At the end of the play, Claudius, wanting to get rid of Hamlet once and for all, arranges a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes . He takes advantage of Laertes's desire for revenge on Hamlet and talks Laertes into allowing poison to be put on the edge of...
At the end of the play, Claudius, wanting to get rid of Hamlet once and for all, arranges a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes. He takes advantage of Laertes's desire for revenge on Hamlet and talks Laertes into allowing poison to be put on the edge of his blade. This means that even a light cut from his rapier will kill Hamlet.
This is not the first time Claudius has plotted Hamlet's death, and not wanting Hamlet to elude his trap again, Claudius takes an extra step to ensure that his nephew will die during the match. Aware that Hamlet will get hot and thirsty during the fight, Claudius adds poison to his wine. This way, even if Laertes somehow fails to scratch Hamlet during the duel, Hamlet will die.
Unfortunately, Queen Gertrude—Claudius's wife and Hamlet's mother—unwittingly drinks the wine meant for Hamlet when she toasts him during the fight. Claudius tries to protest, but he cannot show his hand by revealing that the chalice is poisoned. Shortly after drinking the poisoned wine, Gertrude falls to the ground. Claudius tries to pretend she merely fainted, but Gertrude declares that she's been poisoned just before she dies.
Realizing that both he and Hamlet were scratched by the poisoned sword during a scuffle, Laertes confesses the entire plot. Informing Hamlet that they both have only minutes to live, Laertes explains that the sword and wine were poisoned and that the king was behind it all. Gertrude's death seems to serve as a catalyst for Hamlet, who uses his final moments to kill Claudius.
Gertrude's death mirrors her first husband's death, as they were ultimately both poisoned by the same treacherous man (though Gertrude's death was unintentional). At the conclusion of this final scene, all the major characters are dead, with only Horatio alive to tell the story.