Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Analysis of Act V, Scene 2

During the entire play, Hamlet has largely postponed action and avoided violence by constant rationalization and philosophizing; now, in the final scene, all the suppressed violence erupts with deadly force. Gertrude, Laertes, Claudius, and Hamlet all lose their lives in a web of justice and retribution that ends with the poisoned Hamlet forcing Claudius to drink his own poison.

As the scene opens, Hamlet seems subdued; he is neither feigning madness nor attempting to rationalize his situation. Instead, his need for Laertes to forgive him seems to be uppermost in his mind. Previously obsessed with his own thoughts and his family, Hamlet is finally able to think about the harm he has caused others. Although he doesn’t exactly take responsibility for Polonius’s death, he does seem to care more about the harm it caused than he had previously.

Throughout the play, various characters and scenes have raised questions about the moral ambiguity of death and vengeance, and the final scene draws these together at last: Hamlet manages to avenge his father, but only when pushed to do so by the most extreme possible circumstances. His actions are hardly heroic, but neither are they entirely villainous.

Fortinbras’s appearance resolves the destruction of the social order that began when Hamlet’s father was murdered. In contrast to the corrupted members of the royal family who are now dead, Fortinbras is a capable leader and a man of action. His appearance indicates that he will be able to restore Denmark to health.