What is the conclusion of Hamlet?  

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svandagr eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conclusion of Hamlet in Act 5, Scene 2 is, similar to many of Shakespeare’s tragedies, a high body count. Laertes has poisoned Hamlet, Hamlet has poisoned Laertes, Gertrude has drunk poison intended for Hamlet, and Claudius has been twice poisoned by Hamlet. Although Horatio wants to poison himself, saying he is more “an antique Roman than a Dane” (line 342), Hamlet prevents him, insisting that Horatio must remain to tell his story. Horatio’s words allude to Roman tragedies, including Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in which Roman generals would often kill themselves when their cause was lost.

After Hamlet dies, the final two deaths are announced, as an ambassador arrives to tell Hamlet that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Young Fortinbras arrives and the plot of the play is finally resolved. Hamlet has a running theme of revenge, specifically that of sons avenging fathers, which is brought to completion by Young Fortinbras arriving to avenge his father, who was killed by Hamlet Senior before the play begins. Laertes has killed Hamlet, who killed Laertes’s father Polonius, and Hamlet has killed his uncle Claudius. Revenge is achieved by all, but Shakespeare suggests at a great cost.

Revenge was considered very sinful by Elizabethan society, who interpreted the Bible verse “To me belongeth vengeance” (King James Bible, Deuteronomy 32:35) as God’s claim on all right to revenge. So naturally, Shakespeare depicts humans taking revenge into their own hands as having epic and tragic consequences, as Hamlet ends with not only the end of one family, but of an entire kingdom, as Fortinbras’s army arrives from Norway. Shakespeare emphasizes this through the aforementioned reference to ancient Roman tragedy, but also through reference to Biblical tragedy. Horatio alone is left to tell Fortinbras what has occurred, a situation that is strongly reminiscent of the Biblical story of Job, where one servant survives to tell Job that all his children have been killed. It’s a connection that will be picked up again in Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, as Ishmael alone survives to tell the story of Ahab’s quest for revenge against the whale. 

mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamlet is a tortured soul. His father's ghost keeps visiting him and he learns that his uncle, Claudius, is the one who killed him. Claudius has now become king and married Hamlet's mother. Hamlet is bent of revenge, but it can be said that Hamlet was not crazy. He was a man driven by grief and revenge for the wrongs that were done to him.

When Ophelia commits suicide after her father's death, her brother, Laertes, comes and is angry and the king tells him that it was all Hamlet's fault. Laertes agrees to a sword fight with Hamlet and the king has dipped the tip of the sword with poison. He has also poisoned a goblet of wine in case Hamlet doesn't get cut by the sword. After Hamlet and Laertes are both cut by the sword, Laertes tells Hamlet the truth. He tells him that Claudius is the one behind the death of his mother and is the one who poisoned the sword. Hamlet rams the sword through Claudius and forces him to drink the poisoned wine, eventually killing him. Hamlet succumbs to the poison from the sword, but tells Horatio that he wants it to be known what really happened there. Horatio tells Fortinbras, the Norwegian prince, the whole story of Hamlet. Fortinbras orders that Hamlet be carried away in a manner fitting a fallen solider. 

Hamlet is such a tragic story. Hamlet was a man bent on revenge on the wrongs done to the people he loved. He was not crazy, he was just a man that loved his family and wanted justice for them.

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As many of Shakespeare's plays end "Hamlet," is a tragedy with a great deal of death in the conclusion. The queen is dead from poison that was meant for Hamlet.  The king is dead of poison that was forced down his throat by Hamlet in revenge for the death of his father and now his mother.   Laertes tells Hamlet that they both will die because the rapier that each was cut with had been dipped in poison.  Fortinbras finally arrives home and finds out that he will finally be king, but he is really sad about it because he was good friends with Hamlet.   Hamlet tells Horatio to make sure everyone knows what happened to his family and what really went on so there will be no misinformation passed on to future generations.

 ”Fortinbras orders Hamlet’s body carried “like a soldier” to the stage, and says if Hamlet had had the chance, he would “have proved most royal.” He orders appropriate funeral rites for Hamlet, including the firing of ordnance, which ends the play.”


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