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Hamlet Summaries of Each Scene

Hamlet - Lucid Summaries of Each Scene

Scene 1:

Bernardo relieves Francisco from his watch before the castle. Marcellus arrives with Horatio. Once Francisco has gone, Bernardo and Marcellus discuss with Horatio their encounter with the ghost the previous evening. Horatio is skeptical of their claims. The ghost appears and Horatio tries to question it. The ghost refuses to speak and departs. Marcellus asks why the watch is necessary. Horatio tells the story of how years ago, Old Hamlet defeated Old Fortinbras in battle, gaining from him certain lands. Young Fortinbras, who has yet to prove himself in battle, is disputing Denmark's claim to the land now that Old Hamlet is dead. Horatio theorizes that the appearance of the old king may be a portent of danger ahead. The ghost reappears but once more refuses to speak to Horatio, then vanishes as morning approaches. Bernardo, Marcellus and Horatio resolve to inform young Hamlet of what they've seen.

Scene 2:

Claudius is holding court. He begins with a brief eulogy for his dead brother, the former king, then he addresses his ambassadors who are being sent to Norway to petition the king to intervene on Denmark's behalf with Fortinbras, who has asked Denmark to surrender the land once held by his father. The ambassadors depart with the promise that they'll do their best. Next Claudius speaks to Laertes, who has requested leave to return to France. Claudius asks Polonius if he consents to let Laertes leave and Polonius says he agrees. Claudius grants Laertes permission to leave. Finally, Claudius turns to Hamlet, who is still in mourning for his father. After a brief exchange, Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, tells him to get over his grief and enjoy his position at court. Hamlet admonishes his mother and in turn, Claudius admonishes Hamlet for his "unmanly grief". Claudius then tells Hamlet that he does not want him to return to his studies at Wittenberg. Gertrude implores Hamlet to stay and Hamlet replies that he will obey her. Claudius declares his approval of Hamlet's accord and escourts Gertrude away.

Hamlet remains behind, lamenting that his fortunes are so bad but that he is forbidden from ending his life due to the religious conventions of his day. Horatio, Bernardo and Marcellus enter. Hamlet is happy to see Horatio, his old schoolmate. After a brief exchange, Horatio tells Hamlet of his encounter with the ghost. Hamlet questions Horatio and the...

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