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Hamlet: A scene-by-scene plot breakdance

(I mean…breakdown.)
More help will be found in looking for soliloquies/monologues and
analyzing them. This is for desperate plot purposes only. And a
refresher, if-ya-need-it.

Act I
Sc. I – Marcellus and Francisco see the ghost, Horatio tries to talk to it,
--Mystery/chaos motif begins; Fortinbras established
Sc. Ii – King, Gertrude, Hamlet, co. introduced: Hamlet’s hatred of
Claudius is established in dialogue (as well as his wit) –Hamlet’s first
soliloquy (“Oh, that this too-solid flesh would melt...”)
Sc. Iii – Laertes and Polonius both lecture Ophelia on romance
w/Hamlet (Laertes says be wary, while Polonius forbids her to see him
again); Polly (Polonius) also lectures Laertes on his behavior, b/c
Laertes is going to France
Sc. Iv – Hamlet meets the guards and Horatio to find ghost; it leads
him away
Sc. V – Ghost tells H that Claudius murdered it, that he needs to get
revenge on Claudius, leave Gertrude alone, and not to ruin his own
soul in the process. Ghost leaves. H has a short soliloquy on the shock
of it all, then makes Hor. And co. swear secrecy.

Act II
Sc. I – Polly sends Reynaldo, his servant, to spy on Laertes. Ophelia
bursts in, saying “My lord, I have been so affrighted”—monologue on
Hamlet’s crazed behavior with her. Polly decides Hamlet really did love
Oph and maybe that’s why he’s crazy now!
Sc. II – K and Q welcome Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, H’s old friends
who are now being employed (arguably unwittingly) as spies on
Hamlet. Polly enters, describes Hamlet-love-incident, and messengers
return from Norway saying that Fortinbras isn’t invading, just going
through Poland (poor Poland).
Then Hamlet meets Polly, calls him a fishmonger, and runs into
Ros and Guil, who spend time with him while he talks. A lot of this is
prose, not blank verse.
THEN (this is a long scene) players enter and Hamlet has them
reenact monologues, incl. Hecuba. Finally, they all leave and H has
soliloquy (very likely choice) berating himself for inaction in killing
Claudius while this actor can be so emotional about some character he
hasn’t met.
He decides to test the ghost finally by having the players
perform a play to trap the king’s conscience.
Sc. I – K and Q interrogate Ros and Guil, then H enters and K and Polly
hide to spy on him and Ophelia. Hamlet comes in with “To be or not to
be” which is almost Guaranteed to be a choice. Ophelia enters, they
have their violent “get thee to a nunnery” situation, and Polly and
Claudius reenter with “Love?” King decides to send H to England soon
if things don’t improve.
Sc. II – Hamlet talks to Players about how to act. Polly, Ros, and Guil,
enter; H leaves with some words.
He goes to Horatio, and spends almost exactly 40 lines telling
him how wonderful he is for being honest and rational. This is Hamlet’s
“Thank goodness I have one friend in the barren, lonely world of
corruption” for Horatio. It’s sweet.
Then he asks Horatio to spy on Claudius for him, and Hor. Agrees.
Then—same scene, yep—The Mousetrap, formally known as “The
Murder of Gonzago”!
H messes with Ophelia and generally cracks jokes as the
dumbshow goes, and in between dialogue, but the king gets
increasingly upset. Finally he rises, shouts for a light, and runs
out/leaves. Hamlet is delighted at his success (“What, frightened with
false fire?”), talks to Horatio, and is summoned by Ros and Guil to see
Gertrude. He messes with them, and gets angry at their manipulation
(“though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me”). He leaves.
Sc. III – King tells Ros and Guil to get Hamlet: he’s going to England for
sure. Polly tells Claudius that he plans to spy on H and Gertrude,
leaves, and Claudius spends a long time bemoaning his guilt. He tries
to pray, whereupon Hamlet sees him, considers revenge now, realizes
Claudius would go to heaven, and decides to wait to catch him in sin.
He leaves, and Claudius gives up on praying—his mind’s not in it.
Sc. IV – Gertrude and Polly in her room. I think it’s important to notice
that Gertrude knew Polly was hiding from the beginning; she wasn’t
innocent in that. But H enters, chides her, yells at her, etc.—she cries
out, Polly cries for help, and Hamlet stabs him—thinking it’s the king,
not intending to murder Polly. He sees who he killed, is sad but not
remorseful, and gets mad at Gertrude for freaking out about it—what
about her incest??? She sees her guilt and repents to him, and he
calms down and lectures her. Ghost appears, he talks to it, she can’t
see it. Weird.

Act IV
Sc. I – Gertrude tells Claudius what just happened, and he tells Ros
and Guil to find Hamlet.
Sc. Ii – Ros and Guil find Hamlet, who has just hidden the body. He
runs, and they chase.
Sc. Iii – Ros and Guil bring Hamlet to Claudius, who interrogates him
on the location of Polonius’ body. He is sent away, and Claudius broods
(briefly) on the hope that England will execute him.
Sc. Iv – Fortinbras sends a Captain to tell the King the army is just
passing through. Hamlet meets the captain, talks to him, is inspired by
ambition. He decides (in a soliloquy perfect for orals) that he will focus
on revenge from here on!
Sc. V – Meanwhile, back at the Batcave (Elsinore)… Ophelia’s gone
crazy and is singing sadly. She runs off, and Horatio is sent after her.
Claudius bemoans her insanity just as Laertes bursts in, murderous,
thinking Claudius killed Polonius. Claudius tries to set him straight
when Ophelia reenters, giving everyone flowers with metaphors
attached. Laertes is overcome with grief.
Sc. VI – Horatio gets a letter from Hamlet: he’s alive, coming home,
and Ros and Guil are still headed to England.
Sc. VII – Claudius gets Laertes alone and fuels his anger and grief by
telling him about Hamlet’s murder of Polly. They plan to sabotage a
fencing match and poison him. Gertrude enters and tells everyone
Ophelia’s drowned. Laertes leaves, overcome with grief.

Act V
Sc. I – Two gravediggers exchange witticisms, continuing to do so
when Hamlet enters with Horatio. He muses on the universality of
death, then hides with his friend when someone enters. It’s the royal
folks, coming to bury Ophelia! Laertes jumps into her grave, grieving,
and Hamlet follows him. They scuffle, and are separated. Anger
Sc. II – Hamlet explains to Horatio how he escaped the ship (pirates
kidnapped him) and switched letters on Ros and Guil so they’re
sentenced to death instead of him. Osric, a needling character, enters
with a challenge for Hamlet to fence Laertes. He accepts, despite
In the same scene, Hamlet is brought to the fight. He apologizes
to Laertes for his actions in the graveyard, and Laertes accepts in part,
but still insists on fencing. So they fight two matches, in which Hamlet
strikes Laertes both times. They rest, and Gertrude drinks Claudius’
poison. They keep fighting: Laertes scratches Hamlet, they switch
swords, and Hamlet scratches Laertes. Gertrude dies, crying poison;
Hamlet, seeing the truth, kills Claudius and forces him to drink the
poison as he dies. Laertes confesses his sabotage. Hamlet, overcome
by the poison, dies; Horatio mourns him and tries to kill himself but is
stopped by Hamlet, who asks Horatio to tell his story. Fortinbras enters
in the chaos, announcing his conquer of Denmark. An English
messenger arrives to let everyone know that Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern are Dead. The story will be told. It’s over!