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English Literature

Plot Summary


Claudius and Gertrude listen to Polonius read out a letter, a still from the 1980 BBC adaptation of Hamlet

Claudius persuades Hamlet to go to England

Gertrude tells Claudius that Hamlet's insanity caused him to kill Polonius. Claudius decides not to have him tried for murder but convinces Hamlet to leave for England with two of his friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Claudius convinces Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take a secret letter to the King of England. The letter asks for Hamlet to be sentenced to death for murder.

Ophelia, already struggling to cope with Hamlet's madness, learns of her father's death and is driven insane. While collecting flowers, she drowns in a stream.

While sailing to England, Hamlet's ship is attacked by pirates. Hamlet survives and returns to Denmark to meet Horatio. They see a grave being dug (a grave that will be Ophelia's). Hamlet picks up an unearthed skull which he learns is that of the court jester, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy". Hamlet sees Laertes and Gertrude in the cemetery. Hamlet hides and when he overhears that the grave is Ophelia's, he is upset.

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