Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Summary of Act IV, Scene 5

Gertrude and Horatio are talking about Ophelia, who has taken the news of her father’s murder very badly. Gertrude doesn’t want to see her, but Horatio talks her into it, saying that she deserves pity and compassion. Ophelia enters, singing strange songs and wandering about; she seems to have actually gone insane. Claudius enters and says that Ophelia’s grief is due to her father’s death, which has also bothered the people of Denmark. He mentions that Laertes has returned from France.

A loud noise startles everyone in the scene. A guard enters to warn Claudius that Laertes is storming the castle with a mob of commoners, who are calling Laertes “lord” and whispering that he should be king. Laertes storms into the hall in a rage, seeking to avenge his father’s death. Claudius and Gertrude attempt to talk him down.

Laertes is calmed somewhat by Gertrude and Claudius, but becomes angry again when Ophelia reenters, strewing flowers behind her and still talking nonsense. Claudius states that Polonius’s death was not his fault and tells Laertes that his desire for revenge does him credit as long as he channels it properly.

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