that you attend him in
the hall: he sends to know if your pleasure hold to
play with Laertes, or that you will take longer time.
HAMLET
I am constant to my purpose; they follow the king's
pleasure: if his fitness speaks, mine is ready; now
or whensoever, provided I be so able as now.
Lord
The king and queen and all are coming down.
HAMLET
In happy time.
Lord
The queen desires you to use some gentle
entertainment to Laertes before you fall to play.
HAMLET
She well instructs me.
Exit Lord
HORATIO
You will lose this wager, my lord.
HAMLET
I do not think so: since he went into France, I
have been in continual practise: I shall win at the
odds. But thou wouldst not think how ill all's here
about my heart: but it is no matter.
HORATIO
Nay, good my lord,--
HAMLET
It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of
gain-giving, as would perhaps trouble a woman.
HORATIO
If your mind dislike any thing, obey it: I will
forestall their repair hither, and say you are not
fit.
HAMLET
Not a whit, we defy augury: there's a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he
leaves, what is't to leave betimes?
Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, LAERTES, Lords, OSRIC, and Attendants with foils, & c
KING CLAUDIUS
Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.
KING CLAUDIUS puts LAERTES' hand into HAMLET's
HAMLET
Give me your pardon, sir: I've done you wrong;
But pardon't, as you are a gentleman.
This presence knows,
And you must needs have heard, how I am punish'd
With sore distraction. What I have done,
That might your nature, honour and exception
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes? Never Hamlet:
If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,
And when he's not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it.
Who does it, then? His madness: if't be so,
Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong'd;
His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy.
Sir, in this audience,
Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot mine arrow o'er the house,
And hurt my brother.
LAERTES
I am satisfied in nature,
Whose motive, in this case, should stir me most
To my revenge: but in my terms of honour
I stand aloof; and will no reconcilement,
Till by some elder masters, of known honour,
I have a voice and precedent of peace,
To keep my name ungored. But till that time,
I do receive your offer'd love like love,
And will not wrong it.
HAMLET
I embrace it freely;
And will this brother's wager frankly play.
Give us the foils. Come on.
LAERTES
Come, one for me.
HAMLET
I'll be your foil, Laertes: in mine ignorance
Your skill shall, like a star i' the darkest night,
Stick fiery off indeed.
LAERTES
You mock me, sir.
HAMLET
No, by this hand.
KING CLAUDIUS
Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet,
You know the wager?
HAMLET
Very well, my lord
Your grace hath laid the odds o' the weaker side.
KING CLAUDIUS
I do not fear it; I have seen you both:
But since he is better'd, we have therefore odds.
LAERTES
This is too heavy, let me see another.
HAMLET
This likes me well. These foils have all a length?
They prepare to play
OSRIC
Ay, my good lord.
KING CLAUDIUS
Set me the stoops of wine upon that table.
If Hamlet give the first or second hit,
Or quit in answer of the third exchange,
Let all the battlements their ordnance fire:
The king shall drink to Hamlet's better breath;
And in the cup an union shall he throw,
Richer than that which four successive kings
In Denmark's crown have worn. Give me the cups;
And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,
The trumpet to the cannoneer without,
The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth,
'Now the king dunks to Hamlet.' Come, begin:
And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.
HAMLET
Come on, sir.
LAERTES
Come, my lord.
They play
HAMLET
One.
LAERTES
No.
HAMLET
Judgment.
OSRIC
A hit, a very palpable hit.
LAERTES
Well; again.
KING CLAUDIUS
Stay; give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine;
Here's to thy health.
Trumpets sound, and cannon shot off within
Give him the cup.
HAMLET
I'll play this bout first; set it by awhile. Come.
They play
Another hit; what say you?
LAERTES
A touch, a touch, I do confess.
KING CLAUDIUS
Our son shall win.
QUEEN GERTRUDE
He's fat, and scant of breath.
Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows;
The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.
HAMLET
Good madam!
KING CLAUDIUS
Gertrude, do not drink.
QUEEN GERTRUDE
I will, my lord; I pray you, pardon me.
KING CLAUDIUS
[Aside] It is the poison'd cup: it is too late.
HAMLET
I dare not drink yet, madam; by and by.
QUEEN GERTRUDE
Come, let me wipe thy face.
LAERTES
My lord, I'll hit him now.
KING CLAUDIUS
I do not think't.
LAERTES
[Aside] And yet 'tis almost 'gainst my conscience.
HAMLET
Come, for the third, Laertes: you but dally;
I pray you, pass with your best violence;
I am afeard you make a wanton of me.
LAERTES
Say you so? come on.
They play
OSRIC
Nothing, neither way.
LAERTES
Have at you now!
LAERTES wounds HAMLET; then in scuffling, they change rapiers, and HAMLET wounds LAERTES
KING CLAUDIUS
Part them; they are incensed.
HAMLET
Nay, come, again.
QUEEN GERTRUDE falls
OSRIC
Look to the queen there, ho!
HORATIO
They bleed on both sides. How is it, my lord?
OSRIC
How is't, Laertes?
LAERTES
Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric;
I am justly kill'd with mine own treachery.
HAMLET
How does the queen?
KING CLAUDIUS
She swounds to see them bleed.
QUEEN GERTRUDE
No, no, the drink, the drink,--O my dear Hamlet,--
The drink, the drink! I am poison'd.
Dies
HAMLET
O villany! Ho! let the door be lock'd:
Treachery! Seek it out.
LAERTES
It is here, Hamlet: Hamlet, thou art slain;
No medicine in the world can do thee good;
In thee there is not half an hour of life;
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated and envenom'd: the foul practise
Hath turn'd itself on me lo, here I lie,
Never to rise again: thy mother's poison'd:
I can no more: the king, the king's to blame.
HAMLET
The point!--envenom'd too!
Then, venom, to thy work.
Stabs KING CLAUDIUS
All
Treason! treason!
KING CLAUDIUS
O, yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt.
HAMLET
Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,
Drink off this potion. Is thy union here?
Follow my mother.
KING CLAUDIUS dies
LAERTES
He is justly served;
It is a poison temper'd by himself.
Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet:
Mine and my father's death come not upon thee,
Nor thine on me.
Dies
HAMLET
Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu!
You that look pale and tremble at this chance,
That are but mutes or audience to this act,
Had I but time--as this fell sergeant, death,
Is strict in his arrest--O, I could tell you--
But let it be. Horatio, I am dead;
Thou livest; report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.
HORATIO
Never believe it:
I am more an antique Roman than a Dane:
Here's yet some liquor left.
HAMLET
As thou'rt a man,
Give me the cup: let go; by heaven, I'll have't.
O good Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.
March afar off, and shot within
What warlike noise is this?
OSRIC
Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,
To the ambassadors of England gives
This warlike volley.
HAMLET
O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.
Dies
HORATIO
Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
Why does the drum come hither?
March within
Enter FORTINBRAS, the English Ambassadors, and others
PRINCE FORTINBRAS
Where is this sight?
HORATIO
What is it ye would see?
If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.
PRINCE FORTINBRAS
This quarry cries on havoc. O proud death,
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
That thou so many princes at a shot
So bloodily hast struck?
First Ambassador
The sight is dismal;
And our affairs from England come too late:
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him his commandment is fulfill'd,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:
Where should we have our thanks?
HORATIO
Not from his mouth,
Had it the ability of life to thank you:
He never gave commandment for their death.
But since, so jump upon this bloody question,
You from the Polack wars, and you from England,
Are here arrived give order that these bodies
High on a stage be placed to the view;
And let me speak to the yet unknowing world
How these things came about: so shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall'n on the inventors' reads: all this can I
Truly deliver.
PRINCE FORTINBRAS
Let us haste to hear it,
And call the noblest to the audience.
For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune:
I have some rights of memory in this kingdom,
Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.
HORATIO
Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more;
But let this same be presently perform'd,
Even while men's minds are wild; lest more mischance
On plots and errors, happen.
PRINCE FORTINBRAS
Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have proved most royally: and, for his passage,
The soldiers' music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.
A dead march. Exeunt, bearing off the dead bodies; after which a peal of ordnance is shot off

Hamlet and Horatio were alone in the castle of Elsinore.
"So much for this letter, Horatio," said Hamlet. "Now I will tell you the rest about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. You remember all the circumstances?"
"I remember, my lord!"
"Well, sir, I couldn't sleep for the turmoil in my heart. I felt worse than a shackled mutineer awaiting his fate. Rashly, and all praise to rashness, I observed that our instincts sometimes save the day when our carefully plotted plans go awry, we are taught that God shapes the outcome regardless of our hopes-"
"That's for certain," Horatio piped in.
"I got up from my cabin and put on my heavy coat, and groped around in the dark to find Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Once I had done so I relieved their satchel of the royal documents and returned to my room. My fear overlooked my manners and I was bold enough to open the King's order. Horatio, therein I found- royal treachery! - an exact command prefaced with all kind of royal protocols concerning the King of Denmark's health and the King of England's too, but all this was prelude to the order that I was to be beheaded without even a delay to sharpen the axe."
"It isn't possible!"
Hamlet pulled out his evidence.
"Here's the commission. Read it at your leisure. Would you like to hear what I did next?"
"I beg you!"
"Being cornered by these villains I began to write the play before I thought of a plot. I sat down, devised a new commission and wrote it in the official manner that I had tried to forget and once mocked, as our politicians still do, but that day it served me well. Would you like to hear what I wrote?"
"Yes, my good lord."
"I wrote an earnest plea from the King. As England was a faithful dependent of Denmark, the love between us should flourish like a palm, and peace should flourish until it stood between them like a comma between their wars, and many other pieces of some importance. And that the King of England should condemn the bearers of this letter to death without the opportunity of confession."
"How did you seal the commission?"
"Why, even there heaven helped me out. I had my father's signet ring with me in my satchel, the new King's seal is almost identical. I folded the new order like the original, impressed the seal and replaced it, the switch was perfect. The next day was the fight at sea, and the rest you know."
"So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz met their fate in England?"
"Why, man they loved their work. They are not on my conscience, they were defeated by their own attempts to get cosy with the King. It is very dangerous for the lower orders to get caught up in regal battles."
"Why, what kind of king is this man!"
"Don't you think it is now in my hands? He killed my father, whored my mother, coveted my right to succeed, and then plotted to have me killed. Isn't it only too appropriate that I should rid Denmark of him? Isn't it damnable to let the sore on humanity to spread more evil?"
"It can't be long before he hears of what happened in England."
"Soon. The interim is mine. A man's life can be ended in the time it takes to say one. But I am very sorry, good Horatio, but with Laertes I forgot myself. In the image of my cause I see his too. I'll try to get on his good side. But the display of his grief did put me in a towering temper."
Horatio saw a courtier approach them.
"Peace, who are you?"
It was Osric, on an errand from the King.
"Your Lordship is very welcome back to Denmark," Osric said to Hamlet, bowing and removing his flamboyant hat.
"I humbly thank you, sir," Hamlet said and then whispered to Horatio: "Do you know this water-fly?"
"No, my good lord," Horatio said to Hamlet.
"Then your state is gracious. It is a vice to know him! He has a lot of land, fertile too. Let a beast be a lord of beasts and his trough will be adjacent to the King's table. He is a jackdaw, but with a lot of territory."
"Sweet lord, if you have the time I would like to convey a message to you from the King."
"I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit. Put your bonnet to right use: it is for the head."
"I thank Your Lordship, it’s very hot," Osric said.
"No, believe me, it is very cold. The wind is northerly."
"It is quite cold, my lord, indeed."
"But I still think it is very sultry and hot for my constitution."
"Exceedingly, my lord. It is very sultry- sultry to the point of- I don't know the word for this sultriness. But, my lord, His Majesty asked me tell you that he has put a considerable bet on you. Sir, let me explain-"
"Remember your hat, please," Hamlet said mockingly.
"Please, my good lord, for my comfort," Osric said using his hat to cool himself. He continued: "Sir, Laertes has returned to court. Sir, you are not ignorant of his skills with his weapon."
"What is his weapon?"
"Rapier and dagger."
"That's two of his weapons. But...."
"The King, sir, has wagered six Barbary horses, Laertes has wagered six French rapiers and daggers, complete with their accessories. Three of the carriages are exquisite, in design and craft."
"Carriages? What are these carriages?"
"I knew this would have to be elaborated" Horatio said amused by Osric’s affectation.
"The carriages, sir, are the straps."
"The word would be more relevant if we had cannons by our sides. Until then I would prefer if we said straps. But continue. Six Barbary horses against six French sword kits and three new-fangled carriages. That's the French bet against the Dane. Why is this, as you say, staked?"
"The King, sir, has wagered, sir, that in a dozen rounds between you and Laertes, he will not win three more than you. Laertes says he will win nine bouts out of twelve. The bouts could take place immediately if Your Lordship granted an answer."
"What if I answer no?"
"I mean, my lord, your participation in the challenge."
"Sir, I will take a walk in the hall. It is the time of the day when I take some physical exercise, if that is acceptable to His Majesty. If the foils are brought, the gentleman is willing and if the King is still keen, I'll win for him what I can. If not, I will gain only shame and a few hits."
"Shall I convey that message?"
"The meaning, sir, but use the verbal flourishes you find second nature."
"At your service, my lord, if I may recommend."
Osric left.
"Yours, yours.... He is right in recommending himself, there are no other tongues to do it!"
"At last that hatchling has got his feathers back on its head!" said Horatio.
"He begged his mother's breast pardon before a feed! He and others of his ilk who thrive in these shallow times speak only in the drivel of the day. Quiz them and they are exposed."
"You will lose this wager, my lord," Horatio said gravely.
"I don't think so. Since Laertes went to France I've been in continuous practice. I can win at the odds. You wouldn't believe how nervous I feel, but that is irrelevant."
"No, but my good lord-"
"It's nothing. Just the kind of hesitancy that might trouble a woman."
"If your mind dislikes something, pay attention. I will stop them coming by saying you are not ready."
"Certainly not. We must ignore superstition. Whatever will be will be. If death comes now, it won't come in the future. If it is not later, then it is now. If not now, it will come. Being ready is everything. Since no man knows the world and what he leaves, what is it to leave mortal time? Be quiet, now."
Hamlet and Horatio made their way to the room where the duel was to be held. The number of aristocrats and politicians who had gathered for the duel surprised Hamlet and delighted Claudius. Laertes looked lean, and hungry for revenge. Queen Gertrude sat pale and woeful.
"Come, Hamlet, come," the King said, "take your opponent's hand."
"Give me your pardon, sir. I have done you wrong. But pardon me, as you are a gentleman. The court knows, and you must have heard, that I've been punished with a mental illness. What I have done to rile you, over family matters or your honour, I here proclaim was the result of madness. Was it Hamlet who wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet. If Hamlet was removed from himself and when he is not himself he wrongs Laertes then it wasn't Hamlet. Hamlet denies it. Who was it? His madness. If so, then Hamlet is the wronged party. Hamlet's madness is Hamlet's enemy. Laertes, here and now let my denial of deliberate evil allow me to be free in your most generous thoughts, accept that everything was accidental."
"I am satisfied with my feelings, they are reliable in provoking in revenge,” Laertes said. “But in terms of my honour I stand aloof, reconciliation will be something astute minds will ponder, until then my reputation cannot be sullied. Until then I will accept your offer of love for what it is and will not reject it."
"I embrace it freely and will participate in this brother's wager. Give us the foils."
"Come, one for me."
"I'll be your foil, Laertes. My shortcomings will allow your skill to shine like a star in the darkest of nights- very brightly indeed."
"You mock me, sir."
"No, I swear."
"Give them the foils, young Osric," the King ordered, and then turned to Hamlet: "Hamlet do you know the bet?"
"Very well, my lord. Your Grace has put his bet on the weaker side."
"I do not fear. I have seen you both but since Laertes is more experienced he has a handicap."
The swords were brought, but Laertes took the wrong one: "This is too heavy bring me another."
"I like this. The foils are all the same length?" Hamlet asked Osric.
"Yes, my good lord."
Hamlet and Laertes went through the final preparations. Servants brought pitchers of wine, vital to the King's plan.
"Put the stoups of wine on that table," the King instructed the servants. "If Hamlet wins the first or second hit or takes the third let all the battlements salute. The King shall drink to Hamlet's success and I'll put in my cup a pearl grander than that found in the crown of four successive Danish kings. Give me the cups and let the kettledrum tell the trumpets, the trumpets tell the soldiers, the cannons tell the heavens, the heavens tell the earth: Now the King drinks to Hamlet. Come, begin. You judges, keep your eyes peeled."
"Come on, sir," Hamlet said to Laertes.
"Come, my lord," Laertes replied.
The first bout began
"One!" Hamlet yelled delightedly.
"No!" Laertes protested.
"A judgement, please," Hamlet said.
"A hit, a very palpable hit," said Osric grandly.
"Begin again," said Laertes.
"Wait!" the King said. "Give me a drink."
The King took a long drink and then pondered Hamlet.
"Hamlet, this pearl is yours! Here's to your health!"
The King dropped the pearl into the drinking cup. The drums, trumpets and cannons saluted Hamlet. The pearl, the poison, dissolved in the cup.
"Give Hamlet the cup," the King said to an attendant.
"I'll play this bout first. Keep it there for me."
The King put the cup aside, disguising his irritation with a smile. Gertrude beamed. Hamlet and Laertes continued their duel.
"Another hit! Wouldn't you agree?" Hamlet asked.
"A touch, a touch. I agree," Laertes said.
"Our son shall win!" the King said, with panic masquerading as joy.
"Hamlet's a bit unfit and short of breath," Gertrude said concerned. "Here, Hamlet, take my napkin and wipe your brow. The Queen drinks to your good fortune, Hamlet!"
King Claudius was too preoccupied with his ploys and plans to realise what Gertrude had said. She picked up the poisoned drinking cup and sipped gently.
"Good madam," Hamlet said to Gertrude, acknowledging her praise.
"Gertrude, don't drink!" the King said.
"I will, my lord, pardon me, please."
After a few sips Gertrude offered the cup to Hamlet.
"It's the poisoned cup, it's too late!" the King said to himself.
"I dare not drink yet, madam. By and by."
"Come, let me wipe your face."
As Gertrude was pampering Hamlet, Laertes turned to the King: "My lord, I will hit him now."
"I don't think so," the King whispered.
"And yet it is almost against my conscience," Laertes said to himself.
"Come for round three, Laertes. You are dilly-dallying! Come at me with all your skill! I think you are teasing me."
"Really! Come on!"
The third bout began noticeably more enthusiastic. It seemed as if a fatality was imminent. They eventually locked swords and Osric stepped in.
"A draw."
Laertes, brimming with vengeance, caught Hamlet off-guard and managed to wound him.
"Have at you now!"
Enraged Hamlet lunged at Laertes. The King was ecstatic with joy. They were now so close to each other the duel resembled a wrestling match. In the mêlée they dropped their weapons.
"Separate them! They are incensed!" the King bawled, terrified that Hamlet may get the upper hand.
Osric intervened to separate them and they changed rapiers. Hamlet, though he didn't know it, had the unbated foil.
"Come again!" Hamlet said to Laertes.
Laertes came towards him in an aggressive and undisciplined move that gave Hamlet the opportunity to wound him with the poisoned sword. Meanwhile the Queen was starting to feel drowsy. Suddenly she collapsed.
"Stop! Look at the Queen!" Osric shouted.
"Hamlet and Laertes are bleeding!" Horatio said. "How are you my lord?" he asked Hamlet.
"How are you, Laertes?" asked Osric.
"Why, like a woodcock caught in my own trap, Osric. I am justly killed by my own treachery."
"What is the matter with the Queen?" Hamlet asked.
"She fainted at the sight of blood," the King said.
"No, no!" the Queen struggled to speak. "The drink, the drink! Oh, my dear Hamlet! The drink, the drink! I've been poisoned!"
"Villainy!" Hamlet yelled. "Listen, let the door be locked! Treachery! Here!"
Osric locked the door.
"It's here, Hamlet," said the dying Laertes. "Hamlet, you are about to die. No medicine in the world can help you. You don't even have half an hour to live! The treacherous weapon is in your hand. It is unbated and poisoned. This foul trick has turned on me. Look, here I lie never to rise again. Your mother is poisoned. I can't say much more. The King- the King's to blame!"
Laertes struggled for breath. Hamlet gripped the rapier and lunged at the King.
"This point is poisoned? Then venom do your work!"
"Treason! Treason!" the court yelled as Hamlet stabbed the King.
"Defend me friends. It is only a wound."
Hamlet picked the drinking cup from the table and knelt beside the King.
"Here you incestuous, murderous damned Dane. Drink the rest of your poison. Is your pearl here? Follow my mother!"
Hamlet pushed the goblet to the lips of the King's panic-stricken face and forced the liquid into his mouth. With the poison from the wine and the venom from the sword, Claudius' death was rapid.
"He has been served with his own justice," Laertes struggled to say. "The poison was mixed by him. Exchange forgiveness with me, Hamlet. You will not be blamed for my death and my father's and I will not be blamed for yours."
After saying these words Laertes died.
"May Heaven absolve you. I follow you. I'm dead, Horatio. Wretched Queen, adieu."
Hamlet turned to the gasping court: "You who look pale and dumbstruck by these events I wish I had the time to tell you but Death's sergeants are strict in making arrests so let that be. Horatio, I am dead but you live on. To those unsatisfied and mystified by events report my motives."
"Never believe it. I am more an ancient Roman than a Dane. There's some of that liquor left."
Horatio picked up the poison intending to die honourably with Hamlet.
"Man, give me that cup! Let go, by heaven I'll have it! Oh, God, Horatio, what a wounded reputation I would leave behind if the facts were not known. If you have ever held me in your heart then endure this harsh world a while longer to tell my story."
Horatio held the dying Hamlet. The sound of cannons interrupted their peace.
"What warlike noise is that?" Hamlet struggled to ask Horatio.
"Young Fortinbras, returning victorious from Poland, salutes the ambassadors from England with this warlike volley," Osric told them.
"Oh, Horatio, I'm dying. This potent poison is defeating my spirit. I will not live to hear the news from England, but I prophesy that the election lights will shine on Fortinbras. He has my dying support. Tell him that and the details of which led me to... The rest is silence..."
Hamlet died.
"Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince. Flights of angels sing you to your rest!"
Horatio grieving was interrupted by the drumming and marching of the Norwegian forces: "Why does the drum come here?"
Fortinbras, the ambassadors from England and the troops arrived at the chamber.
"Where is this sight?" Fortinbras asked, gloating.
"What is it you wish to see?" Horatio asked Fortinbras. "If it is woe and amazement, cease your search."
"The bodies cry of chaos. Oh, proud Death, what feasts are you planning in your eternal hell that you slaughtered so many royals at once?" Fortinbras said.
"This sight is dismal," said the English ambassador. "I fear our news from England has come too late. The ears that should hear that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been killed as he ordered are now beyond hearing. To whom should we receive our thanks?"
"Not from his mouth," Horatio said, pointing to the corpse of Claudius, "even if he could thank you. He never gave the command to kill them. You from the Polish wars and you from the court of England have arrived here as bloody questions were resolved. Have these bodies placed on a high stage for all to see and I will explain how these things came about. You shall hear of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts; of deaths caused by cunning and plotting and in this instance, deviousness that went wrong and caught the instigators. All this, I can tell."
"Let us hear it, with haste," Fortinbras said, "and call the nobles to audience. For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune. I have rights to this kingdom, which is vivid in my memory and it is now advantageous to claim them."
"Of that I will also speak, speak the words of a mouth that can no longer relate them. But let me continue immediately, even while the minds are wild, lest no more plots are hatched and mischance is at bay," Horatio said.
"Let four captains carry Hamlet like a soldier to the platform," said Fortinbras. "Had he become king the role would have suited him. To mark his death there will be a military salute. Raise the bodies. Such a sight like this is fit for the battlefield, but not here. Go, order the salute."
Hamlet, King and Prince, were dead. Gertrude was dead. Polonius and his children were dead. Claudius was dead. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were dead. Fortinbras savoured the carnage. He was a son who longed to avenge his father's murder by the late King Hamlet. Now the Danish Royal Family lay dead.