By Shakespeare William
By Shakespeare William
William Shakespeare, playwright extraordinaire, lived in 16th to 17th Century England. He wrote a considerable number of plays, including the still popular Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo & Juliet. Many of his plays were written as part of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men—later known as the King’s Men—who were a company of players, or actors. Although Shakespeare is synonymous with the Globe Theatre, a great number of his plays were performed at Blackfriars Theatre and at court for royalty and their guests. He was also a seasoned poet and is still celebrated for his 154 sonnets, including the popular Sonnet 18. The beginning lines are possibly the most quoted out of all the sonnets: “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” I bet you’ve heard those lines before!
The 16th and early 17th Centuries in England were periods of considerable wealth and strength. Shakespeare lived through the Spanish war, saw the end of Elizabeth the Virgin Queen’s reign, and heralded in the reunification of the English and Scottish thrones under one monarch, King James VI. However, despite the Royal family’s immense wealth and rich noblemen in the upper classes, the poor were extremely poor. Famine, poor hygiene and the lack of wages created an environment full of disease, crime and pestilence.If you were poor during this time, you had exceedingly little to look forward to! Some would visit the theatre as a means to escape their lives if they could afford it, but they would only be able to afford standing room. Imagine standing up through an hour long play! Other entertainment available to the poor included watching executions, tormenting those placed in stocks and attending witch trials. A pretty grim past-time, but there was little else to do!
Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most loved, most studied and most often performed plays. Many actors strive to play the lead role of Hamlet on stage as it is considered one of the most challenging and rewarding roles to play. It is also Shakespeare’s longest play!
Some theorists believe that the story of Hamletwas based on the legend of Amleth, a fictional figure in Scandinavian romance. Most of the written work about Amleth was written by Saxo Grammaticus, in the Gesta Danorum, in the 13th Century. No evidence exists to suggest that Saxo’s work was his own or was collected through other oral and written sources. Another source of Shakespeare’s may have been a since-lost play called Ur-Hamlet, which no one is certainly sure who wrote. Many suggest either Thomas Kyd or Shakespeare himself wrote the play, but there is evidence to suggest that Shakespeare’s company, the Chamberlain’s Men, performed this play which may have led to his interest in the legend.
There are also some who suggest the grief and tragedy of the play was fuelled by the loss of Shakespeare’s young son, Hamnet, who died at age 11. While the legend of Hamlet was the most obvious source for the play, many theorists believe that this event prompted Shakespeare to write Hamlet.
Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark,is visited by his late father’s Ghost who tells him hewas murdered. The murderer, Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius, who is now the King of Denmark and married to his mother, Gertrude, had poisoned Hamlet’s father while he slept. Hamlet is ordered to take revenge for his murder, but his indecision, madness and his Uncle’s political plots keep Hamlet from acting on his impulse for vengeance until it threatens the entire royal family and leads to a bloody end.
At Elsinore Castle in Denmark two sentinel Guards, Barnardo and Francisco, are frightened. Barnardo tells Francisco to go to bed as it is almost midnight. He swaps with Horatio and Marcellus. The three men talk about the Ghost two of them have seen walking the halls for a few nights. Horatio is there to verify what they have seen is real. The Ghost appears to them. The men ask Horatio if he thinks the Ghost looks like the dead King of Denmark. He does. Horatio asks the Ghost questions, but it does not answer and leaves. The men believe this is a bad omen for the state of their country and for the future. Marcellus asks why everyone seems to be on edge and if it is because the young Fortinbras has come to challenge the King of Denmark for the territory the dead King Hamlet took from him. The Ghost re-enters but once again says nothing to Horatio. It seems like it might speak, but the rooster crows to signal the coming dawn and startles it. They decide to find the younger Hamlet to tell him what they’ve seen.
Claudius, Gertrude, Hamlet, Polonius, Polonius’ son, Laertes, and daughter, Ophelia, and many Lords are gathered in the throne room. Claudius is sad that his brother is dead, but feels the best way to mourn is to carry on with life. He is happy that he has married Gertrude, his late brother’s wife. Claudius calls Voltemand and Cornelius, two ambassadors, and tells them to take a letter to Fortinbras’ Uncle, the King of Norway, to request he interfere with Fortinbras’ plans to attack Denmark. They leave to take the letters to Norway.
Laertes asks for Claudius’ permission to go back to France. He has Polonius’ permission as well, but only because he has asked so many times. Laertes is allowed to go.
Hamlet is sorry he has so little family to show him kindness now, especially after his mother’s marriage to his Uncle. Claudius wants to know why Hamlet is so depressed. Hamlet assures him he is happy. Gertrude echoes Claudius’ worries for Hamlet. Hamlet admits he is upset about his father’s death, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped his own mother from remarrying so quickly. Claudius complements him on his grief, but points out that everyone has lost a father at some point. Hamlet agrees to stay at Elsinore Castle and not go back to school. Claudius thinks this is evidence of Hamlet’s love for him. Everyone but Hamlet leaves the room.
Hamlet wishes there were no laws against suicide. He can’t believe that his father has only been dead for two months, and his mother is remarried already. King Hamlet was so good to Gertrude, but scarcely a month had gone by before she agreed to marry his brother. Hamlet doesn’t think he can talk about it with anyone though.He should keep quiet.
Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo enter and tell Hamlet about the Ghost of his father. Hamlet doubts that they could see the Ghost’s face if it was armoured from head to toe, but Horatio assures him it was the late King. Hamlet will stand guard with them that night to see if the Ghost comes back. He makes the other men promise not to tell anyone else what they have seen.
Laertes and Ophelia talk about Hamlet’s flirtatious behaviour. Laertes doesn’t think Hamlet loves Ophelia, and she is to be careful with herself. Hamlet might love her now, but he is young and part of the royal family. His decisions are not his own to make. Polonius enters. He gives Laertes some advice: he is to be careful, make the best judgements, spend all he can on clothes but not on rich or gaudy ones, and not to lend money to anyone as this can lead to loss of friendship. Laertes says goodbye and then leaves. Polonius adds to Laertes’ advice about Hamlet to Ophelia. He orders her to spend less time with him and make herself harder to get to. Ophelia thinks he has made true vows to her, but Polonius disagrees. Ophelia will do as her father tells her.
On the gun terrace of Elsinore Castle, Horatio, Hamlet and Marcellus wait for the Ghost to appear. It does. Hamlet asks the Ghost to reveal why he has returned and what they can do to help him. The Ghost waves to Hamlet. He wants Hamlet to follow him. The other men don’t want him to go, but Hamlet thinks this is fate. He leaves with the Ghost. Marcellus and Horatio decide to follow in case the Ghost makes Hamlet do something awful.
Hamlet and the Ghost talk. The Ghost reveals how he was murdered—Uncle Claudius poured poison into his ear while he slept. Hamlet must take revenge for his murder, but he must not hurt Gertrude. He must leave Gertrude to God’s wrath. The morning approaches and the Ghost has to leave. Hamlet vows to take revenge in his father’s name.
Marcellus and Horatio enter and ask Hamlet if he is alright. Hamlet can’t tell them everything, but makes them vow not to say anything about what they have seen. They can’t even hint that they know what’s wrong with Hamlet.
Polonius and his servant, Reynaldo, discuss Laertes. Polonius wants Reynaldo to go to France and find out who Laertes spends time with and what he does while he is there. Reynaldo is not to rely solely on gossip, however. He is also to go and see Laertes for himself. Reynaldo leaves. Ophelia enters, frightened by Hamlet’s behaviour. He came into her room with his clothes half on and stared at her for a long time. Polonius thinks Hamlet has gone mad with love for her, and they need to tell the King. He wishes he had better judgement than to force Ophelia to refuse him, as Hamlet was obviously not just flirting with her.
Claudius, Gertrude, and servants enter the court room with two of Hamlet’s old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They have been called to Elsinore to help Hamlet out of his depression and find out why he is so upset. Gertrude thanks them for their help, and sends them off with a servant to find Hamlet.
Polonius announces the arrival of Ambassadors from Norway and that he may know the reason for Hamlet’s madness. The Ambassadors announce that the King of Norway has ordered Fortinbras to stop what he was doing. He immediately called off his army, and was rewarded with another army to lead into Poland. The King of Norway has asked for Claudius’ permission for the army to march across Denmark and assures them of Denmark’s safety. Claudius likes this news.
Polonius reveals that Ophelia was given a love letter from Hamlet, and has been courted by him. Polonius, doing his fatherly duty, warned Ophelia against Hamlet, and she refused him and sent his letters back. Claudius wonders if this is the reason Hamlet is depressed. Polonius suggests that they should “accidentally” have Hamlet and Ophelia meet to see how Hamlet reacts.
Hamlet enters, reading a book. Polonius tells Gertrude and Claudius to go away so he can talk to Hamlet alone. Hamlet claims not to recognize Polonius, who he calls a fishmonger. If Polonius has a daughter, he should not let her walk around by herself just in case she becomes pregnant. Polonius takes this mention of his daughter as a sign that Hamlet is still in love with her. He leaves Hamlet so he can go and arrange a meeting between him and Ophelia.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive. After exchanging lewd jokes about their fortunes, Hamlet presses them to tell him why they are there and if Claudius has summoned them. He reminds them of their love and friendship for one another. Guildenstern admits they were sent for. Hamlet knows that they are here to try and cheer him up. Rosencrantz reveals that a company of actors are on their way to entertain Hamlet. They debate about the state of the local theatre: Hamlet is amazed to hear that child actors are the current fashion in theatre, but then Denmark as a whole is in such a bad shape that it is hardly surprising.
Trumpets sound and Polonius enters. Hamlet, in a series of asides to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, teases Polonius for the way he talks and acts. Polonius announces the arrival of the actors. Hamlet welcomes them all and marvels at how some of them have grown beards. The First Player asks Hamlet what he would like to hear. Hamlet and the Player recite a part from a play detailing Priam’s murder. Hamlet stops him after a while—he will hear the rest later. Hamlet orders Polonius to see to the actors’ needs as a bad reputation will hurt the royal family. They should be treated well. Just before they leave, Hamlet asks the First Player if he could learn a new speech for the play tomorrow. Hamlet will write it. The First Player will do so, and then follows the actors and Polonius out.
Hamlet sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern out. Hamlet wonders how monstrous it could be for an actor to be able to conjure tears over something pretend while he still can’t take revenge for his father’s murder. He wonders if the Ghost was a devil trying to tempt him and decides he needs more evidence before he takes his revenge. He will watch for Claudius’ reaction to the play closely to see if he appears guilty for the King’s murder.
Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern gather. Claudius doesn’t understand why Hamlet is so upset and mad. Neither Rosencrantz or Guildenstern have been able to get Hamlet to admit what is wrong with him. They have invited a group of actors to put on a play. Hamlet has specifically requested the King and Queen attend the play. Claudius is happy for this and sends the two friends to Hamlet to get him more excited about the play.
Claudius tells Gertrude she needs to leave too as he and Polonius have arranged for Hamlet and Ophelia to bump into one another by “accident”. Claudius and Polonius will hide and watch Hamlet’s reaction to see if it is his love for Ophelia that has sent him into madness. Gertrude hopes the plan works and then leaves. Polonius orders Ophelia to read from a prayer book so that she looks lonely. They hear Hamlet coming and hide from view.
Hamlet wonders if it would be better to be alive or dead, and if putting up with all the suffering you experience while alive is worth it. He wonders if death is just like going to sleep for a long time. He sees Ophelia and asks her to remember him while she prays. Ophelia has things to hand back to him now that Hamlet has rejected her. Hamlet used to love her, and then changes his mind and insists he never loved her. He orders her to get herself to a convent so she will not give birth to anymore sinners. It might have been best if Hamlet had never been born at all either, as he is only filled with the need for vengeance. Hamlet wonders where Polonius is. Hamlet tells her to get herself to a convent. If she marries, even if she keeps her reputation as an innocent, she will still end up with a bad reputation in the end. Hamlet leaves her. Ophelia is sad that Hamlet has changed so much. She used to admire him. Claudius doesn’t think Hamlet was ever in love with Ophelia. Claudius doesn’t even think Hamlet sounds that mad and suspects he might be up to something. He will send Hamlet to England to get them to repay their debts to Denmark. Polonius still believes that Hamlet is mad because of unrequited love and requests Gertrude talk to him while Polonius listens in. Claudius agrees.
Hamlet and the actors enter. He tells them to perform the speech he has just taught them. The actors leave to get ready. Polonius, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz enter. Hamlet asks them if the King and Queen are attending. They are. Hamlet tells Polonius and the others to go help the actors prepare. Horatio enters. Hamlet begs him to watch for Claudius’ reactions to the play to see if the Ghost was right or if he was a devil trying to tempt Hamlet. Horatio will do this.
Trumpets play and the audience, including Claudius and Gertrude, enter. Claudius asks him how he is, and Hamlet deflects, answering the question with nonsense. Hamlet and Polonius talk about a role Polonius once performed—that of Julius Caesar who was killed by Brutus. Hamlet sits beside Ophelia as it is an attractive place to sit. They talk about his happier mood. Hamlet shouldn’t see why he wouldn’t be happy, with his father dead and his mother remarried so soon. He has not forgotten his father but will shed his mourning clothes soon enough.
The play begins. The Player-King tells the Player-Queen that she will have to remarry soon as he thinks he will die. The Player-Queen would never remarry as it would be as if she had killed her own husband. If she does end up remarrying, she hopes the Earth will refuse her food. The Player-King asks her to leave so he can sleep. She does.
Hamlet asks if Gertrude is enjoying the play. Gertrude thinks the Player-Queen is over-acting. Claudius asks if anything offensive is in the play. Hamlet tells them to not care too much: after all, they have nothing to be guilty about.Lucianus, the Player-King’s nephew, appears on stage. He pours poison into the Player-King’s ears. Hamlet tells the audience that the nephew will win the Player-Queen’s heart soon. Claudius stands up and orders for light. He needs to get away. Everyone leaves except for Hamlet and Horatio.
They discuss that the Ghost was right all along. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter: they are worried about Hamlet. Hamlet teases them—they are trying to play him like they might play an instrument. They tell him Gertrude wants to see him. Polonius also enters and asks Hamlet to go see his mother. He knows that they are trying to trick him, but he will go. They leave Hamlet alone for a moment. Hamlet will not harm Gertrude, but that won’t stop him from attacking her with words.
Claudius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern talk about Hamlet. Claudius doesn’t like the way he is acting. He will send the two men with Hamlet to England. They will take care of him. They leave Claudius alone. Polonius enters to report that Hamlet will visit Gertrude soon. While they do, Polonius will hide behind the tapestry in her bedroom so he can listen in. He will report to Claudius what has been said after the meeting. Polonius leaves.
Claudius is guilty for the crimes he has committed, but at times doesn’t feel his guilt. He tries to pray for forgiveness, but finds he can’t put the emotion he needs to into the prayers. At the same time, Hamlet enters and sees Claudius alone and unprotected. He considers taking his revenge then and there, but Claudius would go straight to Heaven as he has prayed for forgiveness. He should kill Claudius while he is committing a sin, so he faces the same fate as his late father. Hamlet leaves.
Polonius tells Gertrude what she should and shouldn’t say to Hamlet when he comes: she needs to let him know his behaviour has upset the King. She will do as she is asked. Polonius hides behind the tapestry. Hamlet enters—he knows exactly why Gertrude has called for him. She tells him he has insulted his father, but Hamlet throws the insults back at her: she has done the same. He wishes Gertrude were not his mother. She worries he might kill her and cries out for help, but Hamlet only wants to show her what she has truly become. Polonius echoes her cries for help. Hamlet stabs his sword through the tapestry, hoping that Claudius is behind it. He kills Polonius. Gertrude doesn’t know what she has done to be talked to this way. Hamlet is amazed she doesn’t: her marriage is a sin. Even the Heavens are angry at her. Hamlet wonders why she married a villain after loving such a kind and gentlemanly man as his father. The Ghost enters, and Hamlet asks it what it wants. Gertrude can’t see it and is upset that Hamlet is crazy enough to be talking to the thin air. The Ghost leaves. Gertrude calls him mad. Hamlet isn’t mad—he can repeat every word he just said. Hamlet orders her to live a virtuous life and not to sleep with his Uncle again. He also begs her not to let Claudius persuade her Hamlet is mad when he is not. He reminds her that he is to go to England with the two friends he trusts least, wishes Gertrude a good night and drags Polonius off.
Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern talk. Gertrude ask Hamlet’s two friends to leave so she can talk in private with her husband. Gertrude tells him about Polonius’ murder. He will ship Hamlet off to England under the cover of night, and he will have to try and explain the murder to the public as an accident. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern re-enter. Claudius orders them to help find Polonius’ body and bring it to the chapel.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ask Hamlet where the body is. Hamlet answers in nonsense. He calls them fools. Hamlet orders them to take him to the King right away.
Claudius enters with servants. He tells them he has sent more men to find Polonius’ body. He can’t lock Hamlet up because the public adore him, even if he has murdered someone. Rosencrantz enters—they can’t find out where the body is, but they have brought Hamlet to him. Claudius orders Hamlet to be brought in. Claudius asks where Polonius’ body is. Hamlet tells him heis being eaten by worms, and then reveals there will be a smell in the upstairs main hall in around a month. Claudius sends servants to check there. Claudius tells Hamlet that he must send him away to England for his own protection. Hamlet says goodbye and leaves.
Claudius tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to follow Hamlet and make sure he gets on the ship. Everyone but Claudius leaves. He admits he hopes that the King of England does as he has been asked and executes Hamlet as soon as he arrives in England.
At the Danish border, Fortinbras and a Captain enter with an army. Fortinbras tells the Captain to send the King his greetings and ask for permission to cross Denmark. Everyone except the Captain leaves. Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter.Hamlet asks the Captain where the army is going to.He reveals they are off to Poland to fight for a small bit of territory no one actually wants. Hamlet thinks this is the main problem with war: small arguments can lead to larger ones until many people die. The Captain leaves. Rosencrantz asks Hamlet to come with him. He will in a moment. Everyone leaves Hamlet alone. Hamlet wonders what kind of man he is: he wants to take his revenge, but is still too afraid to do so, and in the meantime an entire army marches to fight for something they don’t honestly care for. If he cannot pull himself together to take his revenge, his thoughts are for nothing.
At Elsinore Castle, Horatio, Gertrude and a Gentleman enter. Gertrude refuses to talk to Ophelia. The Gentleman reports that Ophelia truly needs to talk to Gertrude. She beats her chest, won’t stop talking about her dead father and is constantly upset. Horatio thinks it would be a good idea to talk to her if she is that upset. Gertrude allows her to enter. She feels extremely guilty. Ophelia enters and sings about a dead love in a grave. Claudius enters. He asks Ophelia how she is. Ophelia sings about a virgin sleeping with a man who then refuses to marry her. Ophelia misses her father. She will talk to her brother. She wishes them a goodnight, and then leaves. Claudius orders Horatio to keep an eye on her.
Claudius sees Ophelia’s madness as just one more terrible thing that has happened. He is worried Laertes will blame Claudius for Polonius’ death. A noise off stage startles Gertrude. A Messenger arrives to tell them Laertes is leading a rebellion into the castle against Claudius. They shout for Laertes to be King.
Laertes enters. He tells his followers to wait outside while he talks to Claudius. He demands for his father’s body. Claudius tells him Polonius is dead. Gertrude adds that he was not murdered by Claudius. Laertes wants revenge—he doesn’t care what happens to him. Claudius will prove that he is innocent.
Ophelia enters. Laertes is upset to see her so mad and wonders how it was possible. She hands out flowers: fennel and columbines to Gertrude for adultery and rue for repentance to Claudius. She sings once more and then leaves.
Laertes and Claudius share in their grief.He sends for his wisest friends to be gathered so that they can both be listened to. The wise men will decide who is correct about Polonius’ murder. If Claudius is wrong and guilty he will give up everything as payment, but if he is innocent, then Laertes must be patient while Claudius organizes for revenge to be taken. Laertes agrees.
Horatio is given letters by a Sailor from Hamlet. It tells him to get the Sailors to the King as there are more letters to deliver. He reports he was attacked by pirates when they were at sea. Hamlet asks Horatio to come and meet him quickly as he has news about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Claudius and Laertes talk. Now that Claudius has been proven innocent of Polonius’ murder, he will soon reveal what he has planned for Hamlet. A Messenger arrives with letters from Hamlet for Claudius and Gertrude. Claudius reads the letters out-loud, which reveal Hamlet is on his way back to Elsinore to confront Claudius. Laertes is pleased he will be able to get his revenge. Claudius has plans for Hamlet’s death, and no one—not even Gertrude—will know it was a murder. Laertes wants to take part, which Claudius thinks is a good idea as his good qualities don’t arouse envy in the general public like Hamlet’s do. They will be far more forgiving if the murder is found out. Laertes wonders what those good qualities are. Claudius reveals Hamlet was extremely envious of Laertes’ fencing skills and the compliments he had been given, and talked of nothing but having a match with him for long time. They will have a fencing match and the tip of one sword will be dipped in poison and sharpened. No medicine can save someone infected with this poison. They will also pour poison into a cup of wine to give to Hamlet as a back-up plan.
Gertrude enters and announces that Ophelia has drowned in a brook. She fell in accidentally and didn’t know where she was. Her water logged clothes dragged her down to the bottom. Laertes leaves. They follow him to try and calm him down.
Two Gravediggers talk about Ophelia’s death as they dig a grave. They don’t believe for one minute that Ophelia didn’t kill herself, but they guess that a rich girl would be given religious rites even if she did kill herself. Hamlet and Horatio enter. Hamlet asks him whose grave he is digging, but the Gravedigger answers in nonsense. The Gravedigger knocks skulls around while he sings and digs. He shows Hamlet a skull that has been there for twenty-three years—the skull of Yorick, the King’s jester. Hamlet knew Yorick. He wonders where the man’s jokes are now.
Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, a Priest and a coffin enter. Hamlet tells Horatio to be quiet while they find out who they are burying. Laertes asks the Priest which rites he will give Ophelia—he can only give her so many religious rites as he suspects that the girl killed herself.If it wasn’t for the King’s interference, Ophelia would have been buried far outside the church graveyard.It would be insulting to the other bodies to have more rites performed. Hamlet is shocked to hear that Ophelia has died.
Gertrude scatters flowers across the grave. She is sad that Ophelia and Hamlet never married. Laertes jumps into the grave and demands they bury him with her. Hamlet jumps into the grave, too, and fights with Laertes. Claudius orders them to be pulled apart. No love could have matched Hamlet’s. He doesn’t know why Laertes treats him this way as he has always loved Laertes. They all leave.
Hamlet and Horatio enter. Hamlet tells him that he read letters from Claudius on the ship asking the King of England to execute Hamlet on the spot. He rewrote the letters, used his father’s old signet ring to form a seal and replaced the old letters with the new. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are now headed for their deaths at the hands of the King of England. Hamlet thinks they deserved it. Hamlet is upset at the bad-blood between him and Laertes, but is resolved to kill Claudius as soon as he gets the chance.
Osric, a courtier, enters. Hamlet doesn’t like this man and teases him. Osric tells them that Claudius has placed a large bet on Hamlet winning the fencing match. Osric complements Laertes’ fencing abilities, and Hamlet agrees with him. He sends Osric to tell the King he will fight right away. A Lord announces that Gertrude wants to talk to Hamlet before he begins.
Horatio thinks Hamlet will lose the bet, but Hamlet has been practising. Hamlet doubts the match a little, but he will put his life in fate’s hands. What will happen, will happen.
Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes and Osric enter with servants carrying trumpets, drums, swords, a table and some wine. Hamlet and Laertes shake hands. Hamlet apologizes for what he has done, but points out that it was his madness that killed Polonius, not Hamlet himself. Laertes understands, but he can’t forgive him so easily. Hamlet assures Laertes he will win. They pick their swords. Claudius announces that if Hamlet makes the first or second hit on Laertes that Claudius will place a pearl into a cup of wine, which is then Hamlet’s to drink.
Trumpets play the fencing match begins. Hamlet makes the first hit. Osric calls it in Hamlet’s favour. Claudius places the pearl into the cup and tries to hand it to Hamlet, but he will not drink it just yet. They continue fencing. Hamlet hits Laertes again. Claudius thinks Hamlet might win the game, but Gertrude thinks he is out of breath. She tries to hand him the goblet, and then tries to drink it herself. Claudius tries to stop her, but it is too late. Nothing can stop her from dying now. Laertes wounds Hamlet with the poison tipped sword. In a scuffle, they end up with each others’ swords and Hamlet wounds Laertes. Claudius orders them to be separated and Gertrude collapses. Laertes is upset that he has been caught by his own trap. Gertrude realizes she has been poisoned by the wine and then dies.
Hamlet orders the door locked as he wants to know who planned this. Laertes reveals that they are both going to die,as well. They have half an hour to live, and the King is to blame. Hamlet wounds Claudius and then forces him to drink from the poisoned goblet to follow Gertrude to death. Claudius dies.
Laertes thinks Claudius got what he deserved. He begs for Hamlet’s forgiveness and then dies. Hamlet gives him this forgiveness and wishes that he could tell everyone what genuinely happened. He asks Horatio to tell everyone, but Horatio doesn’t want to live. He tries to drink the rest of the poisoned wine, but Hamlet stops him. If he truly loved Hamlet, he would not drink the wine and would fix Hamlet’s reputation for him. He will tell the truth about the events.
Military marching can be heard from off stage, and Hamlet wonders where these noises are coming from. Osric reports that young Fortinbras is returning after his victory in Poland. Hamlet hopes that Fortinbras will end up on the Danish throne. Hamlet dies. Horatio wishes him a long sleep.
Fortinbras enters and is amazed at what he sees. Horatio asks him to erect a stage for the bodies to be placed on, and for everyone to be told the truth. An Ambassador announces that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Fortinbras has some claim to the Danish throne and will carry it out. He orders Hamlet’s body to be carried out like a soldier onto the stage and thinks he would have made a fine King. The rest of the bodies are carried out and cannons fire.
The Ghost is a fairly loaded character in terms of meaning. In Hamlet, the Ghost can represent sin which stays behind when unforgiven, the remnants that are left of a person who has died, and the need for vengeance. The Ghost can also represent guilt. Claudius is guilty because he murdered his own brother, and Hamlet is guilty because he has let Claudius get away with this.
There are many poisonous and poisoned items in Hamlet: the poisoned chalice, the poison tipped swords and the poison in King Hamlet’s ear which led to his death. There are many interpretations for what the poison stands for exactly, but critics have agreed that the poison represents the poisonous nature of family. It is this which sends Hamlet mad with grief and confusion and sets this narrative rolling. It destroys each person and relationship except for the honest and loyal one Hamlet has with Horatio.
Forgiveness is something many characters struggle with in Hamlet. Hamlet cannot forgive Claudius and Gertrude for what they have done, and this ostracizes him from his family. Claudius begs God for forgiveness but finds he can’t feel enough remorse to pray properly. At this moment, Hamlet will not kill Claudius, even though he is unarmed because he would go straight to Heaven.
This contrasts what Hamlet discovers about his father: the late King could not pray to resolve his sins before he died because he was poisoned. He now lives in a hellish environment, imprisoned during the day and forced to march through the night.
At the end of the play, Hamlet and Laertes forgive one another for the deaths they have caused and for killing one another so that they can go to Heaven. Many characters who oversee the funerals of others, such as Ophelia’s and Polonius’, will put pressure on the Priest to give the dead as many final rites as they can to ensure the soul goes to Heaven.
Hamlet can’t decide if he is or isn’t in love with Ophelia, so much so that it throws her off completely. One minute he tells her hedoesn’t want to be with her, and the next lies in her lap. He finally admits his love for her, butit’s too late because she’s already dead. This is a lesson to Hamlet, who extends the olive-branch to Laertes and asks him for forgiveness for what he has done.
Hamlet also can’t decide when or even if he will take revenge for his father’s death. He suspects the Ghost might be trying to trick him, so he needs more evidence, but even when he does have the evidence he needs, he does not kill Claudius. By the end of the play, he has debated whether or not impulsive action, like Fortinbras’ army takes, might reduce the suffering self-doubt brings on, and also concludes that God and divine intervention will lead his way and create his journey for him. Hamlet will stop questioning his decisions, act on impulse and let whatever comes his way to dictate the direction his life goes in. He ignores his misgivings and doubts over the fencing match against Laertes but pushes those doubts away in favour of acting. Unfortunately, this leads to his death, suggesting that perhaps those who act on impulse only need to be tempered by some reason and thought.
Claudius, Gertrude and Polonius think Hamlet might have turned mad because of his love for Ophelia, which Hamlet disproves. Earlier, Polonius believes Hamlet is only lusting after his daughter and couldn’t possibly be in love with her. No one understands Hamlet’s perspective which prompts Gertrude and Claudius calling for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet can’t understand Gertrude’s love for Claudius because his father has only just died.
Much of the confusion between Hamlet and other characters is his inability to communicate how he feels and why he feels that way to other people. Of course, he can’t tell everyone about Claudius’ involvement in the murder of the King, but so much of what we discover about Hamlet’s mental health is revealed in asides to the audience. We understand him, but everyone else struggles to do so.
There are many political plots in Hamlet that lead to characters’ ends or beginnings. Claudius wins the Danish throne and Gertrude as a wife after he poisons the King. Young Fortinbras wins the Danish throne after everyone else in line to the throne is killed. Although he doesn’t involve himself directly in the political plot, it is Claudius’ plots that lead to this ending. His attempt to send letters with Hamlet when he goes to England to have him executed backfire when Hamlet reads and replaces those letters. Claudius’ plot to poison Hamlet during a fencing match against Laertes backfires when Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine and both Laertes and Claudius are also killed by the poison tipped swords.And finally, Polonius’ plot to figure out if the reason for Hamlet’s madness is his love for Ophelia and his death while hiding in Gertrude’s room sends Ophelia herself into madness and then death.
Ophelia’s madness is brought on by male interference. Polonius and Laertes advise her how to act around Hamlet and tell her to draw away from him. To refuse him. Polonius then forces her to help uncover the reason for Hamlet’s insanity by tempting him with Ophelia’s interest once more. Hamlet’s refusal of her and her loss of her father compound, take her innocence from her and send her into a quiet melancholy.
Hamlet’s madness is caused by his indecision. It is also a complete fabrication as he pretends to be mad to avoid suspicion, but like so many people who pretend, they eventually start to take on characteristics without realising it. His constant struggle between taking revenge and doubting the time, place, conditions of this revenge and the nature of death itself leave him without the ability to deal with anything else in his life. He even turns a play meant to cheer him up into a re-enactment of his father’s death. Sometimes Hamlet will appear much more aware of himself, especially around Horatio who knows everything of the plots, but he will still slip into the occasional mania. Compared to Laertes who does not want proof of Hamlet’s guilt before he takes his revenge, Hamlet can seem to many like a weak and confused character. Hamlet and Ophelia’s madness, however, does give them a clearer view of Gertrude and Claudius’ guilt, suggesting that terrible actions can only be understood by someone out of the ordinary.
Gertrude and Claudius are in the thick of an incestuous relationship that Hamlet does not approve of. No one else in the play reveals any disgust for the quick remarriage of Gertrude to her late husband’s brother, which suggests that it was in bad taste to question the royal family or that it happened more often than it does now. However, Hamlet’s obsession with Gertrude’s sex life can also be due to an Oedipal desire to love his mother sexually now that his father is dead. Claudius stands in the way of that. Hamlet begs her not to let Claudius sleep with her and to keep her sheets clean. That this plea comes while Hamlet is in Gertrude’s bedroom, suggesting a further intimacy in their relationship,which we have not seen prior to this scene, is no accident, but what this intimacy suggests is up for debate.
Laertes also warns Ophelia away from Hamlet in a possible attempt to clear the way to keep Ophelia for himself. He jumps into her grave to embrace her again as a lover might. In fact, Hamlet copies him and expresses his anger over Laertes’ passion, so much so that he felt he had to outdo him.
Many things are decaying or diseased in Hamlet. After the discovery of the late King’s Ghost, Marcellus announces that there is something rotten in Denmark, and there is. Much like a piece of fruit, the nation is rotting from the inside out. Claudius, the head and centre of Denmark, has only been able to take the throne because he murdered his own brother. From Hamlet’s perspective, his marriage to Gertrude can be seen as the decay of the institution of marriage and family.
Hamlet’s obsession with death can also be seen as an obsession with the physical body of death. As he holds Yorik’s skull in Act Five, he wonders where Yorik’s laughter has gone to. When questioned by Claudius where Polonius’ body is, Hamlet jokes that he is going to be eaten by worms. Hamlet also considers that a King’s body is just the same as a beggars—and why wouldn’t a King’s body end up in a beggar’s stomach. Death renders them all the same, no matter their position in life or the condition of their soul, and the decay of the body makes this especially obvious to Hamlet.
Hamlet’s consideration of suicide likens death to a long sleep. He seems weary as he contemplates the possibility of taking his own life and wonders what might happen to his soul if he did so. He thinks that if there was not a religious stigma over suicide and the fear of the unknown that many more people would kill themselves.
His contemplation links him to Ophelia, who perhaps commits suicide. We do not see her drown in the brook, and many have questioned Gertrude’s story. We are told that she is dragged down to the bottom of the brook by her water logged clothes and that her death was accidental, but this could be because Gertrude wants to save her soul. The story itself might be a fabrication, and is called into question in Act Five by the Gravedigger and Priest, who are convinced that she had taken her own life.
When we meet the young Prince Hamlet he has just lost his father, the King of Denmark. His mother has also married his Uncle Claudius, which makes things worse, and his depression more acute. Hamlet hates his Uncle and despises his mother Gertrude for marrying another man so quickly after his father’s death. When the Ghost of his father reveals what he feared and suspected most—that his father was murdered by Claudius—Hamlet becomes incensed with the need for vengeance but becomes waylaid by his own self-doubt. He contradicts himself often, and this contradiction usually lies between his need and desire for violent revenge and his more philosophical nature. His behaviour follows suit: Hamlet can be impulsive, especially in his murder of Polonius, but hesitant for much of the rest of time.
Claudius is the newly crowned King of Denmark and Hamlet’s Uncle. He is also Hamlet’s Stepfather after his marriage to Gertrude, the late King’s wife. Claudius is an ambitious man. He killed his own brother to take the Danish throne and won over his wife with gifts to gain a Queen. Claudius will do anything to get ahead and to keep his spoils. When both young Fortinbras and Hamlet threaten to undo some of Claudius’ peace he solves the problem quite quickly through political cunning and manipulation. He sends Hamlet to England on the pretence of a diplomatic mission, but sends letters with him asking the English King to execute Hamlet. He doesn’t do this because he doesn’t want to kill Hamlet himself, but because he doesn’t want the Danish people to rebel. They love Hamlet too much to see him killed.
Gertrude is the Queen of Denmark and Claudius’ wife. She has little to no guilt towards her quick marriage to her late husband’s brother. In fact, she seems overjoyed by it. While she has no main influence on the plot, Gertrude is in many of the scenes hoping for a cure for Hamlet’s depression, and then his madness. She shows sympathy towards the mad Ophelia and regrets that she will never see Ophelia and Hamlet married. There have been many debates regarding how much Gertrude knew of her late husband’s murder, and whether or not she was complicit. Some see her the way that Hamlet describes her. They believe she must be guilty of something because of the lack of remorse she shows marrying her husband’s brother. Others have argued that Gertrude is an honest and loving woman who is only doing what she thinks is right for the country. She looks out for everyone’s welfare and is a loving and forgiving mother to Hamlet, even though he insults and pushes her away for most of the play. Many negative things about Gertrude are spoken by Hamlet, who is angry with her. His insults, therefore, cannot be entirely trusted as they come from a place of extreme emotion.
The Ghost of Hamlet’s late father appears to guards at Elsinore Castle. He does not speak until Hamlet arrives, and then reveals Claudius’ involvement in his murder. He begs Hamlet to take revenge on his behalf, particularly as he is damned for sins he had no time to beg forgiveness for. Hamlet blames his indecision to take revenge for his father’s death on his doubts about the Ghost. Although it looks and acts like his late father, he believes it could be a devil or demon trying to trick him.
Horatio is Hamlet’s closest friend and ally. Hamlet trusts Horatio above all over characters in the play, revealing and sharing news of plots and schemes he has discovered. Horatio remains loyal enough to Hamlet to stay alive at the end of the play, despite his desire to kill himself. Despite his sorrow over Hamlet’s death, he stays behind to set the facts straight, tell Hamlet’s story and clear his name.
Laertes is Ophelia’s brother and Polonius’ son. He is a good fencer and is well liked by those that know him. Laertes is fiercely loyal to his family, protects his sister Ophelia by giving her sound advice and is dutiful to his father, Polonius. Hamlet is seriously jealous of his abilities and of the number of compliments he receives from other people.
Ophelia is Laertes’ sister and Polonius’ daughter. She is an innocent girl who believes Hamlet is in love with her, but follows her father’s orders dutifully when he decides Hamlet must be leading her on. Towards the end of the play, Ophelia becomes mad under the stress of her father’s murder and Hamlet’s refusal of her. Later she falls into a brook, does not know that she is in danger and is pulled underwater by her heavy clothing. She drowns and her death spurs debates of religious rites and suicide, and reignites Hamlet’s love for her.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been friends with Hamlet for a long time. They grew up together and seem to have a strong bond. They are summoned to Elsinore to help Gertrude and Claudius discover the reason for Hamlet’s madness so that they can help him. However, as the play progresses, these two supposed friends start to connive and scheme with Claudius behind Hamlet’s back and their loyalty shifts. They even agree to take Hamlet to England where he will be executed by the King.
Polonius is a lord and adviser to Claudius. He has two children, Laertes and Ophelia, and he looks out for their welfare. This is a man full of good intentions who rarely goes about his plans without the use of trickery. Polonius gives speeches that are long winded and idiotic, and is often teased for it by Hamlet. Polonius is also often confused about character’s motivations. He can’t understand Hamlet’s madness, despite his unfounded claim that he does, thinks that Claudius is an excellent man and suspects his son, Laertes, of poor behaviour in France. So much so that he sends a servant to spy on him and question his acquaintances!
Osric is a courtier who is summoned by Claudius to send a message to Hamlet about the fencing duel. We learn through Hamlet that Osric owns a fantastic deal of land and has tried to make himself look and sound like an upper class man by talking pretentiously. He does talk in a confusing manner, and Hamlet often has to ask him what he is talking about. Hamlet thinks Osric is a foul man, but we do not learn much more about him to agree or disagree with Hamlet.
Fortinbras is the young prince of Norway and named after his late father, the King of Norway.Fortinbras wants revenge for his father’s death who was killed by Hamlet’s father during a war which also lost Norway a lot of territory. He begins the play gathering an army together, which is disbanded when his Uncle finds out about it. Hamlet later admires Young Fortinbras and his army for having the tenacity to fight for land in Poland, even though it means nothing to them. Fortinbras ends the play with a claim to the Danish throne and looks set to become the next King of Denmark.
Marcellus is a Sentinel guard at Elsinore Castle and loyal to Hamlet. He is one of the first men to see the Ghost of the dead King marching. He vows to keep the Ghost a secret and tries to keep Hamlet from venturing off with the Ghost by himself. He follows Hamlet with Horatio to make sure that the Ghost has not harmed him.
Reynaldo is Polonius’ servant. He is asked to spy on Laertes and ask his friends and acquaintances leading questions to trick them into telling him what Laertes has actually been up to. Polonius suspects he has been gambling and behaving badly. Reynaldo is worried that these questions might harm Laertes’ reputation, especially if people think he is accusing him of this kind of behaviour.That Reynaldo would feel comfortable enough to question Polonius suggests that he has been with the family for a long time and that he has their best interests at heart. He is most loyal to Polonius, however, and leaves for France to do as he is asked.
The two Gravediggers meet in the churchyard. The Gravedigger and the Other discuss Ophelia’s recent death and whether or not she should be given religious rites after killing herself. They conclude the only reason she would have been given these rights is due to her status as a rich woman, pinpointing a class divide. Neither seems particularly affected by death, and the Gravedigger sings as he digs and tosses skulls of the dead around. They are realists, rather than characters of extreme emotion.
Barnardo is another Sentinel in the King’s guard and a loyal friend to Hamlet. He and Marcellus have witnessed the Ghost of the late King Hamlet marching. He is the first to see the Ghost resembles the late King and begs Horatio to speak to it. Beyond this not much more is known about his character.
In the royal castle in Elsinore, Denmark, two sentinels appear on the gun terrace. These are Barnardo and Francisco. They are frightened by one another and demand to know who stands there. Once they have realized who the other is, Barnardo tells Francisco he should go to bed as it is almost midnight. He is there to take over from Francisco. Francisco is relieved to be going as it is cold, but at least it has been a quiet night. Barnardo tells Francisco if he sees Horatio and Marcellus on his way to bed to tell them to hurry as they are meant to be on watch duty with him. The two guards appear and startle the others. After verifying that they are friends, Francisco leaves to go to bed.
Barnardo, Horatio and Marcellus ask one another if they have seen “the thing” yet tonight. They haven’t. Horatio thinks it is nothing but their imagination playing tricks on them, and that the spirit will not appear to them, which is why Marcellus has asked him to stay up with them so he can see it with his own eyes. Horatio doesn’t believe it will appear to them. Barnardo tells him to sit down so he can tell them a bit about what they have seen. He begins by telling them that last night when the bell struck one, a spirit appeared to them, but Marcellus tells him to be quiet. The Ghost has entered! Barnardo and Marcellus ask Horatio if he thinks that the Ghost looks like the dead King of Denmark. He agrees and starts to question the Ghost under encouragements from the other men. He asks the Ghost what he is and why he stalks the hallways like the King once did. But the Ghost starts to move away and leaves.
Horatio is stunned and has gone white as a sheet. He didn’t think that this was possible. They agree that the Ghost looks exactly like the King of Denmark, and wears the armor he wore when he fought the King of Norway. Marcellus has seen the Ghost twice now at the same time of the night. Horatio thinks this means something awful will happen to them and the country because of this terrifying vision. Marcellus asks Horatio why the nightly watching of guards has been so strict lately, and why they seem to be readying for a war by building many bronze cannons. Marcellus wonders what is about to happen. Horatio can only relay rumours he has heard. As Marcellus already knows the late King of Denmark was an enemy to Fortinbras, the King of Norway, who challenged him to a battle. Hamlet, the King’s son, killed Fortinbras, and his lands were left to the conqueror, Denmark. However, the King of Norway had a son, also called Fortinbras, who has collected followers willing to fight for food who are going to help him take back the territories his father once ruled over. He thinks that this is the reason why they are on guard and why Denmark is in chaos. Barnardo agrees—it could even explain why the dead King’s Ghost has been roaming the halls as he created the wars.
Horatio thinks the Ghost is something to worry about and likens it to the fall of Rome. Just before Julius Caesar was killed by his most trusted men, corpses rose from their graves and ran through Rome squeaking and talking nonsense. Shooting stars, bloodied dew, warning signs from the Sun and a total eclipse from the Moon were other things observed during this time,as well. Considering they have had similar visions, Horatio thinks that Heaven and Earth are trying to warn us what is about to happen.
The Ghost re-enters. Horatio tells it to stay still—he wants to talk to it. He tells the Ghost to speak if it can make sounds. He wants to know if there is anything he can do for the Ghost to give it peace, or if the Ghost knows what is going to happen to Denmark. If he does, then maybe they can avoid it! If he doesn’t know any of this, then Horatio wonders if he knows about some buried treasure which is keeping him from being at peace. A rooster crows, signalling the coming of dawn. Horatio tells Marcellus to stop the spirit from leaving. Marcellus asks if he should strike it with his spear. Horatio agrees if it doesn’t stand still for long enough. The Ghost leaves.
Marcellus thinks they were wrong to threaten the Ghost as it looks like the King. He doesn’t think he would have been able to hurt it anyway because spirits aren’t solid. Barnardo thinks the Ghost was about to speak when the rooster interrupted. Horatio agrees—he has heard that the rooster wakes the God of Day up who then warns all spirits to hide. They’ve just seen that in action. Marcellus agrees that the Ghost faded when the rooster crowed. He adds that he has heard that the rooster crows all night around Christmas so that no spirits rise up and the fairies and witches have no power over man. This proves how holy the night is around this time. Horatio sort of believes that theory. He tells them to look to the horizon as the sun is rising. They decide to find young Hamlet to tell him what they have seen. It is their duty. Marcellus knows where to find him. They all leave.
At the royal castle in Elsinore Claudius, the King of Denmark, Queen Gertrude his wife, Hamlet, Polonius and his son, Laertes, and daughter, Ophelia, and many Lords gather. They all attend to Claudius, the King. He wants life to go on, despite how sad he still feels that his brother—the older Hamlet—has died. Claudius believes that mourning while taking care of oneself is the best and proper way to do it, so he has married his former sister-in-law. The marriage was both joyous and sad, but they went along with it because their advisers suggested it. He now wants to talk about business: Young Fortinbras has underestimated Denmark’s armies and has mistakenly assumed that everyone would still be mourning the death of the late King. Fortinbras has been repeatedly demanding that Claudius surrender all of his late father’s territories back to him.
Voltemand and Cornelius, two ambassadors for Norway, enter. Claudius tells them that he has written to Fortinbras’ Uncle who is the present King of Norway. The Uncle does not know what Fortinbras has been planning because he is old and bedridden. Claudius has told the Uncle to stop Fortinbras. Cornelius and Voltemand’s job is to deliver the letter to the Uncle. He tells the two to leave quickly. They pledge they will do their duty to Claudius and then leave.
Claudius turns to Laertes and asks what news he has and what favour he needs. He tells him not to hesitate as both Laertes and his father are as closely related as the head and heart, and hand and mouth are. Laertes asks for permission to return to France. He came to Denmark for Claudius’ coronation but now his duty is done he wishes to return. Claudius asks Polonius, Laertes’ father, if he has given his permission. Polonius admits that he has only agreed because Laertes has asked him so many times. He begs Claudius to let him go. Claudius agrees—Laertes can leave when he like and spend his time how he wants to.
Claudius then turns to Hamlet. Hamlet, speaking in an aside, mutters that he has more family now than any real kindness or feeling from them after his mother’s marriage to his uncle. Claudius doesn’t understand why Hamlet is still depressed. Hamlet disagrees—he is happy. Gertrude joins in and asks Hamlet to stop wearing dark clothing and to look with a friendly eye on Claudius. He can’t spend his entire life thinking about his father. Death happens all the time. Hamlet agrees that death is common. Gertrude wonders why it seems so hard for him this time. Hamlet disagrees with her use of the word “seems”. It is hard for him. His dark clothes, crying, or any other grief he shows can accurately represent how grieved he is to have lost his father. He agrees that it might “seem” that way to some people, especially if a person is faking their grief but Hamlet is not faking it—he is actually not even showing the full extent of his grief.Claudius compliments Hamlet for his commendable attitude towards mourning his father, but reminds him that all fathers have lost their own fathers, and those sons have mourned for a certain amount of time. Mourning beyond that period is stubborn and unmanly. Everyone knows that they will eventually die, so why take it to heart?It is against heaven and nature to continue to be absurd and mourn the death of a father as all fathers must eventually die. Claudius asks Hamlet to now think of him as his new father as everyone knows that Hamlet is the closest man to the throne. Claudius loves Hamlet like he would love any son. He doesn’t want Hamlet to go back to school in Wittenberg and wants him to stay as the top member of the court and as his son. Gertrude repeats Claudius prayers and wants him to stay. Hamlet will obey her as much as he can. Claudius commends him on his answer as it shows how much Hamlet loves them. Claudius is now happy enough to drink, and every toast he makes will be heard and echoed by the heavens. Everyone but Hamlet leaves.
Hamlet wishes he could kill himself and that there wasn’t a law against it. Life is weary and stale for him: he thinks of it like an unweeded garden gone to seed. His father has been dead for not even two months and was an excellent King—much better than his Uncle, Claudius is. And he was loving to Hamlet’s mother, who kept the wind from blowing too hard on her face. She always wanted to be with him. However, within a month of his father’s death, before she had even worn in the shoes she wore to his funeral, she was set to marry his brother and Hamlet’s Uncle. He calls women frail and weak for it. She was so quick to jump into bed with him! Hamlet concludes that he must keep his heart silent because he can’t talk about it.
Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo enter. They greet Hamlet. Horatio calls himself Hamlet’s poor servant, but Hamlet will have none of that. He only wants to be Horatio’s friend. He wonders what Horatio is doing so far from Wittenberg, and then notices Marcellus and greets him too. Horatio tells Hamlet he felt like skipping school. Hamlet doesn’t believe him: he would never skip school. He asks again what Horatio is doing in Elsinore and promises to teach him how to drink heavily before he leaves. Horatio admits he came to see Hamlet’s father’s funeral. Hamlet thinks Horatio is making fun of him—he came to see his mother’s wedding instead. Horatio agrees that it followed quickly behind. Hamlet jokes it was to keep things cheap: leftovers from the funeral furnished the wedding tables with a feast. He would rather have met his enemies in Heaven than see that day. He thinks he sees his father. Horatio asks where, and Hamlet replies in his imagination. Horatio admits he saw the good King once. Hamlet will never meet another man like him again.
Horatio reveals he saw the King last night. Hamlet asks for excitedly asks for clarification. Horatio tells him to calm down while he tells his tale about the vision he saw with the other men. Hamlet begs him to tell all. Horatio reveals that for two nights Marcellus and Barnardo encountered a figure like Hamlet’s father march slowly and stately past them. He did this three times while the two men stood shaking and unable to say anything. They then told Horatio who agreed to stand guard and see for himself. On this night, the spirit appeared. Horatio knew what Hamlet’s father looked like, and the Ghost looked like him as much as his two hands look alike. Hamlet asks where it happened. Marcellus tells him it happened on the platform where they stand guard. Hamlet asks if they spoke to the Ghost. Horatio did, but it didn’t answer back. He thought the Ghost was about to speak, but the rooster crowed, and the sounds made it disappear from sight. Hamlet thinks this is all strange. Horatio swears it is true; he just thought Hamlet should know about it. Hamlet agrees, but it still troubles him. He asks if they stand on guard that night too. Marcellus and Barnardo are. Hamlet asks if the Ghost was armed from head to toe. The two men confirm it was. Hamlet wonders if they couldn’t see the Ghost’s face then. Horatio could—the visor on the helmet was up. Hamlet asks how he looked—if he frowned or was pale or stared. Horatio tells him that he looked more sorrowful than angry, was pale and stared at them quite a bit. Hamlet wishes he was there and asks if the Ghost stayed long. Horatio thinks it would have taken someone counting slowly to a hundred to pass the time the Ghost was present. Marcellus and Barnardo disagrees—it was longer. Horatio disagrees. Hamlet asks if the Ghost’s beard was gray. Horatio tells him it was like it was in real life: black mixed with silver hairs. Hamlet will stand guard tonight to see if the Ghost will come. If it does look like his father, he will speak to it. He asks them all to keep it a secret if they have been doing so and to not talk about what might happen that night either. He makes plans to meet them later. Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo pledge their duty to Hamlet. He gives them his love. Everyone but Hamlet leaves. Hamlet thinks there is something wrong for his father to appear as a Ghost. He tells himself to remain calm until night. He concludes that bad deeds will rise and be revealed even though people try to hide them from other people’s eyes. He leaves.
Within the castle, Laertes and his sister, Ophelia, enter. Laertes tells her his belongings are already on the ship and tells her to write to him as long as winds are blowing. Ophelia asks if he would doubt her writing to him. Laertes ignores her question and tells her not to worry about Hamlet’s flirting with her. He thinks it is just a temporary infatuation Hamlet has with her and won’t last more than a minute. Ophelia asks him if he’s sure. Laertes tells her that as a man gets bigger and grows up, his mind and soul also grow bigger. Hamlet might love her now, but she needs to be careful. He is a member of the royal family and,therefore, has no control over his own future. He can’t make choices for himself as the entire country depends on him. He has to meet the general needs of the nation. So if Hamlet tells her that he loves her, she should remember that what the state of Denmark says has more power over him. She needs to be chaste and not give into him. She will be safe if she fears him as young people usually lose their self control. Ophelia promises to remember his wisdom and advice. She adds that he should practice what he preaches and be as virtuous as he expects her to be. Laertes agrees.
Polonius enters. Laertes wants to leave, but sees his father approaching. He is overjoyed to have his blessing to leave not just once, but twice. Polonius is amazed that Laertes hasn’t left yet as the ship is ready to go. He gives Laertes some advice: he is to think before he speaks and to not act too quickly on his thoughts, to be friendly to people but not vulgar about it and to hold onto his friends once he’s tested who are his real ones. He is also to avoid getting into a fight too quickly, but to fight bravely once he’s in one, to listen to everyone’s opinion but only follow the best judgement, to spend all he can on clothes but not buy rich or gaudy clothes. Clothes make the man, after all, especially in France. He is not to borrow or lend money to anyone as this can lead to a loss of money and friendship. And he is to be true to himself. He blesses Laertes once more and hopes his blessing will help him. Laertes says goodbye to Polonius and Ophelia and then leaves.
Polonius asks Ophelia what advice Laertes has given her. Ophelia tells him it was something about Hamlet. Polonius is pleased that he did as he has heard Hamlet has spent a lot of time alone with Ophelia lately. He doesn’t think Ophelia is conducting herself properly around him. He asks for the truth over what is happening between them. Ophelia tells her father that Hamlet has been affectionate towards her lately. Polonius chastises her for sounding like an innocent girl who doesn’t understand the nature of her circumstances. He asks her if she believes in Hamlet’s affections. Ophelia doesn’t know what to think. Polonius will tell her: she is a baby for thinking that his affections mean anything at all, and she should have more respect for herself. He wants to make sure she doesn’t turn him into a foolish looking man.
Ophelia defends Hamlet. She believes he has been honourable towards her. Polonius thinks it is a passing infatuation. Ophelia tells him Hamlet has made holy vows to her, but Polonius counters: any man can make oaths and vows when he is filled with lust. The fire of his passion will be out soon enough, even before he is finished making his promises. She is not to think of this as true love. Ophelia is to spend less time with him and make herself a harder conquest. Hamlet is still young and can still have the freedom to play around, so she is not to believe in his vows. Ophelia must do as her father says. Ophelia agrees, and they both leave.
On the gun terrace of Elsinore Castle, Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus enter. Hamlet comments that it is cold and then asks what time it is. Horatio tells him it is just before twelve. Marcellus thinks it is after twelve as he heard the clock strike. Horatio didn’t hear it. He tells the two that this is when the Ghost is likely to appear. Trumpets suddenly sound offstage and two cannons are fired. Horatio asks Hamlet what that means. Hamlet tells them that the King is up and drinking. As he drinks his wine, the musicians play to celebrate him finishing another cup. Horatio wonders if that is a tradition. Hamlet reveals it is, but it isn’t one that he appreciates. Even though it is a custom and tradition, it gives them a bad name among other nations for their loud parties. They are called drunks and are insulted. And the drinking does lessen their achievements, even if they are great ones. Hamlet compares this situation to that of a person born with a birth defect which they can’t help because it is in their nature, or to a habit that changes them. Men who carry only one defect can have all their talents and virtues seen as nothing. In fact, they can also be seen as evil to other people which totally ruins their reputations even if they have done nothing wrong.
The Ghost returns. Horatio tells them to look. Hamlet calls on angels to defend them. He wants to talk to the Ghost whether or not it is a good or bad spirit. He decides to call it Hamlet, King, Father and royal Dane to try and get it to talk to him. He asks the Ghost not to drive him mad with ignorance, but to answer his question: why has he returned after they have so quietly buried him? What has made him put his armor on again and come back to stare at the moon, make the night terrifying and scare humans. He asks what they should do to help him. The Ghost waves to Hamlet to come with him. Horatio thinks the Ghost wants to tell Hamlet something alone. Marcellus thinks the Ghost is quite polite, but doesn’t want Hamlet to go. Horatio agrees, but Hamlet wants to follow it if the Ghost will not speak. He wonders what the danger is when he doesn’t value his life one bit. The Ghost cannot harm his soul as it is just as immortal as the Ghost itself. The Ghost waves again. Horatio worries that the Ghost will tempt Hamlet to jump into the sea or will take on a horrible form that will drive him into madness. Hamlet is resigned to go. Marcellus and Horatio try to hold Hamlet back, but Hamlet tells them to let go of him. Hamlet thinks that this is fate. He draws his sword and threatens to make a Ghost out of anyone who tries to stop him from going. The Ghost and Hamlet leave.
Horatio thinks his imagination has driven him into desperation. Marcellus suggests they should follow him and not obey his orders to leave them alone. Horatio wonders what will happen now. Marcellus suggests that it means something is rotten in Denmark. Horatio wants to let God take care of it if that is true. Marcellus disagrees—they should follow Hamlet. They leave.
Hamlet and the Ghost enter. Hamlet asks where they are going. He tells it to speak or he won’t go any further. The Ghost tells him to listen. Hamlet will. The Ghost has to return to purgatory soon, but doesn’t want Hamlet’s pity. He needs him to listen carefully. Hamlet must also be ready for revenge too. The Ghost reveals that he is the ghost of his father and is doomed to walk the night for a certain amount of time. During the day, he is confined in fire until the crimes he committed in life are purged and his penance is complete. He could tell Hamlet things that would freeze his soul if he were not bound to secrecy about his imprisonment. Mortals like Hamlet are not allowed to hear it. He tells Hamlet to listen if he ever loved his father. The Ghost wants Hamlet to take revenge for his murder. Hamlet is shocked: murder? The Ghost reveals that this murder in particular was strange and horrid. Hamlet wants him to hurry up and tell him about it so he can take revenge quickly. The Ghost is glad Hamlet is eager and not as lazy as a fat weed rooted itself on the shores of Lethe. Although everyone was told that a snake bit the King when he was sleeping in the orchard, it is a lie. The real snake that killed him is now wearing the crown. Hamlet knew it. His Uncle murdered his father!
The Ghost goes on: his wife, the Queen Gertrude, allowed herself to be seduced by Claudius. She has fallen from far. She went from a legitimate marriage to the elder Hamlet who she loved dearly to becoming a wretch. She is a lustful person. The Ghost thinks he can smell the morning air and decides to be brief in telling his tale. He was sleeping in the orchard, as he always does in the afternoon. Hamlet’s Uncle crept up behind him and poured a vial of hebenon—a poison—into his ear. This poison moves quickly through the veins and curdles the blood like drops of milk. And this is how his own brother took his life, his crown and his queen at once and cut him off in the middle of his sinful life. He had not chance to redeem himself or repent his sins before he died. He begs Hamlet to not let the King’s bed be an incestuous one, but if he takes his revenge to not corrupt his own mind or hurt his mother. He must leave Gertrude to her own guilt and to God. Morning is approaching, so the Ghost bids Hamlet good-bye and asks him to remember his father. The Ghost leaves Hamlet alone.
Hamlet calls to Heaven and Earth and even Hell that he will remember his father, the poor Ghost, as long as he can command his own memory in his distracted head. He will wipe his memory clean of trivia and facts, or books and other memories and only remember the Ghost’s commands and requests in their place. He wonders where his notebook is so that he can write down that people like his mother can smile away and still be villainous. He writes it down. It is now time to see to the vow Hamlet made his father.
Marcellus and Horatio enter. They ask Hamlet if he is alright. He replies that he is. They ask what happened, but Hamlet is worried they might talk about it. He asks them if they can keep it a secret. They can. He tells them that a villain in Denmark is still a villain. Horatio doesn’t think that he would need a Ghost to tell him that. Hamlet agrees with him. He decides that it would be best if they shook hands and parted ways. He tells the two men to go and take care of their own business while Hamlet goes to pray. Horatio thinks he is talking in a crazy way. Hamlet is sorry if he has offended them. He tells them the Ghost they saw was a real one, but he can’t tell them anything that happened between them. He asks his friends to do him a favour: to not tell anyone what they have seen. Horatio and Marcellus swear to it. Hamlet then asks them to swear on his sword, but they’ve already sworn it. The Ghost cries out from beneath the stage to swear on it. Hamlet laughs—even the man in the cellar wants them to swear. Horatio asks what they are to swear. Hamlet wants them to swear they will never mention what they’ve seen. The Ghost repeats it. Hamlet asks them to put their hands on the sword and swear. He keeps moving them away from the Ghost’s voice to try and get them to swear on the sword. No matter how strange or oddly Hamlet acts, neither of the men are to say or gesture or intimate that something is wrong with him. They must never hint to another person that they know something more.
Hamlet tells the Ghost he can rest now. He tells the two that he loves them and their friendship. He suggests they go back to court together but to keep quiet. There is so much wrong at the moment, and Hamlet damns the fact that he has to put everything right again. They all leave.
Within Elsinore Castle, Polonius and his servant, Reynaldo, enter. Polonius tells Reynaldo to give Laertes money and letters. His servant agrees to do this. Polonius also asks him to see what Danish people are in Paris, who they are, what they do and who they are friends with. During this general questioning, Reynaldo may find out more about Laertes than he would by asking straight questions. If they ask, he can tell them that he sort of knows Laertes, is a friend of his father’s, or something similar. Reynaldo understands. Polonius suggests he can ask if Laertes is a party animal and so on as leading questions. Reynaldo is worried that his would hurt Laertes’ reputation, but Polonius thinks this will only happen if Reynaldo asks the questions in the wrong way. He is to mention his faults lightly so that he seems that he has only gone a little too far. Polonius asks if Reynaldo wants to know why he is doing this. He does. Polonius is quite proud of his plan. When Reynaldo talks to someone about Laertes’ faults and sins he can watch for the reaction of the other person. If that person agrees with what Reynaldo says, then he will know Laertes is guilty of these things. Polonius loses track of where he was in the plan and asks Reynaldo what he was saying. Reynaldo reminds him. Polonius goes on: whoever Reynaldo speaks to will then be willing to say something about the things he has seen Laertes doing, like gambling or fighting or going into a brothel. Reynaldo’s little lies will bring out the truth. And this is how Reynaldo will find out what Laertes is up to in Paris. Reynaldo agrees.
Polonius reminds him not to rely on gossip only, though. He is to go and see Laertes with his own eyes. Polonius hopes that Laertes is studying music. Reynaldo leaves.
Ophelia enters. She is frightened. Polonius asks her what the matter is. Ophelia tells him that while she was in her room sewing, Hamlet came in with no hat, shirt undone, dirty stockings undone and as pale as his undershirt. He came up to her. Polonius asks if he was mad for her love. Ophelia isn’t sure, but it could possibly be so. Polonius asks what he said. Hamlet grabbed her hard around the wrist and then backed away at an arm’s length and stared at her like an artist stares at something they are about to draw. He stayed like this for a long time. He sighed, and then finally let her go. He left the room with his eyes on her. Since then, she has felt his eyes were still on her.
Polonius decides they will tell the King about this as he is convinced Hamlet has gone mad with love. It is a violent emotion which sends people to desperate actions. Polonius wonders if Ophelia has said anything recently to hurt his feelings. Ophelia hasn’t, but she has turned him away and sent his letters back as Polonius has asked her. Polonius concludes this must have sent him into his madness. He wishes he had better judgement as he thought Hamlet was just toying with her emotions. Polonius blames his old age which leads him to assume he knows more than young people do. They leave to tell the King as it could cause more trouble and grief if they keep it a secret.
Trumpets play. Claudius, Gertrude—the King and Queen of Denmark—and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter, followed by attendants. Claudius welcomes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Elsinore Castle. He wishes that he has long needed to see them, but quickly sent for them when they saw Hamlet’s transformation. Hamlet is so unlike what he was before, and Claudius can only conclude that it was his father’s death that has made him the way he is. Since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have grown up with Hamlet and know him well, Claudius asks them to stay for a while and spend some time with Hamlet. They should try and get Hamlet to have some fun and find out what afflicts and torments him so that they can try to fix the problem. Gertrude adds that Hamlet has talked much about the two gentlemen and that they are probably the two Hamlet loves most. If they do agree to stay for a while to help, they will have a royal thanks.
Rosencrantz points out that they could have ordered them to stay instead of asking so nicely. Guildenstern adds that they will obey though, and will provide all of their services and help that they can. Claudius and Gertrude thank them. She asks them to visit Hamlet right away and calls for servants to lead them to Hamlet. Guildenstern echoes this hope and leaves with Rosencrantz, following servants.
Polonius enters. He announces that the ambassadors are back from Norway. Claudius believes that he has brought good news. Polonius wonders if he has. He assures Claudius that he is only doing his job and duty to his King. He believes that he has discovered why Hamlet has turned mad. Claudius orders him to speak immediately. Polonius tells him he will as soon as the ambassadors have given their news. Polonius leaves to bring them in.
Claudius tells Gertrude that Polonius has discovered the reason for Hamlet’s madness. Gertrude is sure it is just because of Hamlet’s father’s death and their quick marriage to one another.
Polonius enters with the ambassadors Voltemand and Cornelius. Claudius asks them what news they have brought from Norway. Voltemand reports that as soon as they told the King of Norway, he sent messengers out to stop his nephew’s preparations for war. He had originally thought this preparation was against Poland, but discovered that it was against Denmark. He was upset that his nephew, Fortinbras, had taken advantage of his age and sickness in order to deceive him and has ordered Fortinbras’ arrest. He has vowed to never threaten Denmark again. The King of Norway was made so happy by these vows that he gave young Fortinbras an annual income of three thousand crowns and a commission to lead his army into Poland.He has sent a letter asking to allow Fortinbras’ troops to pass through Denmark on their way to Poland and has assured them of Claudius’ safety.Voltemand hands the letter to Claudius. Claudius likes this news: he will read the letter at another time and think about how to reply to it. He thanks them for their efforts and tells them to go and rest. Voltemand and Cornelius leave to do exactly that.
Polonius is pleased that everything has turned out alright in the end. Instead of making speeches he will launch right into what he has to say. Their son is mad. He’s calling it madness because what else is madness but madness? Gertrude asks him to get on with it. Polonius assures her he is: it is common knowledge that he is crazy, even if it is a shame. He decides to get right to the point instead of sound foolish. Now the next step is work out why Hamlet has turned mad. Polonius tells them he has a daughter who was given a letter by Hamlet. She has given it to Polonius out of her daughterly duty. He reads the letter to them. Hamlet addresses Ophelia as “beautified” which Polonius dismisses as a vile phrase. He goes on: Ophelia with her excellent white bosom—. Gertrude interrupts to confirm that Hamlet wrote the letter to Ophelia.Polonius asks her to be patient and to wait until he has read the entire letter to her. It is a love note full of poetry, which Hamlet claims he is poor at writing. He tells her he loves her. Polonius adds that Ophelia has told him Hamlet has been courting her.
Claudius wants to know how Ophelia reacted. Polonius wants to know what Claudius thinks of him. Claudius thinks him a faithful and honourable man. Polonius wonders what Claudius might have thought about him had he not kept quiet about Hamlet’s actions prior to the letter. He thought that Hamlet was lusting after his daughter, not that he was in love with her. He wonders what the Queen would have thought of Polonius had he turned a blind eye to what was happening between Hamlet and Ophelia. He told Ophelia that Hamlet is a Prince, and that they would never be together, and then ordered her to stay away from him. She did as she was told, and immediately Hamlet fell into sadness, stopped eating and sleeping and became dizzy and weak. This led to his madness, which they are all worried about. Claudius wonders if this is the reason Hamlet is depressed. Gertrude thinks it might be. Polonius asks them if he has ever been wrong. Claudius doesn’t think so. Polonius tells them to chop off his head if he is wrong. He will uncover the truth. Claudius wonders how they will do that. Polonius suggests that while Hamlet walks in the lobby for four hours, which he does often, Ophelia will approach him. Claudius and Polonius will hide and watch what happens. If Hamlet is not in love with her and this isn’t the reason for his madness, then Polonius can be fired and will go to work on a farm. Claudius agrees to try.
Hamlet enters, reading a book. Gertrude tells the men gathered to look how sad Hamlet looks. Polonius tells them to both go away so that he can speak to Hamlet alone. Claudius and Gertrude leave. Polonius asks Hamlet how he is. Hamlet is fine. Polonius wonders if Hamlet knows who he is. Hamlet thinks he is a fishmonger. Polonius is not, but Hamlet wishes Polonius were as honest as a fishmonger is. Polonius wonders what he means by this. Hamlet laments that there is only one honest man in the world out of ten thousand. Polonius agrees. Hamlet asks if Polonius has a daughter. He suggests that the daughter should never walk around in public just in case she should become pregnant.
In an aside, Polonius wonders what he meant by that, but notices that Hamlet is still going on about his daughter. Polonius thinks he is crazy for mistaking him for a fishmonger and thinks he is almost as crazy for love as he was when he was younger. Polonius asks what Hamlet is reading. Hamlet replies with only: “words.” Polonius asks again. Hamlet tells him he is reading lies. The writer has written that all old men have gray beards, wrinkled faces and poor intellect. Hamlet believes this, but he doesn’t think that it is nice to have written it down. Polonius could grow as young as Hamlet if he could go backwards like a crab. Polonius thinks that there is some method to his madness. He asks Hamlet if he could step outside for a moment. Hamlet will into his grave. Polonius comments to himself that Hamlet’s answers are full of meaning, which is often a condition mad people have and sane people have no talent for. He will leave Hamlet now so he can arrange a meeting between him and Ophelia. To Hamlet he says goodbye. Hamlet tells Polonius that he cannot take anything from him that he cares less about except for his life.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter. Polonius points them in the direction of Hamlet, and then leaves. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz greet Hamlet, who asks them how they are both doing. Guildenstern is happy that they’re not too happy or lucky. Hamlet jokes that they are in the middle, around a lady’s waist. They exchange jokes about sexual favours and call Fortune a whore. Hamlet asks what news they have for him. Rosencrantz reports that the world has grown more honest. If that is true, Hamlet thinks that the apocalypse is coming. Their news can’t be true, though. He asks them what crimes they have committed to be sent to this prison. Guildenstern doesn’t know what he means by this. Hamlet calls Denmark a prison. Rosencrantz concludes that the entire world must be a prison, then, but Hamlet thinks if that is so then Denmark is the worst one. Rosencrantz disagrees. Hamlet insists that a thing can either be good or bad depending on someone’s personal view of it, and so to him Denmark is a prison. Rosencrantz thinks it is his ambition that has made Denmark a prison to him, as it is too small for his goals. Hamlet could live in a nutshell and still think of himself as a King if he didn’t have bad dreams. Guildenstern thinks dreams are a sign of ambition. They debate whether or not a dream is a shadow of ambition or if ambition is a shadow of dreams. Rosencrantz thinks that ambition is so light and airy that it can only be considered a shadow’s shadow. If that is true then Hamlet thinks beggars are the ones with actual bodies and the monarchs and heroes are the beggar’s shadows.
Hamlet wonders if they should go to court. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern will wait on him. Hamlet doesn’t want that: his servants are terrible. He asks them as friends why they are at Elsinore Castle. Rosencrantz admits they are there to visit Hamlet and for no other reason. Hamlet thanks them, but wonders if they came by themselves or were sent for by someone. Guildenstern wonders what they should say in response. They can say anything they like as long as they answer Hamlet’s question. He thinks they look guilty, which means that they were sent for. They are too honest to hide it from him. Rosencrantz wonders why they would call for them to come. Hamlet wants them to admit it themselves: he reminds them of their friendship and the duties of their love for one another, and whatever will make them answer honestly. Rosencrantz asks Guildenstern what he thinks they should say. To himself, Hamlet admits he has his eye on them, and then asks Guildenstern to be honest if he truly cares about Hamlet. Guildenstern admits that they were sent for.
Hamlet won’t make them tell him why they were sent for in case they have to give up the secrecy they have with the King and Queen. He knows why they are here: recently he has lost all sense of joy and has stopped doing everything he used to do. The entire world feels sterile to him. The sky and sunlight are boring and diseased. He marvels at how delightful a construction man is, but can take no delight or interest in them, or women for that matter.
Hamlet asks Rosencrantz why he laughed. Rosencrantz thinks that if he has no interest in men, then he will be bored by the actors on their way to entertain Hamlet. Hamlet thinks the actor who plays the King will be the most welcomed. Hamlet will treat him like a real King. The Knights shall wave his sword, the lover rewarded for his sighs, the clown shall make people laugh, and the lady can say whatever she wants to. He asks which company of actors are on their way. The company is the one from the city. Hamlet enjoys this company a lot. Hamlet wonders why they are on the road and touring as they made so much more money in the city. Rosencrantz thinks that it is easier for them on the road now as the city has changed so much. Hamlet asks if they are as popular as they used to be in the city. They are not. Hamlet asks why this is and if they are not as talented as they were. Rosencrantz thinks that they are as wonderful as they ever have been, but they have to compete with a group of children who yell out their lines during performances and receive applause for it. The child actors are in fashion now on the stage and have scared off most of the upper class audiences. Hamlet wants to know more: he asks who takes care of them and pays them, and what will happen to the actors when they grow up. He thinks the playwrights might be hurting the child actors by encouraging them to upstage the adult actors. They will have no future in acting. Rosencrantz reveals that there has been a huge debate about this. For a long while no play was sold to a theatre without an argument between the adult actors and the childrens’ playwright. Hamlet is surprised at first, but then concludes it is not so strange if they think about the state of Denmark. Many people pay up to a hundred ducats for a little portrait of Hamlet’s Uncle, the King. It is unnatural.
Trumpets play offstage, announcing the arrival of the Players. Hamlet welcomes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Elsinore and shakes their hands. He wants to go through all of these polite customs to make sure that they don’t think Hamlet is happier to see the actors.Hamlet still thinks that the King and Queen have the wrong idea, though. Hamlet is only crazy at times.
Polonius enters. He hopes that everyone is well. Hamlet quietly jokes to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz that Polonius still wears diapers. Rosencrantz agrees—many old people become children again. Hamlet thinks that Polonius has come to tell him about the actors’ arrival. Polonius does, in fact, announce the actor’s arrival, but Hamlet is bored by the news. Polonius insists that the actors are the best for any genre. Hamlet calls Polonius by the name Jephthah and sings about his treasured daughter. Polonius admits he has a daughter. Hamlet doesn’t think that is logical. Polonius wonders what is logical then. Hamlet sings again about things happening as they would expect but has to stop because the Players have entered.
Hamlet welcomes them all. He talks to some of them personally and marvels out how this one has grown, at someone’s beard, and how they look well. Hamlet requests that they give a passionate speech to start the festivities with. The First Player asks which speech Hamlet would like. Hamlet would like a speech that was never performed before, or only once if it had been because the play was not popular. The critics and Hamlet found the play to be excellent, but the rest of the populace did not. One critic wrote that there was no vulgar language for the playwright to show off with and called it an excellent play. Hamlet loved the part when Aeneas told Dido about Priam’s murder. He recites the beginning to the Players. Polonius congratulates Hamlet on his excellent pronunciation. The First Player carries on with the tale of Priam’s murder. Polonius thinks the speech is far too long. Hamlet asks them to continue—he thinks Polonius can only like the dancing or sleeps through the rest of it. The First Player continues, but Hamlet stops him at the “veiled” queen to question the word. Polonius likes it. The First Player goes on until Polonius stops him because of the actor’s tears. Hamlet will have him recite the rest of it later.
Hamlet asks Polonius to make sure the actors are comfortable, especially as they could talk if they are mistreated. They would be better to have a bad epitaph on their graves than the insults of these men while they are still alive. Polonius will give them what they deserve. Hamlet disagrees: Polonius should treat them better than they deserve. If everyone was treated this way, then no one would ever escape a whipping. If the Players deserve less, the more Polonius’ generosity will be worth. Hamlet asks the First Player if he composed an extra speech for the play tomorrow whether they could learn it. He can. Hamlet tells the Players to follow Polonius in. They leave.
Hamlet welcomes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Elsinore once more and then sends them away. They leave. Hamlet is finally alone. He thinks it is monstrous that an actor could work himself up to feel sorrow in a made-up situation. He shed real tears for nothing. What could Hecuba mean to him to cry that much? He wonders what the actor would do if he felt the same way Hamlet does. He would probably drown the stage with tears and appal everyone with his words. But, what does Hamlet do? Nothing but mope around. He hasn’t even taken his revenge or planned for it, and can say nothing against the King who stole the crown. He wonders if he is a coward and if there is anyone out there who could push him to do his task. He has heard, however, that guilty people have been driven so mad by their guilt and affected by the sentiments of a play that they have confessed to their sins. Hamlet will have a similar murder scene to his father’s played out to see what his Uncle might do or look like. If he turns pale, Hamlet will know what to do. The spirit could have been the devil in disguise tempting Hamlet and using his weaknesses against him, so Hamlet needs more evidence before he takes revenge. He leaves.
Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter. Claudius can’t understand why they can’t think of a reason why Hamlet acts so confused and ruins peace with madness.Rosencrantz tells them Hamlet has admitted he feels distracted but has not told him the reason for it. Guildenstern adds that Hamlet doesn’t want to be questioned. He dances around the questions when they try to get him to talk. Gertrude wonders if Hamlet treated them kindly. He did, but Guildenstern thinks Hamlet had to force himself to be nice. Gertrude asks if they tried to tempt him with a fun activity. They admit they have invited a group of actors which seems to have made Hamlet happier. They have been asked to perform that night. Polonius adds that the King and Queen have also been invited by Hamlet. Claudius is happy about this. He hopes the play will do him good and sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to increase his interest in the play.
Claudius tells Gertrude that they have arranged for Hamlet to bump into Ophelia by “accident”. He and Polonius will hide themselves and spy on them to see if it is Hamlet’s love for her that makes him suffer so much. Gertrude will leave them to it. She hopes that Ophelia’s beauty is the reason for Hamlet’s madness, and that she will return Hamlet to himself. Gertrude leaves.
Polonius tells Ophelia to read from her prayer book so that she looks lonely. Polonius concludes that most people do this anyway to hide from their sins. In an aside, Claudius agrees with Polonius. He feels terribly guilty for the murder of the former King. Polonius hears Hamlet coming and tells the King to hide. They do.
Hamlet enters. He wonders to himself if it would be better to be alive or dead, if it is nobler to put up with all the nasty things the world throws your way or to just put them to an end by dying? Dying is like sleeping, after all, and sleep reduces the amount of heartache a person has. He wonders and worries what kind of dreams death might bring, and that this might be the reason why people tend to avoid death and continue putting up with suffering and sadness for so long. Fear of death makes people cowardly.
He sees Ophelia and asks her to remember him when she prays. Ophelia asks him how he has been. She has some things of Hamlet’s to hand back to him. Hamlet didn’t give her anything. Ophelia tells him off—he knows he gave her letters and trinkets to go with them. The gifts aren’t so valuable to her anymore now that Hamlet has been unkind to her. Hamlet asks her if she is honest and good and beautiful. Ophelia doesn’t understand the questions. Hamlet explains that if she is good, her goodness must have nothing to do with her beauty. Ophelia doesn’t understand how anything beautiful could not be related to goodness. Hamlet tells her it can be: beauty can turn a girl into a whore more easily than goodness can turn a beautiful girl into a virgin. He used to love her. Ophelia agrees that he made her think she did. Hamlet insists she shouldn’t have believed him. He didn’t love her. Ophelia was misled, then. Hamlet tells her to go to a convent. He doesn’t know why she would want to give birth to more sinners.He is a slightly good man himself, but even he is guilty of sins; it might have been better if he’d never been born at all. Hamlet calls himself arrogant, ambitious and filled with the need for vengeance. Hamlet doesn’t think people like him should be on Earth.
Hamlet wonders where Polonius is. Ophelia insists he is at home. Hamlet tells her to lock him up so he can only be a fool in his own home. He tells her good-bye. Ophelia begs God to help Hamlet. Hamlet ignores her. He tells her that if she marries, he will curse her that even if she is a pure as snow, she will still have a lousy reputation. She must get herself to a convent or marry a fool as wise men will know she will cheat on them. Hamlet goes on to question a woman’s need to put make-up on. They hide their face given to them by God with another face. They plead ignorance to sex and pretend to be innocent. Hamlet declares that they will have no more marriage—everyone he knows by one person will stay married, but everyone else will remain single. He tells her once more to get herself to a convent, and then leaves her alone.
Ophelia is sad that Hamlet is so changed. He used to have admirable qualities and was the one everyone admired and imitated. His madness has ruined him.
Claudius and Polonius come forward. Claudius doesn’t think he was in love, and his words were not crazy, just disorganized in form. Claudius suspects that his sorrow is hatching something dangerous and so he will send Hamlet to England to get the debt back that they owe Denmark. He hopes that a different setting will clear the thoughts in his head. Polonius still believes his madness was caused by unrequited love. He suggests that Claudius can do what he wants as long as Gertrude has a moment with him to try and get him to open up. Polonius will hide and listen in.Claudius agrees: when someone is mad they must be watched closely. They all leave.
Hamlet and the Players enter. Hamlet tells them to perform the speech that he has taught them. They are to not use too many hand gestures and to keep their passion moderate. He hates it when actors go over the top. The First Player promises not to do that. Hamlet goes on: the acting should not be tame either. The actors should let their good sense guide them and fit the actions to the words. They must be natural as theatre is meant to hold a mirror to reality and represent it. If they handle it badly, this could offend people in the audience who are the ones they need to keep happy. He has seen actors who are highly praised but can’t act like normal people. The First Player thinks they’ve corrected those faults already in their company. After a few more corrections from Hamlet to make sure the important question of the play is highlighted, the Players leave to get ready.
Polonius, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz enter. Hamlet asks them if the King and Queen are attending. They are. Hamlet tells Polonius to get the actors to hurry up. He leaves to do so. He asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to help. They leave.
Horatio enters. Hamlet calls him the best man he has ever known, but to not think Hamlet is flattering him. Why would he flatter a poor person? He would have nothing to gain from it as Horatio is poor. He has picked Horatio for his friend because he takes everything life throws at him with acceptance and grace. Hamlet tells him there is a scene that comes close to describing his father’s death. When Horatio sees it, he must watch for Claudius’ reaction to see if the Ghost was right or a devil. Horatio will watch him closely.
Trumpets play. Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and other attending Lords enter with Guards carrying torches. Claudius asks how Hamlet is. Hamlet tells him he eats a lot of air. He is stuffed full of it. Claudius doesn’t know what Hamlet is talking about—he hasn’t answered the question. Hamlet doesn’t think he’s answered his question either. Hamlet asks Polonius if he has acted before and what role he played. Polonius played Julius Caesar who was killed by Brutus.
Gertrude asks Hamlet to sit by him, but he wants to sit by Ophelia because it’s a more attractive place. Polonius asks Claudius if he saw that. Hamlet wonders if he should lie with his head in her lap. She allows him to do so. Ophelia comments that Hamlet is in a good mood that night. He wonders what else he could do but be happy. After all, his father has only been dead for two hours and his mother has remarried and is happy for it. Ophelia corrects him: it’s been four months. Hamlet is surprised it has been that long. He will shed his mournful clothes soon.But, as he hasn’t forgotten his father yet, he concludes that there is hope a man’s memory will live on for many months.
Trumpets play and the show begins. The King and Queen enter and embrace. The King lies down on a bank of flowers and sleeps. The Queen leaves him. Another man comes in, takes his crown off and pours poison in the King’s ears and leaves. The Queen returns to find the King dead. The Poisoner comes in again and woos the Queen with gifts. She accepts him after a while. The Players leave.
Ophelia asks Hamlet what the play means. He replies that they are causing mischief. The Prologue enters. Ophelia wonders if this man will tell them what the play is about. The Prologue asks the audience to be patient while they watch their tragedy and then leaves. Ophelia thinks the speech was quite short. Hamlet compares its length to a woman’s love.
Actors playing the King and Queen enter. The King tells his Queen that he will have to leave her soon for death and hopes that she will find another husband. The Queen cannot remarry—she wouldn’t be able to find another husband. Anyone who marries a second husband has killed off the first. Every time she would kiss her second husband, it would be like killing her first husband over again. The King thinks she will change her mind like people do over time. Promises lose their emotional power over time and people are no longer motivated to act by them. People can have their dreams, but fate decides their future and her refusal to marry again will die with her first husband. If the Queen does become a wife again, after being a widow, she hopes the earth will refuse to give her food and the heavens to go dark. She hopes she will be thick in despair and depression and have no joys. The King accepts her vow and asks the Queen to leave him alone while he sleeps. The Queen wishes him well and leaves.
Hamlet asks Gertrude if she is enjoying the play. Gertrude thinks the actor playing the Queen is overdoing it. Claudius wonders if anything offensive is in the play. Hamlet assures them that the play is a joke and not offensive at all. Claudius asks for the name of the play. Hamlet tells them itis called The Mousetrap, which is a metaphor. It is about a murder in Vienna. The Duke is calledGonzago and his wife is called Baptista. Hamlet tells them not to care too much for the play because they have free souls and no guilt. Lucianus, the King’s nephew, appears on stage.
Hamlet and Ophelia tease one another. Hamlet tells the Players that they are waiting for the revenge and to get on with it. Lucianus pours poison into the Player King’s ears. Hamlet tells the audience that they will see how the murderer wins Baptista’s love soon. Claudius stands up. Polonius orders the play to be stopped. Claudius tells them to give him light and get him away from this space. Everyone leaves aside from Hamlet and Horatio.
Hamlet thinks he could get work as an actor in a company if he ever has bad fortune thrust on him. They joke about the level of profit Hamlet might get. Hamlet asks Horatio if he noticed the King. He bets that the Ghost was right. He wonders if Horatio watched while the actors talked about poison. Horatio watched closely.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter. They want a word with Hamlet. The King is upset and in his chambers. Hamlet wonders if the King has an upset stomach from too much alcohol. The King is angry. Hamlet keeps changing the subject, and Guildenstern asks him to stick with the topic at hand. The Queen has sent for Hamlet. Rosencrantz adds that the Queen thinks Hamlet’s behaviour is shocking and admiring. Hamlet is overjoyed he can still impress his mother. Gertrude wants to see Hamlet in her bedroom before he sleeps. Hamlet will obey. Rosencrantz asks Hamlet why he doesn’t tell his friends what is wrong with him. Hamlet believes he has no future ahead of him. Rosencrantz doesn’t understand that: Hamlet is the heir to the throne.
The Players re-enter with instruments. Hamlet takes one, and then asks why Guildenstern is standing so close to him. Guildenstern apologizes. He is worried about Hamlet which makes him forget his manners. Hamlet begs Guildenstern to play the instrument. Guildenstern has no idea how to. Hamlet tells him he only needs to play his fingers and thumb over the holes and breath into the recorder to make music. Guildenstern doesn’t have the ability to play. Hamlet is amazed—he can play Hamlet but not a recorder? He seems to know exactly how to play Hamlet, but Hamlet is no fool.
Polonius enters and reiterates Gertrude’s wish to see him. Hamlet points to the clouds. They discuss what animals they see in them. Hamlet knows that they are all trying to fool Hamlet. He will go to see his Mother soon, and asks them all to leave him.
Hamlet is left alone. He talks about the night: how hell escapes from graveyards, witches roam and other terrible things happen. Hamlet could do terrible things, but he has to go see his mother. He tells himself to be cruel but not unfeeling. He might speak as sharp as a dagger, but he won’t use one on her. Hamlet leaves.
Claudius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter. Claudius doesn’t like the way Hamlet is acting. He doesn’t want to allow his madness to get out of control. He is sending the two men to England with Hamlet. Guildenstern vows to take care of him. It is their duty to keep people safe from the madness of others. Rosencrantz agrees: when a King dies many other people are affected by it too. Claudius tells them to be prepared for the trip. They leave.
Polonius enters. He reports that Hamlet is going to visit Gertrude’s room. He will hide behind the tapestry in the room so that he can listen in on what they say. He is sure that Gertrude will tell Hamlet off. It is good, he thinks, for someone else to be listening in as well because a mother is the most favourable to her child. He will come back to Claudius to tell him what was said before he goes to bed. Claudius thanks him and Polonius leaves.
Claudius is sorry for his crimes. His guilt is strong, but at the same time he doesn’t care: this is what God’s mercy is for. To provide him with forgiveness when he has sinned. He will pray, but he’s not sure what to pray for. He can’t ask for forgiveness for the murder as he still has the rewards from it: the crown and Gertrude. He wonders what he can do and asks the angels to help him. He kneels and begins to pray, hopeful that things will be okay.
Hamlet enters. He draws his sword. He could kill Claudius now while he prays, but then he would go off to Heaven which wouldn’t be much of a revenge plot. He would be doing him a favour, especially as Claudius killed Hamlet’s father before he could pray for forgiveness for his own sins. Hamlet puts away his sword. He will wait for a better time to kill Claudius: when he is committing some kind of sin.While Claudius prays, he is only keeping himself alive a little longer. Hamlet leaves.
Claudius stands up. He has tried to pray, but he can’t put his thoughts into his words properly, and they will never reach Heaven. He leaves.
In Gertrude’s bedroom, Polonius tells her what she should say to Hamlet. She needs to let Hamlet know his pranks have caused too much trouble, and that it has upset the King. Polonius will be hidden and silent. Hamlet calls offstage for Gertrude. Gertrude assures Polonius she will do as he has asked and tells him to hide. Polonius hides behind the tapestry.
Hamlet enters. He asks why she has called for him. She tells him that he has insulted his father. Hamlet retorts: she has insulted his father. She asks if he’s forgotten who she is. Hamlet has not: she is the Queen, her husband’s brother’s wife and Hamlet’s mother, although he wishes she were not. Gertrude will call someone else in who can speak to him, then. Hamlet tells her to sit down. She is not allowed to leave until he has shown her her true reflection. Gertrude worries that he will kill her. She cries out for help. Polonius echoes the cry from behind the tapestry. Hamlet stabs his sword straight through the tapestry and kills Polonius. Gertrude asks him what he has done. Hamlet doesn’t know—he wonders if it was the King. Gertrude calls the murder a senseless act. Hamlet calls what she has done an equally senseless, horrible act. Gertrude doesn’t understand what he means by killing a King. Hamlet pulls back the tapestry to discover Polonius. Hamlet thought it might have been someone more important, but is still glad to see the back of Polonius.
Hamlet tells Gertrude to stop wringing her hands and sit down so that he can wring her heart too if it hasn’t been hardened by her evil.Gertrude doesn’t know what she’s done for Hamlet to talk to her like this. Hamlet tells her that her deed has made marriage a sinful act. Even Heaven is angry for what she has done. Gertrude presses him to tell her what she has done. Hamlet tells her to look at a picture of two brothers. He points out how kind and gentlemanly one is. This was her husband, Hamlet’s father. The other brother is her present husband, Claudius, who is so low. Hamlet asks her if she has eyes to not see how low she has stooped. He doesn’t know why she would have married this man. Gertrude begs him to stop. He is forcing her to look into herself, and she can see black spots of sin. Hamlet agrees: she lies in her corrupted bed making love to a villain. Gertrude begs him to stop.
The Ghost enters. Hamlet addresses it and asks what it wants. Gertrude thinks Hamlet has gone totally crazy now to be talking to the air. Hamlet wonders if the Ghost has come to tell him off for not taking revenge fast enough. The Ghost orders Hamlet to talk to his mother. Hamlet asks her how she is. Gertrude doesn’t reply and asks him instead why he talks to the air. She demands to know what he is looking at. Hamlet tells her to look on the Ghost. Gertrude still can’t see anything. Hamlet is amazed she can’t. The Ghost leaves. Gertrude thinks that the Ghost is only a figment of Hamlet’s imagination and madness. Hamlet challenges her assessment. There’s nothing mad about him. He will repeat every word he just said to prove he isn’t crazy. He asks Gertrude not to use his madness as an excuse and to confess her sins to Heaven so she can avoid going to Hell. Gertrude is sure he has broken her heart in two. Hamlet tells her to throw away the bad part of it and to live a purer life with the other half. He tells her to go to bed, but not to his Uncle’s bed. She must try to be virtuous even if she is not. Eventually saying no to sleeping with him will become a habit and she will be a better person for it. When she wants to repent he will ask for her blessing. He is sorry for killing Polonius, but Heaven and God wanted him to do it to punish him with the murder. It will only get worse from here.
Hamlet again asks Gertrude to make sure she doesn’t let Claudius persuade her into his bed and ply her with kisses until she admits that Hamlet’s madness is faked. Gertrude can’t breathe a word of this to anyone. It has almost killed her.
Hamlet reminds her that he is off to England with two friends he trusts as much as poisonous snakes. He is pleased that Polonius, the man who prattled away in life, is now silent and still. He wishes Gertrude a good night and drags Polonius off.
**Note: in some editions this scene is part of Act Three Scene Four, which renders Act Four Scene Seven non-existent.
Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter. Claudius wonders what Gertrude’s sighs mean. He knows she knows something and asks where Hamlet is. Gertrude asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to leave so she can talk to Claudius privately for a while. They leave. Gertrude doesn’t think Claudius will believe what has just happened. Hamlet is as mad as a storm in a rage. She tells him about Polonius’ murder. Claudius is sorry. He thinks this wouldn’t have happened if he had been there. Hamlet is a threat to them all and Claudius will be blamed for not restraining and controlling him when the damage is done. His love for Hamlet stops him from doing what he has to do, and now Hamlet is beyond dangerous. He asks Gertrude where he has gone. Hamlet has gone to remove Polonius’ body. She sees this as evidence of his morality still shining through his madness as he cries for what he has done. Claudius vows to ship him off to England as soon as the Sun sets, especially as it will take all of his skill to explain and excuse Polonius’ murder.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern re-enter. Claudius tells them to find others to help as Hamlet has killed Polonius. They are to find Hamlet, speak nicely to him and bring the body to the chapel. They leave to do just that. Claudius asks Gertrude to come with him. They will talk to their wisest friends and tell them what they are going to do and what has been done. He hopes that they will not end up with a bad reputation. They leave.
Hamlet enters. He has hidden the body. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter. They ask nicely what Hamlet has done with Polonius’ body. Hamlet answers in nonsense. Rosencrantz asks again so they can take it to the Chapel. Hamlet doesn’t believe that he will take Rosencrantz’s advice over his own. He calls Rosencrantz a sponge which soaks up the King’s rewards and decisions. Hamlet doesn’t understand. Hamlet is glad as clever words are never understood by fools. Rosencrantz tells Hamlet that he has to tell them where the body is and then go with them to see the King.Hamlet orders them to take him to the King right away. They all leave.
Claudius enters with two or three attendants. He tells them that he has sent men to find Polonius’ body. It is dangerous to have Hamlet on the loose, but they can’t lock him up because he is loved by too many people. They judge on appearance rather than reason, and they’ll pay attention to the punishment more than the crime itself. They have to be calm. Hamlet being sent to England must seem a deliberate plan. Rosencrantz enters and tells Claudius they can’t find out where the body is. Hamlet stands outside the room under guard, waiting for Claudius’ orders. Claudius orders Hamlet brought before him. Rosencrantz yells to Guildenstern to bring Hamlet in, which he does.
Claudius asks Hamlet where Polonius’ body is. He is at dinner, Hamlet replies. Claudius pushes for a better answer than that. Hamlet tells him that Polonius is being eaten by worms. Such is the way of life. They fatten animals to eat, and then they fatten themselves for the worms to eat. Hamlet insists that a beggar can end up eating a King. Claudius asks Hamlet again. Hamlet tells him that Polonius is in Heaven and that Claudius should send a messenger to find out for certain. If the messenger can’t find him, then Claudius can check Hell himself. If he can’t find him still, then in a month they will be able to smell him in the main hall. Claudius tells his attendants to check there. Hamlet jokes that they don’t need to rush out as Polonius isn’t going anywhere.
Claudius tells Hamlet that he must send him away to England for his own protection. He must get ready as the ship sails the next day with the favourable wind. Hamlet is pleased to go. Hamlet says goodbye to Claudius, who he calls mother. Claudius corrects him: he is Hamlet’s father. Hamlet disagrees for when he married Gertrude they became one and, so he is both father and mother. Hamlet leaves.
Claudius tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to follow Hamlet and make sure he gets on the ship tonight. Everyone leaves but Claudius. He hopes that the King of England will follow his orders and kill Hamlet immediately upon arrival to cure Claudius of the affliction from Hamlet. He leaves.
At the border, Fortinbras and a Captain enter with an army. Fortinbras tells the Captain to go and send the Danish King his greetings and ask for permission to cross Denmark. If they need anything else doing, they only have to ask. Everyone except the Captain leaves.
**Note: in some editions the rest of this scene is omitted.
Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and others enter. Hamlet asks the Captain who the army belongs to and what they are doing there. The Captain tells Hamlet they are on their way to attack Poland.The Captain admits that they’re actually fighting for a pitiful bit of land which won’t increase profits for either country. Hamlet concludes that the Polish won’t defend it then, but the Captain reports troops are already stationed there.
Hamlet thinks that this is the problem with war, and why nations should not have too much money and peace. An argument could start for a small reason like an abscess and then grow until it bursts and kills them with no one knowing why the man has died. He thanks the Captain for his information. The Captain leaves.
Rosencrantz asks Hamlet to come with him. He will in a moment. Everyone except for Hamlet leaves. Hamlet wants to get on with taking his revenge, but is still afraid to do so. He wonders what a man is if he just sleeps and eats. Little more than an animal. He has been given the power of thought and reason, and so he must use them. He has the means to do it, so why hasn’t he acted yet? An entire army is on the march to fight for nothing while he has all of the motivation for revenge and still hasn’t acted on it. If his thoughts aren’t bloody and violent from now on, they will be worth nothing. He leaves.
Back at Elsinore Castle, Horatio, Gertrude and a Gentleman enter. Gertrude won’t speak to Ophelia. The Gentleman feels sorry for her. She genuinely wants to speak to Gertrude and talks about her father a lot. Ophelia talks nonsense and beats her chest and gets upset for small reasons. Horatio thinks it might be a good idea to speak with her because a dangerous mind can lead to horrifying and evil conclusions. Gertrude tells them to let her in. The Gentleman leaves.
Gertrude curses her guilt. It makes a person full of suspicion and gives them away even while they’re trying not to. Ophelia enters. She is distracted and quite insane. Ophelia sings about a dead true love in a grave. Gertrude tries to stop her. Claudius enters. Ophelia continues with her song.
Claudius asks Ophelia how she is. Ophelia hopes God will be at his table. She tells them that they can know what they are now, but not what they will become. Claudius tells them she’s talking about her dead father, Polonius. Ophelia doesn’t want to talk about that and goes on singing about a virgin losing her chastity to a man who refuses to marry her after they’ve slept together. Ophelia hopes that everything will be fine in the end, but she can’t help weeping at the thought of him lying cold and dead in the ground. She will tell her brother about this. Ophelia wishes them a goodnight and then leaves.
Claudius tells Horatio to keep an eye on her. He leaves.
Claudius sees Ophelia’s madness as an outcome of the grief that has poisoned her mind. He is sorry that everything happens at once: Polonius was killed, and then Hamlet left, and there are rumours everywhere about the death. Ophelia has been robbed of her sanity, and this leaves her no better than the animals. And last but not least, Laertes has returned from France and is surrounded by people gossiping about his father’s death. He will undoubtedly blame Claudius for it.
A noise sounds off stage which startles Gertrude. Claudius orders the bodyguards to the door. A Messenger enters who tells them that Laertes is leading a rebellion against Claudius. He must save himself. The crowd are shouting and calling for Laertes to be King. Gertrude is upset that they have the wrong conclusion. Another noise off stage indicates the doors of the Castle have been broken through.
Laertes and others enter. Laertes asks his followers to wait and go outside while he talks to the false King. He demands Claudius give him his father. Claudius doesn’t understand why Laertes has brought a rebellion to the Castle. He doesn’t worry about being hurt as God protects the King. He asks again why Laertes is so angry. Claudius tells him Polonius is dead. Gertrude adds that it was not by Claudius’s hand that he is dead, but Claudius tells her he can ask what he wants to. Laertes demands to know what happened. He throws off any vows he had for the King. He doesn’t care if he is damned and goes to Hell. He just wants revenge for his father’s murder. Claudius wonders what is stopping him. Laertes’ free will stops him. Claudius wonders if Laertes would like to know who were his father’s friends and enemies, and if he would treat them the same. Laertes will only hurt his enemies. Claudius will prove that he is innocent of Polonius’ death.
A voice offstage cries to “let her in”. Ophelia enters carrying flowers. Laertes is upset over Ophelia’s madness. He will get revenge for it. He wonders how it was possible that a young woman’s mind could disappear as quickly as an old man’s life. A thoughtful and fine person will send a part of themselves after the thing it loves most, which is what Ophelia has done here. Ophelia sings a song about her father’s grave, and then points out which flowers are for what purpose. She has rosemary for remembering and pansies for thoughts. She hands fennel and columbines to Gertrude for her adultery and rue for repentance to Claudius. Laertes thinks she almost makes suffering beautiful. She sings once more and then leaves.
Laertes and Claudius share their grief for Ophelia’s madness. Claudius sends him to fetch his wisest friends so that they can listen to both of them and decide which person is right. If Claudius is wrong, then he will give up his life, crown and everything he calls his own as payment, but if he is innocent then Laertes must be patient while Claudius assists in his revenge. Laertes agrees. His father’s death, the secret funeral and no formal rites call into question the way he died. Claudius agrees with him. They leave.
Horatio and a Servant enter. The Servant tells him Sailors want to speak to them. They have letters for Horatio. The Servant leaves and Sailors enter. A Sailor hands Horatio a letter from Hamlet, which Horatio reads aloud. He must get the Sailors to the King as they have letters for him. When they were at sea, a pirate ship attacked,and they had to fight. Hamlet ended up on board the pirate ship and left the ship behind. The pirates want Hamlet to do something for them. He needs Horatio to come as quickly as he can. The Sailors will take Horatio to Hamlet, and then he has much to say about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They all leave.
Claudius and Laertes enter. Claudius tells him he has to acknowledge his innocence and put him in his heart as a friend as he now knows the man who killed Polonius was trying to kill Claudius himself. Laertes doesn’t understand why he didn’t do anything against the criminal when he was threatening Claudius’s own life. Claudius couldn’t for two reasons: Gertrude is devoted to him and the public loves Hamlet. Anything he would say against Hamlet would end up hurting Claudius, not Hamlet. Claudius will soon reveal what he has planned.
A Messenger arrives with letters from Hamlet for Claudius and Gertrude. The Messenger tells Claudius that Sailors delivered them. The Messenger leaves, and Claudius reads the letters aloud. Hamlet is returning to Denmark to look into Claudius’ eyes and reveal why and how he has returned. Laertes and Claudius have no idea what it means, but Laertes is pleased he will be able to look Hamlet in the eyes and accuse him of Polonius’ murder. Claudius has plans for Hamlet’s undoing if he returns. When he dies, no one will know it was a murder, and even Gertrude will call it an accident. Laertes only wants to know the plans so that he can be the one who kills Hamlet. Claudius is okay with this as the people have been talking about a good quality of his: that his good qualities didn’t arouse envy in the people like Hamlet’s good qualities have done. Laertes wonders what quality that is. Claudius reports it is his little ribbon of youth. He talks about a skillful horseman from Normandy he saw who had fantastic abilities riding his horse and performing tricks. Laertes knows the horseman too. The horseman mentioned Laertes to Claudius and admired his fencing skills. Hamlet was extremely jealous of these compliments and talked of nothing at all but having a match against him.
Claudius asks if Laertes loved his father or if his grief is just a painting for his face. Laertes is shocked that he could ask such a question. Claudius has seen some people’s love go out over time. He thinks that people should do what they intend to do when they think of it as intentions can be watered down by delays and time. Claudius wonders what proof will Laertes offer in actions rather than words that he is Polonius’ son. Laertes will cut Hamlet’s throat in Church. Claudius thinks revenge should have no limits, but asks Laertes to stay in his room. They will let Hamlet know he has returned home and let him hear compliments about Laertes’ fencing skills. Hamlet won’t examine the swords before they fight so Laertes can choose one with a sharp point and avenge Polonius’ father. Laertes will do it and place a little poison on the point,as well. No medicine will be able to save anyone pricked with this poison. Claudius will let Laertes know which way would be the best because if people found out about it it would have been best not to try it. Claudius decides that they should get Hamlet to jump around. When he needs a drink, Claudius will have a cup ready for him in case Laertes isn’t struck with the sword.
Gertrude enters. She announces that Ophelia has drowned in a brook shadowed over by a willow. Ophelia made wreaths of flowers and fell into the brook. She sang old hymns and lay there like someone who didn’t quite realize the danger she was in. Her clothes, heavy with water, pulled her down to the bottom of the brook where she drowned. After Laertes has stopped crying, he will be finished acting like a woman. Laertes leaves.
Claudius thinks they should follow him to try and calm him down. They leave.
A Gravedigger and the Other gravedigger enter. One asks the other if they’re seriously going to give Ophelia a Christian burial. They don’t understand how this is possible considering that she killed herself. The Gravedigger concludes that she must have known that she was killing herself because she made the decision. The Other wants to argue that point, but the Gravedigger won’t have it. The only way she couldn’t have drowned herself was if the water came to her, not the other way around. The Other wonders if that is law. It is the Coroner’s law. The Other thinks if the girl hadn’t been rich, then she wouldn’thave been given a Christian burial. The rich have much more freedom to hang themselves if they want or not.
The Gravedigger refers to Adam as a digger. He was the first person with arms. The Other is confused by this because he thought Adam didn’t have any arms, and the Gravedigger is amazed he can call himself a Christian and not remember that the Bible said Adam dug in the ground. He couldn’t dig in the ground without his arms.
The Gravedigger asks the Other what they could call a person who builds stronger things than other workers. The Other replies that it is the people who build the gallows to hang people as these frames live out a thousand people.
Hamlet and Horatio enter from the distance. The Gravedigger replies that the answer to his question is a gravedigger as he makes houses that will last for forever. He tells the Other to go and get some alcohol. The Gravedigger sings and digs. Hamlet wonders if the Gravedigger knows what he is doing digging a grave while singing. Horatio thinks that he must be so used to graves that he is used to it. Hamlet insults the Gravedigger for his awful singing. As the Gravedigger digs graves and toss skulls, he sings. Hamlet wonders who he could be burying. One of the possibilities is a lawyer who has lost his abilities and legal jargon now that he is dead. He wonders who killed him. He asks the Gravedigger whose grave it is. It is the Gravedigger’s. Hamlet thinks it must be as he is lying in it, but is still telling a lie because he’s alive and not dead yet. Hamlet pushes the question: who is it that the grave is being dug for? The Gravedigger digs it for someone who is no man, and no woman but used to be a woman. Hamlet is amazed at how precise he has to speak when in conversation with this man. He wonders how long the Gravedigger has been working. He has been working since the day the late King Hamlet defeated Fortinbras. Hamlet wonders how long ago that was. The Gravedigger is amazed he doesn’t know: it was the day that young Hamlet was born—the one that turned mad and was carted off to England. The Gravedigger doesn’t think it will even matter if he’ll recover his sanity in England anyway because everyone in England is mad! Hamlet asks the Gravedigger how Hamlet lost his sanity. He lost it by losing his mind, the Gravedigger answers.
Hamlet asks how long it takes for a man to start rotting in his grave. If he is not rotten before he dies, then the body will last eight or nine years. A leathermaker will last longer because he is leathery from his trade. He shows Hamlet a skull that has been there for twenty three years. It was the skull of Yorick, the king’s jester. Hamlet picks up the skull. He is sad because he knew the man. He used to carry Hamlet on his back. He wonders where the man’s jokes are now.
Hamlet wonders if Alexander the Great looked like and smelled like Yorick when he was buried. Horatio agrees that he would have. Great men can be reduced to dust and ash. Hamlet is sad for this.
Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes and a coffin, with a Priest and attending Lords enter. Hamlet tells Horatio to be quiet. He wonders whose coffin they are following as it looks like it came from a wealthy family. He decides to stay and watch for a while. Hamlet and Horatio step aside. They notice Laertes is there.
Laertes asks the Priest what rites he will give Ophelia. He has performed as many as he has been permitted to do. If it weren’t for the King, Ophelia would have been buried far outside the church graveyard in unsanctified ground. The body deserves to have stones thrown on her, but here Ophelia is dressed like a virgin while the bell tolls for her. The Priest refuses any other rites to be performed as it would be insulting to the other dead buried there. Laertes is convinced that Ophelia will be an angel in Heaven despite what the Priest says. Hamlet overhears this and is amazed that the beautiful Ophelia has died.
Gertrude scatters flowers across Ophelia’s grave. She had hoped that Ophelia would be Hamlet’s bride and that she would be throwing flowers on their wedding bed, not on her grave. Laertes jumps into the grave and demands that they throw dirt on him and Ophelia so he can die with her.
Hamlet steps forward and jumps into the grave. He and Laertes fight. Hamlet begs him not to fight. Claudius orders them pulled apart. Attendants help pull them apart. Hamlet will fight him until he has no strength left: he loved Ophelia and no love could have matched his. Anything dramatic that Laertes can do in mourning, Hamlet will do tenfold. His grief is far greater. Gertrude thinks him insane.
Hamlet doesn’t know why Laertes treats him like he does. He always loved Laertes. He leaves. Horatio goes with him on Claudius’ request. Claudius’ reminds Laertes about their talk the previous night. Guards will keep watch over Hamlet. And a monument will be erected for Ophelia. In the meantime, they must proceed. They all leave.
Hamlet and Horatio enter. Hamlet tells him about the conflict in his heart that wouldn’t let him sleep and kept him captive.He thinks that sometimes it is crucial to act on impulse as this shows people that God and fate watch over them and guide them in the right direction even if they are messing up. Hamlet was brave enough to gather the document and letters to the King of England from Claudius and read them. They contained orders for Hamlet’s immediate execution. Horatio doesn’t think this could be possible. Hamlet shows Horatio a document so he can read the words for himself. Hamlet presses on with his story. He sat down and wrote a brand new letter with new instructions in neat handwriting. He used to think that neat handwriting was only for people of a lower status, but he is glad that he learned how to do it. Hamlet replaced the instructions with a plea to unite England and Denmark in friendships and then as soon as the letter had been read, the people who had delivered it should be executed immediately without time to confess their sins. Horatio wonders how an official seal was put on the letter. Hamlet had his father’s signet ring in his pocket which had the Danish seal on it. He folded up the letter and put it back without anyone noticing. The following day the pirates attacked!
Horatio concludes that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are headed to their deaths. Hamlet doesn’t care—they deserved it for what they were doing. Hamlet wonders if Horatio finally sees that he has to kill Claudius for his father’s death and the trap to kill Hamlet. It is now within Hamlet’s moral right to kill Claudius for his actions. Hamlet is, however, upset that things are bad between him and Laertes, especially as they share similar situations. Laertes over-the-top grief annoyed Hamlet.
Osric, a courtier, enters with a hat in his hand. Hamlet asks Horatio if he knows who this man is. He doesn’t. Hamlet thinks that is lucky as Osric is a unpleasant man. He owns a lot of land so is treated well despite his poor manners. Osric has a message for them from Claudius. Hamlet asks to hear it and for him to put his hat back on where it belongs. Osric doesn’t want to as it is hot. They quarrel for a few moments about the temperature and whether or not Osric wants to wear his hat until Osric reveals Claudius has placed a large bet on Hamlet winning the match.
Osric complements Laertes for his outstanding abilities and gentlemanly manner. Hamlet thinks trying to list all of Laertes’ good qualities would be quite difficult. Hamlet thinks that Laertes would not be able to find an equal unless he looked in the mirror at his own reflection, but he doesn’t understand why Osric brought up the subject.After a while of back and forth where Osric fails to understand Hamlet, Osric points out Laertes’ particular ability in fencing.
Claudius has bet six Barbary horses and has prepared six French swords and daggers for the match. The swords have excellent “carriages”. Hamlet doesn’t know what Osric means by this. Osric means the loops to hang swords by. Hamlet would prefer this description as carriage seems to suggest the dragging of cannons. Hamlet asks why the bet has been placed. Osric reveals that Claudius has bet that, in a dozen rounds between Hamlet and Laertes, no more than three hits will be made by Laertes.
Hamlet tells Osric to bring the swords in.He will fight if Claudius and Laertes wants him to. If the King loses his bet, Hamlet will only suffer some embarrassment. Osric leaves to tell the King.
Horatio and Hamlet don’t think much of Osric’s flowery and ornate way of speaking. Hamlet compares him to other successful people at this time who have collected enough ways to keep him in high esteem without any substance there.
A Lord enters. The King wants to know if Hamlet will play right away or wait. Hamlet will fight anytime. Gertrude wants to talk to Hamlet before he starts the match, however. The Lord leaves.
Horatio thinks Hamlet will lose the bet. Hamlet doesn’t think so. He has been practising since Laertes went away to France. Hamlet has a slight doubt, but it doesn’t matter. Horatio thinks he shouldn’t play if he’s not entirely comfortable with the idea. He can tell Claudius he is sick. Hamlet disagrees. Everything will work out as it is meant to. The only thing to do is to be prepared for it.
Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, Osric and other Lords and attendants enter with trumpets, drums, swords, a table and wine. Claudius asks Hamlet to shake hands with Laertes. They do. Hamlet begs for Laertes’ forgiveness as he has done him wrong. When Hamlet insulted him it was because he was mad. If Hamlet wasn’t in his right mind, then it wasn’t really Hamlet who was insulting him. Instead, it is his madness that is guilty and Hamlet is also a victim of it. Laertes is satisfied by the apology, but he is still unable to forgive Hamlet so quickly for what he did to Polonius and Ophelia. He will not accept any apology until he can do so without harming his name and reputation. He will, however, accept Hamlet’s love. Hamlet is grateful for that.
They decide to start the match. Hamlet assures Laertes that he will win as Hamlet is so unskilled at fencing. Laertes thinks he is just making fun, but Hamlet assures him he is serious. Claudius reminds them of the bet. Hamlet thinks he’s bet on the weaker man. Claudius isn’t worried, but adds that this is the reason for including a handicap for Laertes. He has to outdo Hamlet by three hits to win.
They test the swords. Laertes wants a better sword as his is too heavy. Hamlet likes the one he has and wonders if they are all the same length. Osric assures them they are. Claudius orders the wine to be put on the table. If Hamlet manages to land the first or second hit, then the soldiers can give him a military salute.Claudius will then drink to Hamlet’s health and throw a valuable pearl into the cup that cost more than the four last Danish King’s crowns.He asks for the trumpets to play and the cannon to fire. This will signal the Heavens who will then tell the Earth that the King drinks to Hamlet’s health.
Trumpets play and the fencing match begins. Hamlet makes a hit. Laertes contests it, but Osric calls it a hit in Hamlet’s favour. Claudius asks for a goblet, which he places the pearl into. This is for Hamlet. He asks for the goblet to be given to Hamlet, but he won’t drink from it just yet. They continue fencing. Hamlet hits Laertes again. Claudius thinks that Hamlet might win. Gertrude thinks he is fat and out of breath. She offers her handkerchief to Hamlet so he can wipe his face. She lifts the cup with the pearl to drink to Hamlet’s health. Claudius tells her not to drink it, but it’s too late. To himself, Claudius is upset that she has drunk from the poisoned cup. Nothing can save her now. Laertes vows to get Hamlet, but feels guilty for it. Hamlet tells Laertes to get ready for the third hit. He accuses Laertes of treating him like a child. They fence again.
Laertes wounds Hamlet. In a scuffle, they end up with each others’ swords and Hamlet wounds Laertes. Claudius orders them separated. Gertrude collapses. Osric calls for help for the Queen. Horatio wonders how the fencers feel as they are both wounded. Laertes feels that he has been caught in his own trap and killed by his own treachery. He falls over. Hamlet wonders how the Queen is. Claudius tells him she fainted at the sight of the blood. Gertrude realizes she has been poisoned by the drink and dies.
Hamlet orders the door locked. He wants to know who did it. Laertes admits that he is the one, and Hamlet is to die too. Nothing can save him, and he has barely a half hour to live. The weapon that caused this is in his hand, sharp and dipped in poison. Laertes’ plan has backfired, and he will die. The King is to blame. Hamlet wounds Claudius. Claudius assures everyone he has only been hurt, not killed. Hamlet forces him to drink from the poisoned goblet and follow his mother to death. Claudius dies.
Laertes thinks Claudius got what he deserved as he added the poison himself. He begs for Hamlet’s forgiveness and then dies. Hamlet gives him his forgiveness. He tells everyone watching that he could tell them more about what has happened, but he has no time to.He begs Horatio to tell everyone what happened and to set the story straight in Hamlet’s name. Horatio refuses: he is more Roman than Danish and will not stay. He will drink the last of the poison from the cup. Hamlet begs him to let go of the goblet. He takes it from him. If Horatio ever loved him, then he would fix Hamlet’s wounded name for him and tell the truth.
Military marching can be heard off stage. Hamlet wonders where the noises are coming from.Osric returns to report that young Fortinbras is returning after his victory in Poland. Hamlet will never hear the news from England. He bets that Fortinbras will end up with the Danish throne. Hamlet would vote for him. Hamlet dies. Horatio wishes Hamlet will be sung to sleep by angels.
Fortinbras and the English Ambassador enter with a drummer and attendants. Fortinbras is amazed at what he sees. Horatio calls it a tragedy. The Ambassador is saddened because he will never be able to give them the good news that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Who will thank the English for their actions now? Horatio admits that Claudius didn’t even know about those orders so the Ambassador would not have had any thanks from him. Horatio tells them that these bodies should be displayed on a platform and let him tell the world what happened here. They will hear tales of supernatural and violent acts, accidents, murders, trickery and plots that backfired. Fortinbras will hear the story right away and invite all the noblemen to listen to it.
Fortinbras has claims to Denmark and will carry them out. Horatio has a few things to tell him about that from Hamlet, but first they will talk about other things. Fortinbras orders Hamlet to be carried like a soldier onto the stage. He thinks that he would have been a fine King. Military music and rites will speak for him. He orders the rest of the bodies to be carried out too as the court looks more like a battlefield. The soldiers should shoot outside to honour Hamlet. They leave, carrying the bodies. Cannons are fired.
The migrant workers are brought together by their struggles. Despite the fact that the landowners do not want the migrant workers to develop enough strength to band together, they are pushing them together by treating them as outcasts. They see a fire in the eyes of the Okies and know that they need to keep them in line and terrorize them if they want to keep the power. The people who own the larger farms make it their mission to become as powerful as possible and to leave many people destitute. The richer and more powerful the landowners are the more people are left unable to care for their families.
The Joads happen upon a government sponsored camp called Weedpatch where there are no police officers to abuse them. Everything is clean, and there are toilets and showers, a luxury the Joads have no had thus far. Tom meets two people named Timothy and Wilkie Wallace who say they will bring him to the ranch they work at and try to get him a job.
Mr. Thomas, the man who runs the ranch, tells Tom that because of the Farmers’ Association he is not allowed to pay his men any more than twenty-five cents per hour, though he knows they deserve more. He tells Tom that investigators are planning to come into Weedpatch and start a riot on Saturday night, which will give police the right to come in, start trouble, and get rid of the migrant workers.
As the men look for work the women are introduced to life in the camp. A religious woman named Mrs. Sandry tells Rose of Sharon that she cannot participate in the sinning activities that happen in camp or her baby will be born dead and bloody. Pa and the others do not find any work that day but Ma remains optimistic about their situation because Tom has found work.
The camp communities become very social times when the people are not working or looking for work. In the downtime, the migrant workers play music together and share stories. Sometimes, when they can scrape up the money they will buy some alcohol and have a few drinks together which serves as a temporary means of distraction from the scary and unfortunate realities of their situation.
The few preachers that are part of the community give sermons to anyone who wishes to listen and reprimand those who have committed sin, even participating in mass baptisms for those who wish to be saved. The migrant workers have many means for escaping reality and distracting themselves.
It is Saturday night and there is a camp dance scheduled, it is also the night that Mr. Thomas warned the riot would happen. A man named Ezra who is in charge of the camp has men stand watch for investigators to prevent the riot from happening. Rose of Sharon refuses to participate in any of the dancing because of the warning my Mrs. Sandry about the effects of sinning on the baby.
Tom notices three men who look suspicious and when one of them tries to cause trouble by cutting in to dance with another man’s date, Tom and some other men remove them from the camp. The men say they were paid very well to start a riot within the camp. One of the men in the community tells a story about a group of men in the mountains who rose up against the townspeople when they were threatened to be run out of town. The townspeople never bothered them again.
The springtime in California is very nice, but the beautiful weather does not deter from the harsh realities of the migrant workers’ lives. The few farmers who still run small farms are slowly being pushed out of business by the wealthier owners of the larger farms. The owners of the smaller farms cannot do anything against those who own the larger farms and are forced to just sit around and watch as their crops dry up and they run out of money. The men are growing irritable because the wine in the vats at the vineyards is starting to go bad, which leads to a feeling of resentment amongst all.
The Joads have been in the camp for almost a month, but their supplies are running low and they are unable to find work so they decide it is time to leave. While they are out on the road their truck gets a flat and they are approached by a man in a suit, offering them a job picking peaches thirty-five miles away.
When they get there they find there are many people there for the same job, and they will be paid only five cents per box of peaches picked, but they do it because they need to eat. By the end of the day the entire family has made only one dollar and are still hungry after the meal it buys them.
Tom sees a commotion by the road and goes to investigate, where he finds Jim Casy who has just been released from custody. Jim is heading a migrant workers organization to get them fair wages. Policemen come, realize who Jim is, and start a fight that ends with Jim being killed by a policeman with a blow to head from a pickax. Tom turns the pickax on the policeman that killed Jim and kills him in return.
Tom rushes back to his family and tells them what has happened, offering to leave so as not to cause trouble, but Ma insists that they stay together. The family moves away from the peach farm and finds work picking cotton, bringing food to Tom in his hiding spot whenever they get some.
There are signs all over the place advertising work picking cotton. Cotton picking pays pretty well, but if the workers do not have their own sacks to put the cotton in they must buy them on credit and then they must use their wages to pay for their sack, which can take some time.
There are too many workers picking the cotton for anyone to really make any money doing it. Some of the farm owners have even rigged the scales they use to weight the cotton so they do not have to pay their workers as much money. The migrant workers, learning to play just as dirty as the farm owners, will at times put stones in their cotton sacks to cheat the farm owners that are already cheating them.
While picking cotton, the Joads live in a boxcar that they share with another family called the Wainwrights. They begin making more money than they have ever made since arriving in California and are able to buy food and clothing for the whole family and even treats the children to Cracker Jacks.Another girl is jealous of Ruthie’s Cracker Jacks, and tries to steal them but Ruthie threatens the girl, saying her brother has killed two people.
Ma goes off to where Tom is hiding and tells him that his secret is no longer safe, and he must move. Tom tells Ma that he is going to carry on Jim’s work, organizing the migrant workers, but he will take better care to stay out of harm’s way. Ma hears of a crop that needs to be picked and goes to the boxcar to share the news with the family where she learns they have more news to celebrate – Al and Agnes Wainwright are going to get married. The families head to the field where they find that all of the cotton has already been picked.
Rain begins coming down incessantly and it ruins the crops and the camps. People’s vehicles begin washing away in the flooding, rivers overflow, and stuff begins to get lost in the mud. Because no one can work the migrant workers are forced to beg for food wherever they can find it. The women become worried that their husbands will begin to break under the pressure of not having jobs and watch them, hopeful that they can keep it together. The men do not live in fear for long but instead become angry at their situation and the women know that the men will be just fine as long as they have something to be angry about.
After three days of rain, there is no sign of it stopping, and Rose of Sharon goes into labor. The family has to stay in the boxcar because their truck has flooded, and the men have built a dam to keep the water outside of their shelter. While building the dam a tree uproots itself and crushes what has been built, ruining all of their efforts. Pa goes into the boxcar to tell Ma what has happened, and learns that Rose of Sharon has delivered her baby and it is stillborn.
Uncle John goes off to bury the baby, which he does by placing it in the water and watching it float away. After six days of rain the boxcar begins to flood and Ma tells the family they must find a dryer place to live. Al stays behind with his bride-to-be and her family and the rest of the Joads walk until they find a dry barn. In the barn, they find a man who is dying and his son.
The man is starving to death as he has given all food he could find to his son. He cannot digest any solid food and Ma looks at Rose of Sharon, who immediately understands what she must do. Rose of Sharon, who is producing milk having just given birth, asks everyone to leave the barn and she breastfeeds the man in the hopes that he will survive off her nutrients.
Emma continued to think about her love for Frank—she wondered by how much she was in love with him. It was lovely to hear about Frank, to wait for a letter and to wonder when he might return to Highbury, but she was not unhappy. She could imagine his faults, and as she sat she thought of the way their friendship might have evolved, imagining conversations and elegant letters. The conclusion to every imaginary scenario led to her refusing him and them staying friends. She did not think she could be completely in love if she could not even imagine marrying him. Emma suspects she does not need him to be happy, and will not persuade herself to be more in love than she appears to be. Emma has no doubts that Frank is in love with her, and she must not encourage him when he returns to Hartfield. She thinks she has been let off easily—everyone is meant to be in love once in their lives, and she is happy to have it over and to have ended happily.
When Frank’s letter to Mrs. Weston arrived, Emma read it. It was a long letter detailing his journey and his feelings about it. Emma was pleased to see that her name was mentioned more than once in compliments. Frank sent his apologies to Emma’s “friend” Harriet, who is not mentioned by name. Emma is sure that this remark was meant for her more than for Harriet. Mrs. Churchill was still recovering from her illness, and Frank was unable to suggest a time when he would be back in Highbury again. Although Emma was pleased by the letter, she found it did not leave any lasting happiness with her, and she was decided that they must do without one another. She considered matching Harriet and Frank together as Frank had been struck by her beauty, but then decided against it—it would be in Harriet’s advantage, but Emma knew the dangers of speculating marriage matches.
Where Frank’s visit had meant less conversations about Mr. Elton, the reverse was now true. His wedding date to Miss Hawkins was named, and he would soon be back at Highbury with his bride. Frank was not discussed. Emma was tired of it—she had had three weeks without hearing Mr. Elton, which she hoped had helped Harriet to get over him. She had not. Harriet required comfort from Emma, but it was hard work when Harriet never seemed to get any better or change her opinions. Emma tried a different angle—she accuses Harriet of dwelling on her unhappiness and insulting Emma in the process because of her mistake. She has not forgotten it was her own doing, and she will never forget it, and Harriet must stop trying to remind her of it. Emma wants Harriet to forget for her own sake, not for Emma’s, because Emma will never forget. Emma’s appeal to Harriet’s affection for her helped considerably. Harriet felt she was ungrateful to Emma, and Emma had never loved her more. She thought Harriet’s tenderness of the heart was like her own father’s or Isabella’s. Emma does not have it herself, but she respects it in others. She thinks of Harriet as her superior in this sense, and the superior to the cold Jane Fairfax. Emma even longs for a man who might transform her from an Emma into a Harriet, knowing the value of affection and kindness, but having none herself.
Mrs. Elton was first seen at Church, but the pews were not a good viewing location, and so it was left to the formal visits to see if she was pretty or not. Emma did not want to be the last to pay her respects to the family and made sure Harriet went with her to avoid too many unpleasant moments. Emma was struck by her memories of three months before, when she entered the house to lace up her boot. She believed Harriet was remembering the same, but she behaved herself and kept quiet. They kept the visit short, and Emma found that she was so occupied by her past memories that she could not form an opinion of Mrs. Elton. She did not really like her, however, as Mrs. Elton was not elegant. Mr. Elton’s manners were awkward, but Emma forgave him for that—it must have been hard to be in the same room as his new wife, the woman he wanted to marry, and the woman he had been expected to marry.
After the visit, Harriet and Emma discuss Mrs. Elton. They both admit that she is charming and well dressed. Neither is surprised that Mr. Elton fell in love with her, but they disagree about Mrs. Elton being in love with him. Emma suggests that not all women can marry the men they love—they have to marry for a home, and take the best offer they will likely receive. Harriet admits that she will not be afraid of seeing them again as Mr. Elton being married makes everything different. She is comforted to know that he did not throw himself away and that he married someone he deserves.
When a return visit was made at Hartfield, Emma managed to talk to Mrs. Elton by herself for fifteen minutes. She decided that Mrs. Elton was a vain woman who was interested in her own importance. She wanted to be superior, but her manners were not excellent ones. Emma was convinced that Harriet would have been a better match for Mr. Elton, and that it was only the rich brother in Bristol which had enticed him into the alliance. The brother’s home in Maple Grove was compared to Hartfield—Mrs. Elton thought they were quite similar and compared the gardens and the house to the point where she could imagine she was back home. She is sure that her brother and sister will love Hartfield particularly for the extensive grounds, but Emma doubts this statement—no one with extensive grounds cares about any other household with them. Emma tells Mrs. Elton that after she has seen more of Surrey, she will have found she has overrated Hartfield. Mrs. Elton is well aware—she knows that Surrey is the garden of England. Emma reminds her that many counties claim to be the garden of England, but Mrs. Elton disagrees—she has never heard of anywhere but Surrey called this name. Emma keeps quiet.
Mrs. Elton goes on to describe the future visit her brother and sister will make, and the exploring they will do. Mrs. Elton is sure that Emma and her friends do the same thing, but Emma does not go far and insists that they are more inclined to stay at home. Mrs. Elton claims she is the same way, but does not believe people who shut themselves off from society do themselves any favours—it is better to live in moderation. Mrs. Elton suggests that taking Mr. Woodhouse to Bath might help his health and let Emma go out more often. Emma tells her Mr. Woodhouse has attempted it before with no benefit to his health and that his doctor, Mr. Perry disagrees with the place. Mrs. Elton offers to introduce Emma to the best society in Bath as she has led a secluded life. Emma could not stomach this suggestion—to be in debt to Mrs. Elton for the introduction would be undignified. Emma remained polite and thanked her, but reminded her that going to Bath was out of the question. She changed the subject quickly.
Emma and Mrs. Elton talked about music. Emma had heard Mrs. Elton was an excellent performer, but Mrs. Elton insists that she is mediocre in talent. She loves to perform, and this was the only condition that Mrs. Elton made clear to Mr. Elton before they were married—she could do without all of the pleasures and luxuries she was used to at Maple Grove except for being part of a musical society. Emma assured her they were quite musical at Highbury. Mrs. Elton is pleased and suggests that they hold small concerts and attend weekly meetings. She thinks this will help her to continue with her music, especially as married women tend to give up their musical hobbies. Emma does not think she will give it up if she loves it that much, but Mrs. Elton doubts this.
Mrs. Elton changes the subject. She has visited Randalls and thinks that Mrs. Weston is a lovely person. She is surprised, however, that she is also quite lady-like, but Emma insists that her manners have always been very good. Mrs. Elton asks her to guess who was there when they visited, but Emma had no idea. Mrs. Elton tells her they met Mr. Knightley there, whom she had been looking forward to meeting after Mr. Elton had mentioned him so often. She likes him very much. At this point, the Eltons had to leave, and Emma could finally breathe.
She could not believe Mrs. Elton had the audacity to call Mr. Knightley, “Knightley”, and this to only be their first visit. She is also insulted that Mrs. Elton was surprised to find Mr. Knightley was a gentleman and that Mrs. Weston was a gentlewoman, and that she suggested the musical club. She imagines how angry Frank would be if he was there.
Mr. Woodhouse thought she was quite a charming young lady and would make for a fine wife. He still did not think Mr. Elton should have married. He made his excuses to them for not visiting, and hoped that he would be able to in the summer. He worries that he has insulted them by not visiting the new bride before now, but Emma assures him that his apologies would be well accepted. If he does not like marriage so much, he should not pay his respects to a bride or he would be seen encouraging more people to marry. Mr. Woodhouse still believes that a bride should have attention paid to her. It is polite and has nothing to do with encouraging marriage. Emma continued to be occupied by Mrs. Elton’s insults.
On the second visit with Mrs. Elton, Emma felt secure in her opinions—she was still self important despite her little beauty and accomplishments. She thought that she had come to this country neighbourhood to improve it. Mr. Elton was proud of his wife and appeared to believe not even Emma was her equal. Emma continued to stick to her original polite compliments. Mrs. Elton’s feelings toward Emma, however, changed. She was probably offended by Emma’s reserved nature and started to draw away from her, as well. This only added to Emma’s dislike of her. Both Mrs. Elton and Mr. Elton were cruel to Harriet, and Emma only hoped that it would cure Harriet of her love. It was likely that Mr. Elton had told his wife what had happened, making sure to show himself in a better light.
Mrs. Elton did like Jane Fairfax; before Mrs. Elton stopped confiding in Emma, she admitted that she wanted to do something for Jane to bring her forward in life. Mrs. Elton did not want her talents and charm to go to waste when she becomes a governess. Emma does not understand how Mrs. Elton’s attention could be any different than that of the rest of Highbury. Mrs. Elton insists that she lives in a style which could support Jane—she will have her at her house whenever she can, introduce her to those she can, have musical parties to show off her talent and be on the look out for an eligible husband for her. Mrs. Elton has many friends, and she does not doubt hearing of someone suitable soon. Emma thought Jane did not deserve this, even if she had acted improperly around Mr. Dixon. Thankfully, Mrs. Elton’s change came soon after, and Emma did not have to listen to her talk about this again. Emma was surprised that Jane accepted Mrs. Elton’s help and attention and Emma heard of Jane spending time with them most days. Emma did not understand why Jane was still at Highbury and had not returned to the Campbells. They had decided to stay on for longer during the summer, and a new invitation had arrived for Jane, but she had declined to go. Emma feels there must be a hidden motive for refusing the invitation. Mrs. Weston explains to Emma that Jane must have accepted the Eltons as friends because it is better than her Aunt for company. Mr. Knightley agreed with this theory and added that she was capable of deciding for herself who she spent time with. Had Emma taken the time and effort to pay attention to her, Jane may not have chosen Mrs. Elton for her friend. Mr. Knightley added that Jane probably impressed Mrs. Elton by her superior mind and talent, and that she deserves the respect that Mrs. Elton gives her. Emma—suddenly afraid for Henry’s inheritance again—tells Mr. Knightley she knows how highly he thinks of her and that his admiration for her might take him by surprise one day. Mr. Knightley tells Emma she is far behind in her theories—Mr. Cole suggested it over a month ago. Even if Mr. Knightley asked Miss Fairfax, she would not have him, and he will not ask her. He realizes that Emma has been matching him with Jane, but Emma denies it. She would never take that kind of liberty with him and did not want him to marry anyone. Mr. Knightley assures her he has never thought of Jane in that way—she does not have the open temper which he wished for in a wife. Jane has feelings, but she is too reserved and cold. When Mr. Knightley left them, Emma asked what Mrs. Weston had to say about her theory about them being in love. Mrs. Weston does not think she has been beaten yet as he might be opposing the idea so much that he might actually be in love with her after all.
Everyone who had ever visited Mr. Elton before had to give him attention for his marriage. There were dinners and parties given for him and his new wife, and Mrs. Elton thought she would never have a day without something to do. She was used to going to dinners and parties because of her past at Bath and Maple Grove, and she corrected all the little mistakes some of the neighbours in Highbury made in their arrangements. Emma would not be satisfied until she gave a dinner at Hartfield for the Eltons because she did not want to be insulting them. Mr. Woodhouse agreed to it. Emma invited Harriet, but she begged not to attend. She did not want to see Mr. Elton happy with his wife and would rather stay at home. Emma was secretly pleased because she actually wanted to have Jane as her last dinner party guest, especially considering the last conversation she had had with Mr. Knightley about her. She wanted to show her the attention Mr. Knightley thought Emma should give her. Emma was sad that she did not try and be friends with Jane because it was expected of her. She did not think that Jane would accept her as a friend now, but Emma would still show her attention.
However, they received word that Mr. John Knightley would be visiting the day of the party. Although Mr. Woodhouse was anxious about a ninth person being at the dinner, Emma comforted him. As it happened, Mr. Weston was called out of town on business and would not be able to attend the dinner. Mr. John Knightley talked with Jane for a while and did not pay much attention to Mrs. Elton, except to take in enough detail to relay to Isabella when he returned home. He criticizes Jane for walking in the rain to collect letters. Jane expresses the value of friendship, especially those who were not near her and probably never would be, and so she must walk to the post-office no matter what the weather is doing. Mr. John Knightley suggests that, in ten years, she will have people she cares about in her more immediate circle and will not have to keep walking to collect her letters. Jane is a little tearful and grateful to him for saying so. Mr. Woodhouse interjected then and insisted young ladies should take better care of themselves. Mrs. Elton was then interested in this conversation about Jane walking in the rain, and was upset that she was not there to take care of her. Jane insisted she had not caught a cold, but Mrs. Elton told her off for not being able to take care of herself. Mrs. Weston agreed: Jane must not take risks or she might bring her cough on again. Mrs. Elton suggests that they will get one of their servants to collect her letters to stop Jane from having to fetch them, but Jane has been told to walk outside every day. She refuses to accept Mrs. Elton’s help because she likes walking to the post-office.
Jane changes the subject slightly and talks to Mr. John Knightley about the advantages of the post-office. She is fascinated that they rarely lose a letter. The conversation then moved onto the observations of handwriting. Mr. John Knightley believed that the handwriting of a family or close relations were often the same. Isabella and Emma’s handwriting are similar, for example. Everyone, including Mr. Knightley, agreed that Emma’s handwriting was lovely. Emma praised Frank’s handwriting, then, which Mr. Knightley disagreed with—he thought Frank wrote like a woman. Emma and Mrs. Weston disagree and wish they had a sample of writing to prove it to Mr. Knightley. Mr. Knightley jokes that a man like Frank would always use his best handwriting when writing to someone like Emma.
Emma was curious that Jane had refused help fetching her letters. She suspected that Jane had received a letter that had cheered or excited her because she seemed happier. She could have asked Jane a question about the speed of the Irish post, but she decided not to in case she would hurt Jane’s feelings.
When the ladies returned to the drawing room, two parties formed. She and Mrs. Weston talked together and Mrs. Elton drew Jane away. Emma did not want to talk to Mrs. Elton and Jane was engrossed by her attention. The post office situation was talked over again, and then Mrs. Elton asked if she had heard of a governesses position yet. Jane has not made any enquiries yet because she has not fixed on a month for her to be employed. Mrs. Elton suggested that it would be more difficult if she left it so late, but Jane is well aware. Mrs. Elton does not think she is—she has seen more of the world than Jane has done. Jane wants to spend more time with Colonel and Mrs. Campbell when they return to town mid-summer, and then she will make her own enquiries. She does not want Mrs. Elton to do anything on her behalf. Mrs. Elton insists that she write to her friends, and Jane continues to refuse. She will find something when she wants to. Mrs. Elton is worried she will not find a position worthy of her talents and accuses Jane of being modest.
Later on, when the men stepped into the drawing room, Emma overheard Mrs. Elton speak to Jane about Mr. Woodhouse. She admires his old fashioned manners and politeness and wishes Jane could have heard all of the compliments she received from him during the dinner. Just then, Mr. Weston returned from his business trip out of town, and everyone was generally pleased to see him. Mr. John Knightley was amazed that he would come to Hartfield when he could be at home out of the cold and in bed. His arrival at the party would lengthen it considerably. He was happy, and after making his compliments to everyone, he gave Mrs. Weston a letter, which they had just received. He asks her to read it to Emma. It is from Frank. He will be travelling close to Highbury the following week with the rest of the family and will split his time between the two places. Mrs. Weston was happy as she should be. Emma did not know how she felt about this. Mr. Weston went around the room to tell other people the news, and finding that Mrs. Elton was not currently talking to anyone, started with her first.
Mr. Weston expressed his hope that he would be able to introduce Frank to Mrs. Elton soon. They begin a rambling conversation wherein Mrs. Elton chastises Mr. Weston for opening his wife’s letters. They discuss the distance of Enscombe to London, and although Mrs. Elton thinks it is extraordinarily far, she does not think travelling distances truly matters to people of large fortunes. Mr. Weston tells her that Mrs. Churchill had been so weak that she had been unable to move for a week. She will only stop for two days on the road. Mrs. Elton agreed with this decision—sleeping in an inn is quite horrific for many ladies. Mr. Weston does not believe Mrs. Churchill is actually ill and that she has actually grown tired of being at Enscombe instead. Mrs. Elton hopes that when Frank returns he will be pleased to find an addition to Highbury, and she suggests that he would have never heard of her. Mr. Weston indulges this call for a compliment: Mrs. Weston has often written about Mrs. Elton to Frank. While Mrs. Elton continues to fish for compliments, Mr. Weston tries to tell her about Frank’s journey and Mrs. Churchill. He is looking forward to Frank being there for the nicer weather. He adds that he hopes Mrs. Elton is aware of his past history with Mrs. Churchill and that this informs his general attitude about her. He hopes he has not treated her too poorly. Instead of commenting on Mrs. Churchill, Mrs. Elton once again brings up Maple Grove and the people she disliked there.
Thankfully, they were interrupted by tea and Mr. Weston escaped her. While some of them played cards, Mr. John Knightley went over the plans for his two oldest sons while they stayed at Hartfield. Emma promises to do everything she can to make them happy. Mr. John Knightley wonders if they will get in her way, especially considering that her social life seemed to have picked up. Emma denies that there has been a difference, but Mr. John Knightley thinks she is much more involved in Highbury society than she has ever been. Although he suggests that the boys should be sent back home if they get in the way, Mr. Knightley opposes this—he would rather the boys be sent to him. Emma denies her social life has increased—it might seem that way because of discussions of dances that never happened, but it is not true. She always has time for her nephews—much more than Mr. Knightley had because of his business.
Emma figured out why she was agitated by the news of Frank returning. It was out of embarrassment for him because her attachment to him had disappeared. If Frank’s attachment had not cooled either, there would be some awkward times ahead for her. She would need to be cautious. She wanted to keep him from declaring his feelings for her outright, but she felt like the Spring would not pass before something substantial would happen to alter her peaceful state.
When Frank finally arrived at Hartfield, Emma immediately noticed that his treatment of her had altered considerably, and he was not as in love with her has he had been before he left. He was friendly and happy as he always was. They talked about old stories from his previous visit. He was restless and could only stay for a moment to visit other friends in Highbury. Emma considered that his restlessness might be due to his disinclination to trust himself around her. This had been the only visit he made to Hartfield in ten days. He had continued to hope to come, but he was always prevented from doing so—Mrs Churchill could not spare him. Frank admitted that she was weak and sicker than she had been half a year before and needed his attention. London was not for Mrs. Churchill, and they soon heard that they would move on to Richmond.
Frank wrote to the Westons and expressed his happiness. He would be much closer to Highbury and could visit more often. Emma thought Mr. Weston expected an engagement to bring him happiness before too long. She hoped she was wrong. Another good thing about this new arrangement was the ball at the Crown. Preparation for it began again. Frank wrote from Richmond to tell them his Aunt was improved, and he would be able to join them for the ball. Mr. Woodhouse felt it was a better idea to hold the ball in May than in February and could not complain as much about it. Mrs. Bates would spend the night with Mr. Woodhouse, and he hoped that neither of the Knightley boys would need anything while Emma was out for the evening.
Nothing prevented the ball from happening this time. Frank arrived at Randalls in time for the ball, and everything was set. Emma and Frank had not had a second meeting before the ball, but Emma thought it would be best to have this meeting without a crowd around them. Mr. Weston had asked her to arrive at the Crown before anyone else to make sure everything was set, and so she had some quiet time with Frank before the ball. When she arrived other carriages of close family friends and cousins had arrived to also give their opinion on the Crown’s Inn space. Emma thought half the party might have been invited to do the same task.
Frank was curious to meet Mrs. Elton. Emma wanted to know what his first opinion of her might be. The Eltons carriage had returned to fetch Miss Bates and Jane, and at the first sign of rain, Frank went outside to help them inside. Mrs. Elton took the time to compliment Mr. Weston on his son. She did not wait long enough for Frank to be out of earshot, however. When Mrs. Elton changed the subject to that of Maple Grove, Mr. Weston suddenly remembered that there were women who needed help and hurried away. Mrs. Elton expressed her pleasure to Mrs. Weston at being able to help friends with her own carriage, and insisted that the Westons would not need to offer their own carriage again. She will always take care of them. Miss Bates arrived in the room and started to, almost without taking a breath, speak incessantly. She was pleased with everything she saw in the Crown and delighted to see everyone. She reveals that she forced Jane to wear a shawl that Mr. Dixon had chosen for her. She expressed her gratitude for Frank’s kindness in not only helping with her mother’s spectacles, but also for helping them inside the inn.
Emma and Frank stood together then and overheard Mrs. Elton and Jane talk. After Mrs. Elton gave Jane many compliments, Mrs. Elton then pushed for compliments of her own. She mentions that she had heard Frank is a fabulous dancer and intends to find out for himself. Frank started to talk loudly, then, and Emma imagined it was because he did not want to hear any more. Emma whispered to him and asked if he liked Mrs. Elton. He did not. Still in an odd mood, Frank ran off to find his father to find out when the dancing was to begin. The Westons returned to Emma—they had realized that they would have to ask Mrs. Elton to start the dancing despite them wanting to give Emma that honour. Mr. Weston wondered what they would do for a partner—she is likely to want Frank for a partner. Frank turned to Emma then and boasted that he was already taken, which Mr. Weston was pleased for. Mrs. Weston talked her husband into dancing with Mrs. Elton, which he agreed to. They started the ball and Emma and Frank danced second. Emma was sad that she had to stand second to Mrs. Elton as she had always thought of the ball as hers.
Emma was not happy with Mr. Knightley, who was not dancing and standing at the side talking. He stood out among the other men as a striking gentleman, and she guessed that he would be a graceful dancer. During the last two dances, Harriet had no partner. Neither had Mr. Elton, but Emma was sure he would not ask her to dance. He walked close to her and asked Mrs. Weston to dance. She declined on account of there being others who would make a better partner for him. She points out that Harriet has no partner and Mr. Elton changes his mind about dancing altogether. He announces he is a married man and cannot dance anymore. Mrs. Weston and Emma were shocked. Mr. Elton returned to his seat near Mr. Knightley, and he exchanged a smile with his wife. Emma looked away, and then looked back again to find Mr. Knightley leading Harriet onto the dance floor. She was grateful to him. Mr. Elton had retreated into the card room, probably because he felt foolish.
Emma had no chance to talk to Mr. Knightley until after supper, where she thanked him for his kindness to Harriet. He asked Emma why the Eltons were her enemies as he could see that they aimed to hurt more than Harriet. Emma confesses that she wanted Mr. Elton to marry Harriet, and that neither of them can forgive her for it. Emma admits she was completely wrong about Mr. Elton. Mr. Knightley had described him fairly perfectly. Mr. Knightley admits she had chosen better for him than he has chosen for himself as Harriet has more good qualities than Mrs. Elton does. Emma was grateful for his admission. Mr. Knightley wondered who Emma would dance with next. She asks him to dance, and he agrees.
Emma was glad she and Mr. Knightley had come to an understanding of the Eltons. His praise of Harriet was also welcomed. The rudeness of the Eltons had actually invited in a moment that gave Emma utter satisfaction. Harriet was suddenly able to see that Mr. Elton was not the man she thought he was. Her infatuation was over, and Emma was not afraid of it returning. She did not expect to see Frank that day, and she was not sorry for it. However, he turns up with Harriet on his arm. She is pale and faints in the hall. After a few moments, Emma discovered why she had fainted. Harriet and Miss Bickerton, who worked alongside Mrs. Goddard, had walked together and come across gypsies. A child came towards them to beg for money and Miss Bickerton screamed and ran up a steep hill to take a short cut back to Highbury. Harriet could not follow because she was still sore from dancing. Harriet was approached by half a dozen children. She gave them a shilling and asked them not to beg for anything else. She was then able to walk, but was still surrounded by the children who demanded more from her.
Frank had found her in this way and assisted her. The group were frightened by Frank and Harriet clung to him, unable to speak, and weak. He did not know where else to take her but Hartfield. Emma assured him she would take good care of him, and then he left to carry out the errands he had been meaning to complete. She would also write to Mr. Knightley about the gypsies being in the neighbourhood. Emma wondered who could have failed to see what she saw in this adventure—her imagination was on fire concerning the possible match between Harriet and Frank.
Emma wanted to keep this news from her father but within half hour the entirety of Highbury knew the story. Mr. Woodhouse discovered the news and made them promise not to go beyond the grounds again. The gypsies took off and left Highbury, and the importance of the event dwindled in people’s minds. All, that is, except for little Henry and John who continued to ask Emma to tell the story of Harriet and the gypsies.
A few days passed. Harriet visited Emma one morning with a small parcel in her hand. She admitted she had something to confess. Harriet admits that she sees nothing extraordinary in Mr. Elton now and does not care if she meets him or not. She would rather not see him, but she does not envy his wife anymore. She has brought items she wishes she had destroyed before so that she can do so in front of Emma. They are not gifts from him, but they are things she has treasured.
She shows Emma a piece of court-plaster (bandages) which she given to Mr. Elton when he cut himself on Emma’s new penknife. Emma had denied she had had any on her when it had happened, but she admits to Harriet that it was another one of her tricks. She wanted Harriet to be the one to help Mr. Elton. Emma is ashamed by the memory. She then shows him a blunted pencil which he had left on the table when he discovered there was no more lead in it. Harriet took it for herself. Harriet has nothing more to show Emma and resolves to throw the items in the fire, even if the plaster could be useful in the future. She does not want to look at them anymore. Harriet resolves that this is the end of Mr. Elton. Emma wondered when the beginning of Frank would come.
One day, when advising Harriet of what she should do when she gets married, Harriet announces that she will never marry. Emma is surprised by this change of heart and hopes it is not because of Mr. Elton. Harriet denies that it is. Emma wondered if she should push for more information because it might have hurt her, but decides it would be safer to know what is happening. She asks Harriet directly if her decision not to marry stems from her love for someone who is far superior to her and would probably never think of her. Harriet admits it is. Emma is not surprised considering the aid he gave her. Harriet admits when she saw him coming she changed from misery to happiness. Emma thinks it is natural and honourable to feel so well. She does not encourage Harriet to think she will be asked, but does not think she should throw her feelings away. She should watch him and let his behaviour to her be her guide. Emma will not speak to her again about this because she is determined to not influence her. She does not even want to know the name of the person, but knows it is Frank. Harriet kisses her hand in gratitude and Emma thinks that the attachment would be a good thing for Harriet and raise her in society.
June came to Highbury, but not much change occurred. Jane delayed her return to the Campbells by a couple of more months. That is, if she managed to avoid Mrs. Elton finding a job for her by then. Mr. Knightley, who had taken a dislike to Frank from the outset, had started to dislike him even more. He thought there was something going on. While he seemed to be doting on Emma and fixing on her as his possible partner, Mr. Knightley suspected that he had an understanding with Jane. He thought that they both admired one another. He had seen them give looks to one another which seemed out of place and suggested a secret understanding.
Mr. Knightley walked with Emma and Harriet one day and joined with Mr. and Mrs. Weston, Frank, Miss Bates and Jane who all then decided to go back to Hartfield to take tea. Everyone agreed to it. As they approached the house, Mr. Perry passed them, and Frank asked Mrs. Weston about Mr. Perry’s carriage. Mrs. Weston does not know what he is talking about, and Frank insists that she wrote to him about it. Mrs. Weston denies talking to him about Mr. Perry buying a carriage. Frank concludes he must have been dreaming about Highbury, as he often does. Mr. Weston turned to ask Emma if she was as a great a dreamer as Frank, but she had gone ahead and was already out of hearing. Miss Bates does remember, however, that there was talk of Mr. Perry buying a carriage but that the conversation was a secret one and had gone on at the Bates house. Jane was present. Mr. Knightley suspected that Frank was trying to catch Jane’s eye and watched them closely as they entered the hall.
Frank asked Emma if her nephews had put away their box of letters. He would like to play with puzzles. They started to form words for one another. Frank placed a word down for Jane and she looked at it to figure out what it was. Mr. Knightley tried to see what the word was, but could not before Jane figured it out and pushed it away. It was not mixed in with the rest of the words and Harriet looked at it to try and figure out what it was. The word was “blunder”, and Jane blushed when it was figured out. Mr. Knightley decided that there was a definite connection between Jane and Frank and continued to observe them. Frank placed a word down for Emma and on figuring out chastises him and sends it over to Jane. The word is “Dixon”. Jane looks away in disgust and blushed. She pushed away the words angrily and turned to her Aunt who immediately decided they should leave. As Jane stood, others stood with her and Mr. Knightley saw that Frank had pushed another collection of letters toward Jane.
Mr. Knightley remained at Hartfield after the rest had left and decided he would ask Emma what the last word meant. Emma brushed it away, but Mr. Knightley hoped she would tell him. However, he owed it to Emma to step in. He asked her if she understood the nature of the relationship between Frank and Jane. Mr. Knightley admits he has frequently seen looks that suggested an attachment between them. Emma was pleased that Mr. Knightley’s imagination was wandering, but Emma did not believe there was any attachment between them. She explains that there is a different set of circumstances that have led to these looks, but not for admiration. She knows that Frank is not attracted to her. This confidence in her answer silenced Mr. Knightley. Although Emma wanted to continue talking about what Mr. Knightley had seen, he was too agitated to continue and left.
Mrs. Elton was disappointed to hear that her brother-in-law and sister, Mr and Mrs. Suckling, would not be able to visit until the Autumn. It meant the delay of pleasure and of parading them around to feel her own self importance, but she was convinced with a little persuasion to explore the area around Highbury herself and not to wait for the Sucklings. She decided to go to Box Hill. Emma had never been to Box Hill before, and the Westons decided that they would go with her. She was upset to hear that Mr. Weston had proposed to Mrs. Elton that they go as one company of people. To save Mr. Weston’s feelings, Emma agreed to it even if it meant feeling the degradation of being part of Mrs. Elton’s party. While they were looking to fix the date, a horse was suddenly lame, and they did not know when the horse would be useful to them again. Mr. Knightley suggested that they should come to Donwell and eat the strawberries in his field. They would not need horses to explore Donwell. While Mrs. Elton wants to plan the party herself and invite those she would like to be there, Mr. Knightley is firm with her. Only one person could dictate to him who would be invited to Donwell and that it is the non-existent Mrs. Knightley. Mrs. Elton thought he had great humour and complimented him on it. She suggested the way that the party should be arranged, and Mr. Knightley refused to let her dictate to him, especially because he wanted to make sure Mr. Woodhouse would attend. Mr. Woodhouse would attend, as would Harriet and Emma, the Westons, the Eltons and Frank. The lame horse recovered quite quickly, so Donwell was decided for one day, and Box Hill for the following.
As soon as Emma made sure her father was sat in comfort, Emma decided to explore Donwell as it had been some time since she had been there. She enjoys the grounds and the house and respected everything she saw. Frank had yet to arrive. Mrs. Elton led them through the garden, talking loudly about the fruit. Mrs. Weston was worried about Frank. After the tour around the garden, Emma sat down in the shade and overheard Mrs. Elton and Jane talking about a governess position Mrs. Elton has managed to hear about. While Mrs. Elton wanted to establish Jane there immediately, Jane continued to protest and would not take a position until she wanted to take one. Emma felt sorry for Jane, who had to repeat herself over and over, until Jane asked Mr. Knightley to show them the entire garden.
As they walked around the garden, Mr. Knightley and Harriet walked together talking. Emma was pleased to see them together, even if it was an unusual sight. With the tour around the gardens over, they went inside the house to eat. Frank had still not arrived. Mr. Weston would not admit to his anxiety, but Mrs. Weston continued to look, worried about his horse. Mr. Weston suggested that Mrs. Churchill might have taken ill. After they had eaten, Emma opted to stay behind with her father while the rest continued to walk. It gave Mrs. Weston a break. Mr. Knightley had been kind to her father and made sure that he had endless things to distract him with. After Emma and Mr. Woodhouse looked them over together, she stepped into the hall for a moment of peace. Jane came up to her from the garden and asked her to give her apologies. She was determined to leave immediately but did not want to say anything to anyone. Emma agreed to give her goodbyes, but was not at ease with Jane walking back to Highbury by herself. Jane begs her to let her go—she wants her own way. Emma could not oppose that. Before she left, Jane exclaimed that she was comforted by solitude sometimes, and Emma felt sorry that she had to deal with so many tiresome people.
Jane had not been gone fifteen minutes when Frank stepped into the room. Mrs. Churchill had delayed him with a seizure which had lasted hours. He had come in the heat and looked worse for wear. He had an angry temper which Emma guessed was brought on by the heat. Once he had cooled down, his manners returned and was able to engage them in conversation. They were looking at pictures of Switzerland. Frank announces that he will go abroad as soon as his Aunt is well. Emma does not believe his Aunt and Uncle will ever let him leave England. Frank thinks that they will come with him as his Aunt is meant to stick to a warmer climate. He is tired of doing nothing and is sick of England. Emma asks him to come with them to Box Hill the next day—it might not be Switzerland, but it will be a change from the regular pace of life. Frank does not want to—he will leave Donwell that evening and not return. He worries about being angry and spoiling the mood, but he will be angry if they are all at Box Hill without him. Emma tells him to decide for himself.
As everyone parted, Frank expressed his decision to stay and go with them to Box Hill the following day.
The weather was good for their visit to Box Hill, and it was generally agreed and expected that they would have a nice party. However, the party split up—the Eltons walked together, Mr. Knightley with Miss Bates and Jane, and Emma and Harriet with Frank. Mr. Weston tried to bring them all together, but it never quite happened. The Eltons did not want to be friendly. Emma was bored. Frank was silent, and when he did speak said nothing worth hearing. Harriet was the same, and Emma was tired of them both. When they sat down, Frank became more talkative and made sure to amuse Emma. Although they flirted, Emma only did this because she was disappointed by the party and only thought of him as her friend. Frank thanks her for persuading him to come to Box Hill. Emma mentions his temper the previous day, which Frank does not really understand. He was hot, not angry. Emma suggests that he was not himself, and now he is back under control. Frank suggests that she means her control, but Emma insists that they are not together all the time. It can only be his control. Frank questions this logic—they’ve been together since February. Emma suggests that he stop talking in this way as the rest of the party can hear them. Frank is not ashamed by what he has to say. He decides they should get the rest of the people to talk and pretends that Emma has asked him to order them to tell her what she is thinking about. Mr. Knightley asks if Emma seriously wants to know, and she denies it. She really does not want to know what they have to think. Mrs. Elton takes Frank’s interest in Emma as an insult—she thinks of herself as the Chaperone and organizer of the party, not Emma.
Frank decides to push for further conversation by asking for one clever thing, two moderately clever or three dull things from each person. Miss Bates decides to aim for three dull things, and Emma teases her by telling her she has to keep to the certain number. Miss Bates blushed when she understood the insult and confided in Mr. Knightley that she did not know what she had done to be treated so poorly. Mr. Weston asks Emma what two letters of the alphabet express perfection. He tells them that these are M and A—Em and Ma. While Emma and a few others are entertained by this, Mr. Knightley looked quite sad—no one would be able to combat Mr. Weston’s entertainment. Mrs. Elton does not even approve of the game itself—she believes it is more suited to Christmas around the fire. She tells Frank to pass herself, Mr. Elton, Knightley and Jane as they have nothing to say. Mr. Elton agrees—there is nothing that can entertain a young lady when it comes from an old married man. The Eltons leave for a walk. Frank comments that having known each other for only a few weeks in Bath, they are particularly suited. He goes on to say that it is difficult to know a woman until they are seen within their own homes and neighbourhoods. It is often that a man has committed to a woman after a short friendship and done poorly. Jane admits that it happens, but not as often as Frank suggests. There would be time to recover from it afterwards. Frank does not think he has good judgement and suggests he will have to have his future bride chosen for him. He asks if Emma would choose a wife for him, take her under her wing and make her like herself. Frank will go abroad for a few years and then return for his wife. She secretly thought that it was Harriet whom Frank suggested she should make more like herself.
After another walk, the party waited for their carriages. Mr. Knightley found a moment to speak to Emma quietly and asked why she was so unkind to Miss Bates. Emma laughed it off and suggested Miss Bates did not understand her. Mr. Knightley assured her she understood and has talked of nothing since. She was generous to Emma in her discussions. Emma thought she was a good person, but a ridiculous one. Mr. Knightley does not disagree with this, but implores Emma to think. Miss Bates is poor, and her situation in life should secure Emma’s compassion. To laugh at her and humble her in front of her niece and others who might be guided by Emma’s treatment of her was in poor show. Emma has never felt so ashamed and upset in her entire life. She could not disagree with anything Mr. Knightley had said, and did not know how she could have been so cruel to Miss Bates. Emma cried all the way home.
Emma looked back on Box Hill as a morning not well spent. She imagined that the others would be having their own particular opinions about the morning themselves. She spent the evening playing games with her father, which was time well spent and a pleasure to her. She was giving up her hours to the comfort of her father, and hoped that she was not without heart in their relationship. Emma hoped that Miss Bates would forgive her. She would visit her the next morning and attempt to start up a more equal and kinder friendship.
The following morning she went early to stop anything from preventing her. She would not be ashamed by going. When she arrived there was a rush to move Jane, who Emma caught a glimpse of and thought she looked quite sick. Mrs. Bates admitted that Jane was quite unwell, but they would only tell her otherwise. Miss Bates stepped into the room, and although she greeted Emma with her usual cheerfulness, Emma could tell there was a lack of feeling in it. She asked after Jane, which Emma hoped would lead them to their old ways. Miss Bates reveals that a position has been found for Jane which she has accepted. Jane is depressed by it, and Miss Bates sent her to bed. Jane did not want to see anyone, but she was sorry to miss Emma. Emma was terribly sorry for Jane—she had grown interested in her lately because of her increasing kindness to Jane, and she understood Jane’s wish to not see anyone. Miss Bates said, then, that Emma was always too kind, and Emma could not stand it. She asked where Jane would be going. She is off to Mrs. Smallridge’s, which is only four miles away from Maple Grove. Emma understood that Mrs. Elton had been the one to arrange it all. Miss Bates revealed that Mrs. Elton would not take a single one of Jane’s objections and did not write her denial to Mrs. Smallridge. The previous evening, Jane had taken Mrs. Elton aside and announced that she had decided to accept. Emma asked if she spent the entire evening with the Eltons—Miss Bates admitted she had been invited back with everyone else at Box Hill. Mr. Knightley refused to go, but Miss Bates, Jane and Mrs. Bates all attended. Emma suggested that Jane had been trying to make up her mind the entire day. Miss Bates agreed. Emma asked when Jane was set to leave. She would leave within two weeks as Mrs. Smallridge is in a hurry for a governess. Miss Bates reveals that Mr. Elton had heard a carriage was sent to Randalls to take Frank to Richmond. Emma did not have a chance to say that she had not heard this news, but as Miss Bates did not know anything else, it wasn’t important to say so. Frank had received a letter from Mr. Churchill telling his nephew not to rush back as Mrs. Churchill was doing fairly well, but Frank decided to go home immediately. Emma did not know what to think about this sudden change in behaviour and kept quiet until Miss Bates thought she was thinking of the pianoforte. Jane will leave it behind until Colonel Campbell comes back and deals with it himself. The discussion of the pianoforte only reminded Emma of her past tricks and amusements until she decided she had to leave. Emma gave her good wishes and then left.
On returning to Hartfield, Emma found Mr. Knightley and Harriet had arrived and were sitting with Mr. Woodhouse. Mr. Knightley immediately stood and said goodbye. He was going to London to spend time with John and Isabella. Emma did not think Mr. Knightley had forgiven her as he was not acting like himself. She thought with time they would return to normal. Mr. Woodhouse asked after Emma’s visit to the Bates’ and thinks that she was kind to them. Emma blushed and shook her head. Mr. Knightley looked at her then with respect, and Emma was grateful for it. Mr. Knightley took her hand and was about to carry it to his lips when he suddenly dropped it. Emma did not know what made him change his mind. He then left.
Emma wished she had left the Bates house ten minutes earlier so that she could have discussed Jane’s news and situation with Mr. Knightley. She also would have preferred having more notice of Mr. Knightley’s journey. She distracted her father from worrying about Mr. Knightley on horseback with news of Jane’s position. Mr. Woodhouse was darned glad she had a job.
The following day, they received news that Mrs. Churchill had died. Although Frank had not had need to hurry back, she had not lasted more than 36 hours after he returned. Of course, everyone felt sorry that she had died despite being disliked for 25 years. Now that she had died, everyone admitted that she must have been quite ill after all. Emma wondered how this might affect Frank—how it would free him. He could now marry Harriet without any issues, but Emma was not certain that the attachment would be formed. Harriet behaved herself—if she had any brighter hopes, she did not reveal them. Emma was pleased that she was much stronger in character now than she had been. Randalls received short letters from Frank detailing the plans they had. After the funeral, Mr. Churchill and Frank would go to a friend’s house in Windsor.
Emma found her concerns moving from Harriet to Jane, who Emma wanted to show kindness to. She regretted her coldness to Jane in the past and wanted to be useful to her. She wrote a letter inviting Jane to Hartfield for a day, but Jane did not reply. Mr. Perry relayed a verbal message to them that Jane was too unwell to write. He doubted that she would be able to leave for Mrs. Smallridge’s when she was meant to do so as her health was bad. Mr. Perry was worried about Jane’s current living conditions with her tiresome family and the single room. Emma sent her another note to offer to call on Jane whenever she wanted to take some exercise. Emma received a note telling her that Jane was not able to exercise. Emma felt she deserved a little more than this short statement, but could not feel that bad about it. She ordered the carriage and went down to the Bates house to see if Jane could be enticed outside, but Miss Bates came to the door and admitted she had tried, but Jane would not come out, and would not accept any visitors. Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Cole and Mr. Perry had all forced their way in and had visited, but Emma did not want to be compared with them. She only asked Miss Bates if she might be able to help with Jane’s appetite.
Emma returned to Hartfield and asked for some arrow-root to be sent to Miss Bates for Jane. It was returned half hour later with a note explaining that Jane did not want anything. Emma heard that that afternoon Jane had been walking in the meadows. This was more than enough evidence that Jane did not want Emma’s help at all. She was sorry for this and felt powerless. The only consoling feeling was that she knew her intentions were good ones, and at least Mr. Knightley would have been proud of her.
One morning Emma was called downstairs by Mr. Weston who needed to talk to her immediately. Mrs. Weston needed to see her and wanted her to come to Randalls alone. Emma pushed for more information as to what was wrong, but Mr. Weston assured her she would know in time. After checking in with Mr. Woodhouse, she left with Mr. Weston. Emma demanded to know what was happening and was terrified that something bad had happened to someone they know. Mr. Weston will not tell her, but assures her it is nothing connected with anyone named Knightley. He reveals that Frank had visited that morning and was on his way to Windsor—Emma would not be able to see him.
Once she arrived, Mr. Weston left the two women by themselves. Emma was anxious as Mrs. Weston looked ill. Mrs. Weston wondered if Emma had any idea who the news concerned. Emma guessed it had to do with Frank, and she is correct. He came to Randalls that morning to announce his engagement to Jane Fairfax and to reveal he had been engaged to her for a long time. Emma was surprised by the news, but Mrs. Weston assured her it was the truth. They had been engaged since they spent time together at Weymouth and had kept it a secret from everyone. Mrs. Weston thought she knew him. Emma thought about her previous conversations with Jane, and also about poor Harriet. Mrs. Weston admits it has hurt them both. Emma thought for a moment and then told her that he had not revealed his intentions toward Emma, if that was what they were afraid of. There was, she admitted, a small amount of time where she was interested in him, but this left her after a moment. She cares nothing for him. Mrs. Weston is struck with joy immediately—she is relieved. They had hoped that Emma and Frank would be engaged and were upset to think what Emma would feel when she heard the news. However, Emma agrees that Frank’s behaviour could not be excused. He came to Highbury and endeavoured to please Emma—how would he know if Emma had fallen in love with him or not. She did not know how Jane stomached Frank’s behaviour either. She could not respect him for that. Mrs. Weston admitted that there had been some misunderstandings between them because of Frank’s behaviour. Emma suddenly remembers that Jane is meant to go to Mrs. Smallridge’s. Mrs. Weston assures her Frank had no idea that Jane had agreed to go. The discovery of this decision is what forced him to come forward and announce the engagement. He promised before he left, to write to Mrs. Weston and to detail everything that had happened, which may excuse some of his past behaviour. She asks for Emma’s patience.
Emma wondered if the Dixons or Campbells knew of the engagement. Frank told her that only they knew about their agreement. Although Emma hopes they will be happy, she will not be able to forgive Frank for his deceit. Mr. Weston appeared, then, and Emma congratulated him on the news. He realized that everything was fine with Emma. He was happy immediately. When he walked her back to Hartfield, he even admitted that it was probably one of the best things Frank could have done.
Emma was sorry to think of poor Harriet, and could not stop thinking about her. She could not forgive Frank for his behaviour, and she could also not forgive herself. To find Harriet deceived a second time because of her own misconceptions was a horrid business. She believed in what Mr. Knightley had said when he told her she was no friend to Harriet. Although she had not constructed and built up Harriet’s love as she did in the first instance, she should have repressed Harriet’s interest in Frank when she first admitted to it.
When Emma heard Harriet’s footsteps coming she was as anxious about them as she imagined Mrs. Weston had been when Emma was approaching Randalls. Harriet had already heard the news from Mr. Weston and thought it was odd news. Harriet was not upset or disappointed. Emma did not know what to say to her. Harriet wondered if Emma knew about the engagement, or their being in love, and decides that she must have as she usually knows what is going on. Emma cannot imagine why she would encourage Harriet in her feelings if she knew Frank was in love with Jane. Harriet did not understand—she was not in love with Frank. Emma did not understand. Harriet was upset that she had been misunderstood—how could Emma have thought she meant Frank when there were more superior people to look at. Emma then wondered if it was Mr. Knightley who she was in love with. Harriet is—she thought she had been as clear as possible. Emma admitted that everything Harriet had said seemed to point to Frank after she had been rescued from the gypsies. Harriet suddenly realizes that what she said could have been interpreted in two ways—she had meant that Mr. Knightley had done her a great service and made her happy. Although Emma cannot speak, Harriet asserts that crazier engagements had taken place, and that if Mr. Knightley certainly did want to marry her Emma should not get in her way. Emma wondered if she had received any hint as to Mr. Knightley’s affection and Harriet asserted she had. Emma wondered to herself why it was worse for Harriet to be in love with Mr. Knightley than with Frank. She suddenly realized that she did not want anyone else to marry Mr. Knightley but herself.
She also saw how inconsiderately she had treated Harriet and then asked her for proof of Mr. Knightley’s affection for her. From the time they had danced together, Mr. Knightley had spoken more to her in kindness, and wanted to be acquainted with her. Emma had observed this. He praised Harriet for having gentle and honest feelings, which Emma had heard herself. Some others Emma did not believe were exact pieces of evidence for Mr. Knightley’s feelings. When they were at Donwell, Mr. Knightley had drawn her away from the crowd and appeared to be asking her if her affections were engaged. When Emma had joined them, he had changed the subject. When Mr. Knightley had decided to leave for London, he had confided in Harriet that he would rather not have gone, which was much more than he had said to Emma. Emma wondered if he was actually trying to figure out if Harriet was still in love with Mr. Martin. Harriet denies it—she knows not to care for Mr. Martin now, or to be suspected of loving him. Harriet thanked Emma for her good advice—she was told to observe his behaviour for evidence of his feelings for her, which she had done. Harriet feels that she deserves him. On hearing Mr. Woodhouse’s footsteps, Harriet excused herself. She was much too agitated to be near him. Emma wished she had never set eyes on her before.
Emma tried to sort through her feelings and everything that had happened in the last day. Her first aim was to understand her own heart. She wondered when she had considered him so dear to her. There had not been any time when she had not loved Mr. Knightley, and figured out that she had never truly loved Frank at all. It did not take her long to figure this out, and she was ashamed of all of her feelings except for her love for Mr. Knightley. She had been mistaken at every turn where other people’s feelings were concerned. She wished that she had never pushed Harriet forward and hoped that Mr. Knightley would not debase himself by marrying someone as common as her. She wished she had not persuaded her against marrying Mr. Martin and taken up company with the people she belonged to. If she had not done this, Harriet would not presume to think of Mr. Knightley as being in love with her. Emma had taught her this. Harriet had lost her sense of humility because of Emma.
Only now that she was threatened by the loss of it was Emma aware how much of her happiness depended on being considered first by Mr. Knightley. She had been first in his estimation for a long time and had taken it for granted. She had not deserved it, either, but he had loved her since she was a child. While Harriet was convinced of Mr. Knightley’s affection for her, Emma doubted that Mr. Knightley felt love for Emma. He had been so shocked by her treatment of Miss Bates. She could not deceive herself as she hoped Harriet was doing. If Mr. Knightley never married at all, Emma would be satisfied. She wanted him to continue on in the same way that they had been if Mr. Knightley would not marry her. She did not believe she would marry even if Mr. Knightley asked her. It would remove her from her father and she owed him her care.
Emma hoped that the next time she saw Harriet and Mr. Knightley together that she would be able to figure out what the chances of Harriet being disappointed were. She decided not to see Harriet as it would do neither of them any good. She wrote to her and asked her not to come to Hartfield so that they could avoid conversation of the topic they should avoid. They could meet if there were a group of people around, but only if they acted as if they had not talked about Mr. Knightley. Harriet approved.
Mrs. Weston stopped by Hartfield after visiting the Bates house even though she had not wanted to until everything was settled with Frank. Mr. Weston persuaded her into going. Jane had hardly spoken a word, and she was visibly suffering. Mrs. Weston asked Jane to come with her for a drive in the carriage, during which Mrs. Weston was able to break through some of Jane’s embarrassment and ask her about Frank. They talked a lot about the past and future possibility of the engagement, and Mrs. Weston was sure this was helpful to Jane. Jane blames herself for the engagement and dreads Colonel Campbell hearing about it. It was her love for Frank that overthrew her reason and logic as she had not been brought up to act as she had done so. Emma was afraid that she had caused Jane suffering, but Mrs. Weston knew she did not do it on purpose. Jane sends her many thanks for her continued interest and affection when she was sick. Emma wishes she could do more for her and wishes that she will be happy in marriage. Mrs. Weston reveals that she has not yet received the letter Frank promised he would send.
Emma keenly felt the shame associated with her past treatment of Jane. Had she sought a friend in Jane rather than in Harriet she might have been spared the pain she felt now. That night she thought of the end of Mr. Knightley’s visits to Hartfield which usually brought them happiness, especially on nights of bad weather. She looked ahead to the coming winter with regret—if everything happened as it might, she would lose most of her friends. Hartfield would be empty. When the Westons had a child, they would not see them often. Frank and Jane would cease to belong to Highbury. Mr. Knightley would no longer visit Hartfield at nights. If Mr. Knightley was to marry Harriet, it would double Emma’s pain for she would be well aware that it was her own doing. The only peaceful thought Emma had was that she might act better in the future and find a more rational self. Hopefully she would regret her actions far less in this instance.
With the change in the weather for the better, Emma decides to go outside as much as possible. She goes for a walk around the gardens. Mr. Knightley comes out into the garden to join her, which surprises her for she thought he was still in London. They exchanged general comments, and Emma asked after John and Isabella. She thought he seemed quite serious, and considered he might have told his brother about his plan to marry Harriet and had not received a good response. She also considered he might be trying to build his courage—he might be about to tell her about his engagement to Harriet. Emma could not encourage the subject—he had to do this by himself. Emma starts to tell him about Jane and Frank’s engagement, but Mr. Knightley has already heard of it. Mr. Weston told him. Emma was relieved the news had not come from Mrs Goddard or Harriet. Emma remembered that Mr. Knightley had once tried to warn her, but admits she is probably doomed to be blind. Mr. Knightley tells her that time will heal her wound, but Emma insists he is mistaken. Although she said things that made her ashamed, she has no other reason to regret Frank and Jane’s engagement. Mr. Knightley is overjoyed. She had been tempted by his attentions and allowed herself to seem pleased, but she has never been attached to him. She does not understand his behaviour as he never intended to be attached to her. Mr. Knightley had never had a high opinion of Frank but for Jane’s sake he wished them both well. Emma thinks they are mutually attracted and should be happy. Mr. Knightley is jealous of Frank’s engagement to Jane and that despite his behaviour everyone has forgiven him.
Emma refuses to ask why Mr. Knightley is jealous of Frank, and as he starts to explain, Emma tells him not to say anything. She changes her mind and tells him that if he has anything to say, he should say it. She is his friend and will tell him exactly what she thinks of what he has to say. Mr. Knightley wondered if he would ever succeed with her. Mr. Knightley admits that he could not love her more. Emma could not think—she saw that Harriet’s hopes had been mistaken and that she was pleased she had not revealed Harriet’s secret. He admits he had not aimed at asking her to marry him, but was so delighted in her indifference toward Frank that he could not help but hope. Both of them had changed in mood to a state of happiness. It had been Mr. Knightley’s jealousy that had sent him away from Box Hill and to London. However, the domestic bliss of his brother and Isabella had not given him peace but had reminded him of Emma. The news of Jane and Frank’s engagement gave him hope, then, and he had ridden home in the rain to find out how Emma felt about the news. By the time they went into the house, they were engaged to be married.
Emma was surprised by the change in her feelings in such a short space of time. Mr. Woodhouse did not suspect what was going on between them. Emma decided that night that while her father still lived, her engagement to Mr. Knightley would remain just that. She could not leave him. She would also try to spare Harriet as much pain as she could, but did not know how. She would avoid a meeting with her and then send her a letter to explain everything that had happened. It would be desirable for Harriet to leave Highbury for a while and Emma decided that she should go to Brunswick Square.
The next morning Emma wrote her letter to Harriet but was interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Knightley who sent her into happiness again. When he left, and before Emma could get back to her letter, she received a letter from Randalls which contained Frank’s letter to Mrs. Weston. It details his need to keep the engagement a secret because of the situation at Enscombe. If he had not been engaged to Jane, he would have gone mad. Frank then discusses his treatment of Emma. He pretended to feel more for Emma than he did, but would not have done so had he not been convinced that she did not feel anything for him. It appeared as if they understood one another, and that suited Frank. When he came to Hartfield and was about to tell her the truth, he felt Emma had figured out a part or the whole of his secret. Emma frequently hinted at her knowledge, such as when she insisted he owed Mrs. Elton gratitude for the way Jane was treated. The pianoforte had come from Frank and had Jane known about it she would not have allowed it to be sent to her. He explains that he and Jane argued the morning of the Donwell party and that it chiefly concerned Frank’s behaviour towards Emma. Frank regretted how much pain he had caused Jane, and left for Richmond, convinced that she had grown cold towards him. Jane sent him a letter to break off the engagement, but he received it the morning his Aunt had died and had not had time to send a reply. He received a parcel at Windsor, which contained all of his letters to her and a small note from Jane to express her surprise that she had not received a reply. She encouraged him to send her letters to him to Mrs. Smallridge’s where she would be governess. Frank was angry with himself for his mistakes and regretted how ill he had made her. They managed to reconcile their feelings and save the engagement, and Frank is sure nothing will ever come between them again. He thanks Mrs. Weston for her kindness and hopes that she will be able to forgive him.
Although Emma felt Frank had been wrong on several accounts, he had done it because he was so in love with Jane. She forgave him for his conduct. She thought the letter was so good that when Mr. Knightley returned, she asked him to read it. Although Mr. Knightley thought the letter was long, he had to read it then and there as Emma had to return it to Mr. Weston that evening. Mr. Knightley gives his opinion as he reads the letter. At first he does not seem to care much for Frank’s words, but when he reaches the point where Frank regrets his behaviour, Mr. Knightley agrees and is impressed with his admission. Emma does not think he is as satisfied with the letter as she is, but Mr. Knightley thinks a little better of him, especially as he is very much in love with Jane.
Mr. Knightley changes the subject, then. He has been thinking of how to ask her to marry him without harming her father. Emma announced that she could never leave her father while he was still alive. He had hoped to entice Mr. Woodhouse to move to Donwell with her, but he suggested instead that he should move to Hartfield so that neither of them would have to leave. This theory had not occurred to Emma, who felt Mr. Knightley would be sacrificing a great deal by leaving Donwell and his own habits. The more Emma thought of the plan, however, the more she liked it. She would have been even happier had it not been for her thoughts about Harriet. Mr. Knightley would be forgotten by her eventually, but he would not be able to help her along with his considerate nature.
Emma was pleased to discover Harriet wanted to avoid a meeting, as well. There was a resentment to her letter despite her good natured response, and this only increased Emma’s desire for them to be separated. She managed to acquire an invitation to Brunswick for Harriet. Harriet had wanted to see a dentist for a while, so it was fortunate that she would be off to London. Isabella was keen to help anyone with their health, and was eager to have Harriet in her care. Harriet was to go for at least a fortnight. Now Emma could enjoy Mr. Knightley’s visits and be truly happy without feeling guilty. She still had to admit to her engagement to her father, but she did not want to do this until Mrs. Weston had given birth and was well.
Emma decided to call on Jane and see how she was doing. That she was also secretly interested in what was happening, was an additional benefit to the visit. She had not been in the house since the morning after Box Hill, and the fear of still being unwelcomed by Jane was in Emma’s thoughts as she was driven down there. Jane met her on the stairs, and Emma had never seen her look so lovely. Jane offered her hand and expressed her thanks for Emma’s kindness. Whereas Miss Bates was out, Mrs. Elton was in. Emma wished Mrs. Elton had not been present either, but decided she would have to have patience. Mrs. Elton folded up a letter and smiled with the knowledge of a secret she was keeping between herself and Jane. That everyone else knew the secret was not apparent to Mrs. Elton. She told Jane that Mrs. S. had accepted their apology and was not offended by Jane’s inability to become the governess at her house. Although Mrs. Elton had not named names, Emma knew exactly what she was talking about. After praising Mr. Perry’s efforts in returning Jane to her former healthier state, Mrs. Elton whispered that she would not mention the Doctor from Windsor who had helped.
Jane asked Emma if she would be willing to attend Box Hill again with the same visitors to try and recreate a happier memory there. Miss Bates stepped in then and did not know what to say—she was trying to keep the engagement a secret, and failing miserably. Mrs. Elton is waiting for her husband to finish a meeting at the Crown with Mr. Knightley, but Emma is sure the meeting was not supposed to be until the next day. Mrs. Elton denies mistaking the day—she believes that the parish at Highbury is troublesome and that they never had these problems at Maple Grove. Jane suggests this is because it was small. Mrs. Elton had never heard such a thing. Jane suggests that it should be small considering the size of the school which Mrs. Elton had previously mentioned. Mrs. Elton compliments her on her intelligence.
Mr. Elton arrived then and was sorry to have missed Mr. Knightley at Donwell for their meeting. He could not find him even though he had sent him a letter asking him if he would be home that day. Mrs. Elton corrects him—surely he means at the Crown. Mr. Elton tells her this is a different meeting, and that no one at Donwell had expected him. Emma had no explanations to give. Mrs. Elton could not believe that Mr. Knightley would do this to him—a man who should have been the last person to have been forgotten. Mrs. Elton blames Mr. Knightley’s servants for forgetting. Emma decided to leave then, as she assumed Mr. Knightley would be waiting for her at Hartfield. Jane took his moment to walk with her down the stairs. Emma tells her she would have talked about the engagement but did not want to be impolite. Jane is grateful for her interest and starts to give her apologies for being ungrateful. Emma refuses to hear them—Jane owes her nothing. Both of them apologize for their reserved and cold nature toward one another. Jane reveals she will be living with Mr. Churchill at Enscombe in three months time after the mourning period is over. Emma wishes her well and expresses her love for things that are out in the open.
Mrs. Weston safely gives birth to a little girl. Emma refused her initial desire to make a match between the girl and one of Isabella’s sons, but was glad the Westons had a girl. It seemed to suit them. Mr. Knightley is sure that Mrs. Weston will dote on and spoil the girl as much as she did for Emma. Emma jokingly wonders what will become of her. Mr. Knightley assures her she will correct herself as she grows older. Emma believes it was because of Mr. Knightley’s help that she corrected herself, but he believes he did her more harm than good. They remember their past—how challenging Emma had been, and how she had always called him Mr. Knightley. Mr. Knightley wondered if she would not call him George, instead. Emma cannot. She will call him George, but she cannot say when out loud—only when “N. takes M.”, i.e. when they marry. Emma wishes that she could talk to Mr. Knightley about Harriet and wondered why he did not comment on their waning friendship. Isabella had sent letters to Emma to keep her informed about Harriet. She had been quite depressed when she had arrived, but Isabella explained this away because of her impending visit to the dentist. After that, she had become her old self again. Emma was pleased to hear that Harriet would be staying for a month instead of just two weeks. Isabella and John would return with her in August.
John had sent Mr. Knightley a letter congratulating him and Emma on the engagement. Emma believes he has suggested that she will, in time, grow worthy of Mr. Knightley’s love. They both consider that they had hoped their family would see the engagement as equal on both sides. John admits he had an idea that his brother was in love with Emma and was not surprised to hear about the engagement. Emma thinks he was not so aware of who his feelings were for. Now that Mrs. Weston was able to receive visitors, Emma had to announce her engagement to Mr. Woodhouse. She did not know how she would do it, but she had to. She made sure to speak cheerfully so that Mr. Woodhouse would not be upset. It was a shock to him, at first, especially as Emma had always said she would never marry. She insisted that it would not be like Mrs. Weston and Isabella because Emma would not leave Hartfield. She knew he loved Mr. Knightley a lot—he was useful and cheerful. The worst of it was done, and their acquaintances and friends helped persuade Mr. Woodhouse that the engagement was a good thing. Eventually, he believed it would be a happy occasion, and that it might not be bad if they had the wedding in the next year or two. Mrs. Weston had been surprised, but was very happy for the announcement.
From here, the news spread. It was a generally approved match. Some disagreed as to where the couple should live, or who was the more fortunate of the couple, but on the whole there were no serious objections made aside from in the Vicarage. Mr. Elton did not care for it. Mrs. Elton felt sorry for Mr. Knightley and did not think he was in love with Emma at all.
The party from London was soon to arrive, and the news agitated Emma. Mr. Knightley came into the room and told her that Harriet Smith was engaged to Mr. Martin. Emma was surprised, but Mr. Knightley had heard the news from Mr. Martin himself. He is afraid that Emma does not like the news at all, as he feared, but suggests that time will bring her around. Emma exclaims that Mr. Knightley has mistaken her silence—she is just surprised he asked her again. It does not make her unhappy. Mr. Knightley reveals how it happened: Mr. Knightley asked Mr. Martin to deliver some papers to John and was asked to join a party which Harriet had attended. He then dined with them the following day and during this visit found an opportunity to ask Harriet. Mr. Knightley thought Mr. Martin was very happy. He knows that this engagement cannot bring Emma happiness, but in reality she is only trying to hide how happy she was. Emma admits that Harriet has done well, but is surprised as she had reason to believe Harriet was quite against him. Mr. Knightley did not think that Harriet could refuse a man who dearly loved her, and Emma had to laugh at this.
Mr. Knightley is surprised at how much Emma’s opinion has changed on this matter. Emma admits that she was a bit of a fool where it was concerned. Mr. Knightley admitted he has changed where his opinion of Harriet was concerned, too. He had made great efforts to talk to her and get to know her a bit better. He considered that Emma probably thought he was pleading Mr. Martin’s case, but he only wishes Harriet the best. She has excellent principles and good notions, which have secured her happiness. Mr. Knightley believes that Emma is to thank for this, and Emma cannot feel she deserves this praise.
There would now be pleasure and happiness in Harriet’s return, especially as it meant not having to hide anything from Mr. Knightley anymore. On visiting Randalls, they find that Frank and Jane are visiting. Emma and Frank meet for the first time in a long time. He thanks her for forgiving him, and Emma expresses her pleasure at being able to share in his joy for his engagement. They joke about their past tricks with the name Dixon, and Frank shares his surprise that Emma never suspected he and Jane were engaged. He wonders if Emma has pity for them not having met since the day they reestablished their engagement, and Emma does. Frank had endless compliments for the health Jane now had. Emma reminds him of the day he commented that he did not like her complexion. They laugh at this. Emma accuses him of being very amused by his trickery. Frank denies this—he was very depressed by it. Emma compares their behaviour—they are both prone to finding amusement in odd places. They are also to marry two people superior to them. Frank does not think Emma has a superior, but agrees on account of Jane. They are very pleased to have seen each other again. As Emma left Randalls, she was very pleased to have seen Frank again—not only because it meant their friendship was reestablished, but because she was now sure Mr. Knightley was the more superior of the two.
In a few days, Isabella, John and Harriet arrived from London. After an hour alone with Harriet, Emma was satisfied that he feelings for Mr. Knightley were gone and replaced for those for Mr. Martin. Harriet was a little ashamed for the past, but Emma had immediately soothed these feelings by congratulating her on her engagement. Harriet was then very pleased to give her all of the details of the engagement itself. It suggested to Emma that Harriet had always loved Mr. Martin.
They discovered Harriet’s origins: she was the daughter of a tradesman, not of a gentleman as Emma had sworn. Her low rank would have been a blight on a marriage to the Knightly, Churchill or Elton family. Emma accepted Mr. Martin at Hartfield and approved him as a good match for Harriet. Although Harriet would be among people she belonged with and who loved her, it would mean less visits to Hartfield. It was, Emma thought, for the best. Harriet was married to Mr. Martin before the end of September and were the first of the three couples to be so. Jane Fairfax had already left Highbury and had returned to live the Campbells. Frank and Mr. Churchill were in town, and the couple were waiting until November. Emma and Mr. Knightley had decided to have their marriage while John and Isabella were still at Hartfield so they could go away for two weeks to tour the seaside. Mr. Woodhouse was miserable when he heard of the plan, and Emma could not bear to see him suffering.
When Mrs. Weston’s turkeys were stolen one night, Mr. Woodhouse grew scared of Hartfield being broken into and wanted either John or Mr. Knightley to be at Hartfield to protect him. John had to be back in London by November, and so Emma was allowed to decide on the date for her wedding. The wedding itself is far too modest for Mrs. Elton, but all those present wished them well.
David takes charge of transporting Steerforth’s body back to London—Steerforth’s body was carried to the same cottage that currently housed Ham’s body, but once they got him there, it seemed wrong to the carriers to have him under the same roof, so they brought him to the inn. The body didn’t remain there long. Knowing he was the only one who could break the news to Steerforth’s mother, David wasted no time getting an appropriate means of transport from Joram’s, and he set out for London that night at around midnight. Even at that hour, contrary to expectation, groups of townspeople waited to watch them leave.
David arrives at the Steerforth home, which looks shut down—David arrived in Highgate the next day. Leaving the carriage driver with orders to wait for further instructions, he walked the rest of the way to the Steerforth home. The parlor maid who answered the door could see immediately that something was wrong. She asked David whether he was ill, but he replied that he was just tired and distraught. As he sat in the drawing room waiting for the maid to return from announcing his arrival, David noticed that the house had a dismal, shut-down look. The harp hadn’t been played in a while, and he learned from the maid that Mrs. Steerforth never left her room anymore. She had taken to living in her son’s room, probably out of loneliness over his absence.
Miss Dartle quickly loses her composure—After the usual greeting and introductory conversation, David tried to break the news to Mrs. Steerforth as gently as possible, but Miss Dartle caught on quickly and lost her composure. She began to rail on Mrs. Steerforth and David, too, when he tried to calm her down or berate her for her lack of compassion. In Miss Dartle’s mind, no one loved Steerforth more than she had. She would have been his devoted, self-sacrificing wife if she had had the chance. Instead, she received a scar on her lip that marred her face for life. In her view, Mrs. Steerforth had ruined him, encouraging his faults and discouraging whatever was good in him. As far as she was concerned, the mother had gotten what she deserved.
Mrs. Steerforth becomes nonfunctional on hearing the news—Throughout this diatribe, Miss Dartle showed no compassion and a good deal of contempt and mockery of Steerforth’s mother. But it almost didn’t matter. Once the mother realized what had happened, she lapsed into a semi-catatonic state, with an occasional moan being the only sign that she was alive.
Miss Dartle finally expresses compassion for Mrs. Steerforth—David was concerned that Miss Dartle would remain in her relentlessly cruel mode, but just before he left, she drastically changed her manner and began showing affection and concern for Mrs. Steerforth. Still, all Mrs. Steerforth could do was stare into space with a fixed look and moan. As David left the room, he was followed by Miss Dartle’s curses.
Steerforth’s body is returned home; David says his last farewell to his friend—David returned later that day with Steerforth’s body. Mrs. Steerforth was still in catatonic mode, despite multiple attempts by the doctors to help her. She and Miss Dartle hadn’t left Steerforth’s room, so David and those who helped to carry the body laid it on Mrs. Steerforth’s own bed. Before leaving the house, David closed all the curtains and shades, leaving the room with Steerforth for last. In a final act of farewell to his friend, he took Steerforth’s motionless hand and placed it against his heart.
David takes steps to prevent Mr. Peggotty and Emily from learning about Ham and Steerforth–David was determined not to let word of Ham’s and Steerforth’s deaths get back to his emigrant friends, so he told no one, with the exception of Traddles and Mr. Micawber, whose help he enlisted. Mr. Micawber’s job, which he took on with great flourish and enthusiasm, was to prevent Mr. Peggotty from seeing a newspaper.
The Micawbers adjust their style for the great outdoors—As preparation for his new life in Australia, Mr. Micawber had outfitted himself with an oilskin jacket, a straw hat, and a telescope. Mrs. Micawber had wrapped herself in a shawl and put on a tight bonnet, as had Miss Micawber. Master Micawber wore a Guernsey shirt and sailor pants, and the younger children were all dressed in waterproof clothing. In short, they were ready for the great outdoors.
Everyone gathers to help with the preparations—David found the Micawbers in front of the Hungerford Steps as they watched some of their belongings leave by boat. They were staying in a room overlooking the river above a nearby pub, where David also found Agnes, his aunt, and Peggotty helping with last-minute clothing preparations before 7 a.m. the next day, when all emigrants had to be on board. Mr. Peggotty was there, too, and in the midst of all the commotion, David quietly told him the false but comforting message that Emily’s note had been delivered to Ham and that all was well. David’s goal was to see his friends off happy and untroubled, no matter how dark the reality was.
Mr. Micawber invites his friends for one last round of punch—Mr. Peggotty announced that all well-wishers could see their friends off the following day in the afternoon at Gravesend, where the ship would be docked before leaving. Until then, Mr. Micawber added, the men would be busy guarding their families and things, and, as Traddles just reminded him, there should be time for one more cup of punch—and all were invited!
More adjustments for life in the bush—David noticed that all the older Micawbers now carried bush knives, and it was his own foot-long version that Mr. Micawber now used to prepare the punch after first getting the ingredients from the bar downstairs. He even went so far as to wipe the knife on his sleeve. Moreover, the Micawbers no longer drank out of glasses but out of tin cups, apparently to get used to the rugged life that awaited them.
Another arrest and bail-out; Mrs. Micawber keeps hoping her family will appear—As Mr. Micawber was expounding upon this, he received a message asking him to come downstairs. Mrs. Micawber’s hunch was that it was someone from her family, finally come to make amends and say goodbye. In fact, it was an officer who had come to arrest Mr. Micawber on another charge by Uriah Heep. David was presently informed of this through another note, and promptly went downstairs to pay it and have Mr. Micawber released. Returning to the room upstairs, Mr. Micawber gave a vague excuse for his absence and then, apparently to ease his own mind, handed Traddles an elaborate calculation of his remaining debts, with compound interest. Unaware of the real reason for her husband’s momentary disappearance, and disappointed but undeterred in her hopes, Mrs. Micawber still believed that her family would show up at Gravesend at the last minute.
Mrs. Micawber’s faith in Mr. Micawber’s prospects in the brave new world of Australia—Aunt Betsey and David urged Mrs. Micawber to write when she got the chance. Both Mrs. and Mr. Micawber assured them they would, and Mr. Micawber added that it would be an easy thing, with all the ships going back and forth, and that the distance wasn’t worth mentioning—an exaggerated assessment in David’s view. Mrs. Micawber then launched into a speech about Mr. Micawber’s talents, his position in the new world, and her expectation that it would strengthen his ties with their home country, which had never given him the credit or opportunity he deserved. She felt he was an uncommon case and that he would rise to a high position in Australia, which would gain him recognition back in England. In her opinion, he should take charge of his destiny now and claim his due. Mr. Micawber, who was ready to put his experience in Britain behind him, had his doubts at first, but gradually saw the merit in her point of view and expressed his gratitude for her determined confidence. On that note, Aunt Betsey proposed a toast, and a beaming Mr. Peggotty shook hands with Mr. Micawber. In that moment, David felt that all would be well and that Mr. Peggotty, too, would do well wherever he went.
A final farewell on board the ship; one last arrest and bail-out—When David checked on them the following day, the Micawbers had already left by 5 a.m. in a boat for Gravesend, where he and Peggotty later met them to say their final goodbyes. The ship itself was mid-river, so that they had to take a smaller boat to get to it, which was apparent from the many boats that already surrounded it. Arriving on deck, David discovered from Mr. Peggotty that Mr. Micawber had been arrested one final time. But per David’s request, Mr. Peggotty had paid the bill, and now David paid him back.
A variety of emigrants and well-wishers crowd the boat; David spots Emily—In the dim lighting of the ship’s hull, David could see it was crowded with emigrants and their belongings. There were people of all different types, ages, and careers: smiths, farmers, children, parents, young adults, newborn infants, old people—all engaged in various activities as they said goodbye and prepared to leave on their long voyage. Off to the side by an open porthole, David noticed someone who resembled Emily. Another woman had just kissed her goodbye and moved off, but by the time David realized that her graceful manner reminded him of Agnes, he had already lost her in the crowd.
David and Mr. Peggotty say their final farewells; David finds Martha among the emigrants—The time had come for all visitors to leave, and Mr. Peggotty turned to David and asked him whether he had any last-minute messages or concerns. David answered that there was one—Martha. Just before that, David had noticed a young woman in black who was helping Mrs. Gummidge organize their belongings. Mr. Peggotty tapped her on the shoulder, and as she stood up, David saw that it was Martha. She was so overcome with emotion just then that she burst into tears. David blessed Mr. Peggotty for taking her with him, and in that moment he felt a deep love and respect for this kind and good man. David’s only other remaining mission was to give Mr. Peggotty Ham’s parting message, without revealing that Ham had died. That was hard, but even harder was not reacting when Mr. Peggotty gave him a loving message in return.
Last goodbyes as the ship moves off into the sunset—Peggotty had been sitting on a chest, crying, and David now said his final goodbyes to his emigrant friends before taking his dear old nurse with him into the little boat. It was sunset by then, and the beauty of the ship, with all the people crowded on deck in silence as they waited to wave their final farewells, left him with feelings of both sadness and hope. As the ship started to sail away, cheers arose from the small boats and were returned by the ship’s passengers. All of a sudden, David noticed Emily standing next to her uncle, who now pointed out David and Peggotty. Seeing Emily waving to them for the last time, David wished in his heart that she would be true to her uncle, who loved and cared for her. As the ship sailed off into the fading light and night fell on the English shore, David felt that night had fallen on his life.
David’s journey: an outline of his inner changes—Chapter 58 is about David’s journey abroad, though it’s more about his inner journey than about his external travels, which he barely mentions. Even then, the chapter is fairly simple as it explains how he went from a sense of overall numbness to grief and despair and, finally, to the remembrance of an old love that might once have become something more.
A three-year journey as a means of processing his emotions—David’s travels abroad lasted three years and encompassed many places and sights, but with little enthusiasm and with an ongoing sense of being removed from it all. As the shock of his recent losses gradually wore off, their reality began to hit home, and David’s suppressed grief rose to the surface. It encompassed not only his own losses, mistakes, and youthful dreams, but what might have been—lives that might have blossomed more fully had they not been cut short.
David’s heart begins to open in the purity of the Swiss countryside—After many months of aimless wandering, David finally arrived in the Swiss mountains. There, in the beauty of a Swiss valley at sunset, he began to feel a faint sense of peace and hope. Something of the purity and wonder of the place opened his heart, and for the first time since Dora’s death, he sobbed from the depths of his soul.
David receives a packet of letters—Immediately before that, David had picked up some letters at the village post office. He had barely kept in touch with his friends and relations, informing them of his latest destination but unable to write anything beyond that. This was the first packet he had received in a while, having missed a number of others.
David reads a comforting letter from Agnes—The letter he opened was from Agnes, who after one brief line about her own happiness and success in her latest endeavors, proceeded to write about her hope and confidence in David’s character and future development. She knew that, no matter what difficulties befell him, no matter how much pain he experienced, he would make the right choices and grow from his trials. He had done this before as a boy, and he would do it again. And she would always be there beside him, proud of his past and future accomplishments. That letter of comfort and hope was exactly what David needed. He read it many times and wrote Agnes, telling her that although he did not yet measure up to her view of him, he would work toward becoming that.
The dawning of a new life—This chapter contains some of the book’s most beautiful scenic descriptions, and like many scenic descriptions in Dickens, they depict a state of being. In this case, the pure beauty of the Swiss valley—the green trees and pasture, the sunlit snow-capped mountains, the singing shepherds’ voices, the fading colors of the sunset—all point to the dawn of a new life and hope, a new purity, like the clearing of the air after a violent storm. At the end of the last chapter, night fell as the ship sailed away, and now, having lived through the dark night of his own soul, David began to see a new light dawning in his heart through the words of one who had been a steady guide and comfort to him since his boyhood.
Agnes’s encouragement gives David new hope and resolve—Buoyed by Agnes’s sense of confidence in him, David resolved to try to become what she saw in him. One thing he appreciated about Agnes was that her vision for him was never accompanied by any sense of pressure. In that spirit, he allowed himself another three months to just be. By then, a year would have elapsed since the beginning of his journey, and he would decide what to do next.
David spends another two years in Switzerland, begins to write again, and regains a sense of self—David spent those three months in the valley, and when they were up, he decided to stay in Switzerland a while longer and write, wintering in Geneva and spending the rest of his time in the valley. He began to come out of his shell again and soon had many warm new friendships, and he took comfort and inspiration from nature. He also resumed his disciplined routine of writing and before long had sent Traddles a finished story for publication. After a break, he started his third novel, and before it was halfway through, he realized he was ready to go home. Aside from regaining a sense of self, he had accumulated much in the way of knowledge and experience, and he felt healthy again, which was not the case when he left England.
David becomes aware of his complex feelings for Agnes—There was one other thing David wanted to mention before leaving this chapter of his life. His complex feelings for Agnes, which remained suppressed for a long time, began to surface during his period of darkness and despair. It occurred to him that, through the impetuous choices of his younger years, he had undervalued her love and possibly thrown away the opportunity of its evolving into something more. Dora’s intuitions on the subject had also haunted him, and he had an inkling that Agnes might have felt something more for him at one point, but he wasn’t sure. Now as he returned to his native shores three years later, he knew he had feelings and thoughts of that nature, but he felt the opportunity to realize them was gone, and he didn’t want to disrupt what they had.
Returning to London in the fall—David returned to London on a cold, dreary, foggy evening in autumn, before the long summer vacation for the courts and universities had ended, Michaelmas term not beginning until October. After his travels through Europe, London’s houses, though familiar, seemed bleak to him, and some had even been pulled down to make way for changes in the neighborhood.
A lonely return by himself in the London fog—Change was, of course, to be expected not only in the physical surroundings but in the lives of those close to him. Traddles was slowly breaking into the legal field and was living in chambers at Gray’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court, and Aunt Betsey had returned to her house in Dover. David’s friends and relatives weren’t expecting him so soon, and because he wanted to surprise them, he hadn’t arranged for anyone to meet him and therefore felt a bit lonely. This was quickly eased, however, by the warmth from the familiar shop windows glowing through the fog.
David inquires about Traddles at the inn—On entering into the coffee shop at Gray’s Inn, where David would also be spending the night, he inquired about Traddles’s exact address. He next asked how Traddles was doing in his career as a lawyer. The first waiter David asked was not aware of any great reputation on his part, and the head waiter had never heard of him, nor did he seem interested. He was more intent on taking David’s dinner order.
After a discouraging response, David wonders if Traddles will succeed—David felt sorry for Traddles and wondered if he would ever make a go of it. It didn’t help that the heavy, traditional environment of Gray’s Inn, personified by the head waiter and the coffee room, seemed full of rules and regulations, unbending and unchanging. Everything was perfectly polished and maintained—sedate, old, and expensive. In such an environment, where little changed in a decade, someone like Traddles would come across as an unlikely upstart, and the thought that his friend stood no chance saddened David.
David hears girls laughing as he walks up to Traddles’s apartment—David quickly finished his dinner and headed off to see his old friend. Traddles lived on the top floor of No. 2 in the Court, and as David made his way up the dimly lighted staircase, he was surprised to hear the sound of girls laughing. When he stopped to listen, one of the old, decrepit planks gave way, and the noise he made upon stumbling interrupted the laughter.
A happy reunion—Arriving at Traddles’s door, he was greeted by a young boy attendant, who, after some hesitation, let David in and escorted him to the sitting room to see Traddles. Traddles was sitting at a table, apparently working, and both the boy and Traddles looked out of breath. But whatever hesitation was previously there disappeared when Traddles saw David. Instead, there was a happy reunion, with hugs, handshaking, and a mutual exchange of warm greetings and new information.
Traddles and Sophy are recently married; the laughing girls are her sisters—Traddles was impressed by David’s growing fame, and David learned that Traddles had finally married the “dearest girl in the world” just six weeks earlier. Apparently, David had not received Traddles’s latest letter. Sophy, who had been hiding behind the curtain, now came out, beaming. The laughing girls, it turned out, were her sisters, and just as David was coming up the stairs, Traddles had been playing with them. He had stopped when he heard a visitor arrive in the interest of looking professional.
Traddles makes the best of his situation—Traddles was delighted to have the laughter of young girls in his apartment. He felt it brought a sense of lightness and life to the heaviness of Gray’s Inn, even if it was deemed unprofessional. Living there with Sophy was also considered unprofessional, but they had no other options, and Sophy was extremely capable, which justified it in Traddles’s mind. And, as Traddles mentioned several times, they were ready to “rough it.” David asked which of the girls were there at the moment and learned that there were five, including the oldest (the “Beauty”), the invalid, and the two younger ones, whom Sophy had educated. Sophy had organized beds for all her sisters in their three-room apartment, while she and Traddles cheerfully made do with the floor the first week, afterwards graduating to a small attic room, which Sophy fixed up and which had an excellent view.
Traddles’s patience and determination—Traddles was also thrilled to point out the marble table and flowerpot he had been saving for so long. The other furniture was just functional, and they still didn’t have any silver, but all that would come in due time and would mean even more when they finally had it. After all, it had been a long wait for both Traddles and Sophy, so when Traddles began to make headway as a lawyer, he went down to Devonshire to convince Sophy’s father, the Reverend Crewler, that the time had come for him and Sophy to be married. Sophy, too, was willing, even though Traddles wasn’t completely settled. Her father agreed, on the condition that Traddles would earn £250 a year and provide a decent living space. Traddles also promised that if anything happened to the two parents, he would take care of the girls, assuming he was in a position to do so. The Reverend agreed to convince Sophy’s mother that it was time to let go of her daughter, even if she had been a great help to the whole family. That was easier said than done. Sophy had been so useful to the family that they resented having Traddles take her from them. But they did let go, and Traddles was happy and cheerful, even though he rose at five and worked constantly and hard.
David meets Sophy’s sisters—Suddenly, their attention shifted. The girls had come into the room, and Traddles now introduced them to David, who was impressed with their freshness, describing them as a “perfect nest of roses.” David found them all pretty, especially the oldest, but Sophy had a brightness and cheer that made her unique, and it was clear that she loved and believed in Traddles (“Tom,” to her) as much as he did her. She also emphasized that Traddles was David’s devoted friend and that when they visited with Aunt Betsey and Agnes in Kent, the main subject on everyone’s mind was David.
Traddles and Sophy’s cheerful generosity and competency leaves David with a feeling of hope—Another thing that delighted David about both Sophy and Traddles was their generosity and helpfulness toward Sophy’s sisters. Neither of them was troubled by the girls’ various whims and demands, which were ongoing. Instead, they were constantly and cheerfully at their service. They seemed to take great pleasure in being there for others and never appeared exhausted or upset. In the process of serving everyone, Sophy’s knowledge and capabilities in different areas—whether of singing songs, fixing hair, writing notes, or whatever else—had grown so much that no one thought of relying on anyone but her, out of all the sisters, to do anything. In return for all their love and good cheer, Sophy and Traddles received a tremendous amount of love and respect, and the whole experience left David in good spirits. It was like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dry and staid environment, and it left him with a feeling of hope about Traddles’s future, regardless of his surroundings.
David recognizes Mr. Chillip in the coffee room—It was in this mood that David returned to the coffeehouse and sat down by the fire. Before long, his thoughts turned from Traddles’s happiness to the difficulties of his own life, and he thought of Agnes and what he had lost by preventing that relationship from ever growing into something more than a brother-sister interaction. As he sat musing on these things, he noticed meek, little Mr. Chillip, the delivery room doctor, sitting off in a corner by himself reading the newspaper. David therefore walked up to him and asked him how he was. After a bit of bantering, Mr. Chillip still couldn’t figure out who David was, so David finally told him. That elicited an emotional reaction, and they got to talking about many things—that David looked like his father, that his fame as a writer was spreading, and that Mr. Chillip and his family had moved from Blunderstone to Bury St. Edmunds about seven years earlier because his wife had inherited some property.
David buys Mr. Chillip a drink and hears about the Murdstones’ latest escapades—David noticed that Mr. Chillip had emptied his glass of negus,[i] so he offered to buy them both another drink. The topic turned to David’s loss of Dora. Mr. Chillip had heard about it through Miss Murdstone, whose distinctive character had made an impression on him. In fact, the Murdstones had moved to the same neighborhood as the doctor and his family. Mr. Murdstone had once again married a young, fresh, innocent woman, and he and his sister then proceeded to terrorize her into a state of misery, weakness, and imbecility. Throughout the conversation, the doctor kept quoting Mrs. Chillip, a “great observer,” who noticed, among other things, that Mr. Murdstone referred to himself as a Divine Nature and delivered dark, severe speeches in the name of religion. Mr. Chillip himself could see no support for the Murdstones’ doctrine in the New Testament, and it was no surprise that the entire neighborhood disliked them, which, in the Murdstones’ view, meant they were all consigned to hell.
Memories of David’s birth; opinions on Aunt Betsey—After a bit more chatting, David discovered that Mr. Chillip was at Gray’s Inn as a professional witness in a hospital patient insanity case. He confessed that such cases made him nervous, just as Aunt Betsey’s behavior at the time of David’s birth had had a detrimental effect on him that took a while to unravel. David noted that he was on his way to visit the same Aunt Betsey and that she was, in fact, a wonderful, kind woman. That was too much for Mr. Chillip to process, and he took it as his cue to go to bed.
A cheerful reunion in Dover—The next day, David arrived at his aunt’s old cottage in Dover, where he was warmly and joyfully received by Aunt Betsey, Mr. Dick, and Peggotty, who now kept house for them. Aunt Betsey got a good laugh from Mr. Chillip’s fearful memory of her, and both Peggotty and David’s aunt went on about Mr. Murdstone and his “murdering” sister.
[i] Similar to hot toddy, a heated mixture of liquor, water, sugar, and spices
Catching up on the news—David and Aunt Betsey spent the evening by the fire talking of things like the emigrants’ successful beginnings in the new world, Janet’s marriage to a prosperous Dover tavern owner, and Aunt Betsey’s approval as shown by her decision to attend the wedding. Mr. Dick, too, was doing well. He had found a new vocation in copying, through which he managed to keep Charles I at bay.
Aunt Betsey steers the conversation toward the subject of David and Agnes’s relationship—Changing the subject, Aunt Betsey wanted to know when David planned to go to Canterbury. His aunt had picked up on something going on between Agnes and him, even though they hadn’t yet admitted it to each other, and now she steered the conversation in that direction. But David wasn’t ready to talk about his love for Agnes, so while it was obvious Aunt Betsey understood, she refrained from being too direct.
More detail about the Wickfields; Aunt Betsey’s intuitive understanding of David’s feelings—Before David even mentioned Agnes, Aunt Betsey read his mind and warned him that Mr. Wickfield had aged but also grown in his understanding of human nature. Agnes, on the other hand, was as beautiful and good as always, and she was busy with her school. In Aunt Betsey’s opinion, if she educated the girls to be like her, she would do much for the world. David hesitated before asking whether Agnes was romantically involved. According to Aunt Betsey, she had many suitors and could have married any number of times. Were there any viable ones, though—any that deserved her? Aunt Betsey had her suspicions but wouldn’t say anything beyond that. David’s stated hope was that Agnes would confide in him as a brother, just as he had always confided in her. But it was clear from the way Aunt Betsey looked at David throughout the conversation that she understood there was more going on. Now she said nothing but quietly placed her hand on his shoulder as they both looked into the fire.
David visits Agnes the following day—David rode to Canterbury the next day. On arriving at the old house, he hesitated at first but finally got up the courage to go in. The maid led him up the stairs to the drawing room, and David was relieved to see that all vestiges of the Heeps’ presence were gone. He had only told the maid he was a friend from abroad, so it was a happy surprise for Agnes when she saw him, and he, too, was happy to be in her peaceful presence again as he hugged her closely. She embodied home for him, a feeling of goodness, welcome, peace, and understanding he had long yearned for. Now she sat beside him, and though he still couldn’t bring himself to express his feelings, her calming influence had already begun its soothing magic, even when she spoke of Emily and of Dora’s grave.
David asks Agnes about herself but backs off when she seems uncomfortable—David asked Agnes about her own personal life, claiming she never spoke about herself. Agnes didn’t know what to say. They had their home back, and her father was healthy and content again, and that, to her, was everything. David pressed for more, but she denied there was anything else. Even so, she seemed uncomfortable, and he noticed a paleness in her face and a sadness to her smile at that moment. He changed the subject, and they spoke of different things—how the school kept her busy, how long David planned to visit, and that the old house was restored to its former happy self.
An evening with the Wickfields brings up thoughts about the past—Agnes had to finish teaching school for the day, so David went out for a walk about the town. The conversation had left him unconvinced that he could ever be anything more to Agnes than a loving brother, so he resolved to do this as faithfully as possible, as she had done for him. When David returned for dinner, Agnes’s father was back from his gardening, his latest pastime, located a bit beyond Canterbury. They had dinner with Agnes and about six little schoolgirls, and after dinner, they all went up to the drawing room, where they had tea while the little girls studied, played, and sang. After the girls left, the three of them reminisced about the past, although Mr. Wickfield spoke of many regrets. Yet Agnes had made it all worthwhile for him, and he would not change anything. For the first time, too, Mr. Wickfield spoke of his wife, who died of a broken heart after her father, a severe man who disapproved of her marriage, renounced her. Agnes was only two weeks old at the time of her death, and in her, Mr. Wickfield saw much of his wife and feared his daughter had suffered in similar ways. David wondered what he meant by this last statement. Yet even without a full understanding on David’s part, Agnes’s devotion for her father was clear, and David now gained a deeper sense of it.
Restrained communication between Agnes and David—When her father finished, Agnes played some old tunes on the piano. While she played, she asked David whether he had any thoughts of going abroad again. He asked her how she felt about it, and when she said she hoped he didn’t, he made it clear that her wish was his wish. He was trying to broach the subject of their relationship, and he finally did, but in a hesitant way. The most he could do at this point was to profess his undying love and commitment to her as a brother, no matter whom she loved or married. He felt he didn’t deserve her after all the years of falling in love with other women, and he misinterpreted the restrained emotional play he saw on her face.
David’s silent hopes—David had promised to be back in Dover by nighttime, and as he thought of their conversation on the way back, it seemed to him that neither of them was happy. He had resigned himself to a restrained love on earth, but he hoped that someday the transcendent nature of their true love would unfold in a heavenly realm.
David visits Traddles to sort through his fan mail, delivered there since his stay abroad—David spent several months in Dover finishing his book, with periodic visits to London to soak up city life or visit Traddles. Traddles had been managing David’s business affairs since his journey abroad, and in the meantime, David’s fan mail had grown so large that he arranged to have it delivered to Traddles’s address. Every so often, David would stop by to discuss some business point with Traddles and to sift through the bushels of mostly irrelevant letters.
Sophy trains herself as a copyist to help out Traddles—By now, Sophy’s sisters had returned to Devonshire, and Sophy herself kept busy managing their domestic affairs and, when necessary, staying out of sight of the stuffy legal types who might disapprove of the presence of a woman in chambers. David also noticed on many visits that Sophy would quickly shove a copybook into a drawer, and he wondered why. Eventually he discovered from Traddles that she had been training herself as a copyist so she could take over that job when “Tom” became a judge someday. He was proud of the professional results she had achieved and had no qualms about saying so, but Sophy herself felt it was better to keep it secret because of current attitudes toward women in the professions.
Traddles praises Sophy’s many wonderful qualities—David commented on what a wonderful wife she was, which got Traddles praising her many good qualities. She was cheerful and adaptable, always on time, discreet in her movements while staying in chambers, an excellent housekeeper, attractive and energetic, a good cook and baker, creative within their means, and fun to be with. For them, taking walks together to go window shopping and dream of what they would buy each other was as good as actually buying the thing. Or they would buy half-price theater tickets and enjoy every minute, or just sit together in a warm apartment on a cold night. Traddles was thrilled to be so lucky.
Mr. Creakle, now a magistrate, invites David to inspect a “model” prison system—David wondered if Traddles ever drew skeletons anymore, and Traddles had to admit that he did occasionally indulge in it. That got them talking about Mr. Creakle, and David remembered he had a letter from their old schoolmaster, who had since been appointed a Middlesex Magistrate and had invited David to observe how well their prison system worked. They claimed that solitary confinement was the secret to creating model prisoners, and David wanted to know if Traddles would come along to verify this great achievement. David also found it interesting that Mr. Creakle, who had been a tyrant toward the schoolboys, was gentle and considerate toward the worst criminals. Traddles was not surprised, and they both agreed to say nothing of their former treatment, which had apparently been forgotten now that David was famous.
David and Traddles tour the prison; David finds the prisoners’ excellent conditions ironic—A day or two later, David and Traddles visited the huge prison, which David remembered cost a great deal to build. They were met by several magistrates and some other visiting gentlemen. Mr. Creakle looked more or less the same, though older, and judging from his manner toward Traddles and David, he had no recollection of his former tyrannical behavior as their school principal. David was struck by the extreme concern the group had for the prisoners’ comfort as well as by the gentlemen’s total focus on prison life. Their tour began in the kitchen, coincidentally at around dinnertime, where David couldn’t help noticing the high quality of the meals being delivered to the prisoners’ cells. It occurred to him that the mass of workers who earned an honest living, including soldiers and sailors, rarely enjoyed a meal of that quantity and quality.
A flawed “perfect” system—The system’s supposed efficacy was based on the “perfect” isolation of individual prisoners, but as the men toured the building, David noticed that the isolation was not as perfect as claimed and that it was likely (and eventually proved) that the prisoners communicated enough that they knew a lot about each other, which was the opposite of the goal. The other thing he noticed repeatedly as they visited the prisoners’ cells was that their professions of remorse and reform all sounded strangely similar. Nor did he get a feeling of trust from any of them. It was easy to profess reform where there was no chance of temptation, but he doubted they would be able to resist reverting to their old ways under real outside circumstances.
Model Prisoner No. 27, the cream of the prisoner crop—Throughout the tour, the group kept hearing about Model Prisoner No. 27, who supposedly far outshone the others in his degree of reformation and his belief in the system that had converted him. He had such a good reputation at the prison that the tour leaders were saving his cell for last, so by the time they got there, David’s curiosity had reached its peak. When they finally arrived at his cell, Mr. Creakle, after looking through the keyhole, reported that No. 27 was reading a hymn book. The excitement that followed that revelation created so much competition for the keyhole that they decided to allow No. 27 to come out and meet the visitors in person.
No. 27 is brought out to meet the visitors—To Traddles’s and David’s great surprise, they found themselves looking at Uriah Heep. Uriah recognized them immediately and inquired after their well-being, which impressed the gentlemen on the tour. When Mr. Creakle asked him how he was, Uriah gave his usual profession of humility. Every time someone asked about his comfort, he used it as a chance to confess how wrong he had been and how much he had changed. Most of the party believed him.
Model Prisoner No. 28; the model prisoners speak—The magistrates now brought out another model prisoner, No. 28, who turned out to be none other than Mr. Littimer. Mr. Littimer emerged reading a book, with his “highly respectable” veneer perfectly intact. Each model prisoner had a champion, Mr. Creakle being Uriah’s and another gentleman being in charge of Littimer, and these champions guided the conversation. When asked how he was, Littimer’s answers had the same hollow ring to them as Uriah’s, but other than David and Traddles, the gentlemen visitors seemed not to pick up on this. The other thing Uriah and Littimer had in common, once they had made a show of how reformed they were, was to point the finger at other people, either as being the cause of their own guilt or as being in need of reform, as though the whole of London shared their qualities and backgrounds. Both Uriah and Littimer specifically addressed David, and Littimer even asked him to relay his “forgiveness” of Emily, in spite of her bad behavior when he tried to “save” her. Uriah gave a similarly sanctimonious speech, mentioning that David had hit him (to the horror of the naïve gentlemen) but that he forgave him. David couldn’t help noticing at one point that Uriah’s expression was more evil than ever and that when Littimer excused himself to return to his cell, he and Uriah exchanged looks as though they knew each other.
David asks a warden about the two prisoners’ crimes—David noticed that the magistrates were not keen to talk about the prisoners’ crimes, so he quietly asked one of the wardens, who he guessed had a more honest, less deluded view of the prisoners. He learned that Uriah was in prison for forgery, fraud, and conspiracy against the Bank of England. He had almost gotten away with the crime, but the bank managed to lure him into revealing himself. He was sentenced to permanent transportation. Littimer had been arrested for stealing £250 worth of valuables and cash from a young gentleman. He was on his way to America when he was recognized, in spite of his disguise, by Miss Mowcher, who grabbed his legs and wouldn’t let go. Littimer tried to beat her off, but even the arresting officers couldn’t pry her away, and she ended up being a star witness in court. Littimer was also sentenced to transportation.
David and Traddles’s conclusions about the model prison—David and Traddles left the prison convinced that no real reform had taken place. Littimer and Heep were the same deceivers they had always been, and the system that was supposed to be so promising held no real promise at all.
David and Agnes still keep their real feelings to themselves—Two months passed, and it was now Christmastime. David had visited Agnes once a week or more during that time, and his deep love and respect for her remained as strong as ever. Still, he could not express his real feelings and had relegated his desires to a mental shelf, where they would take a backseat to whomever she chose as her husband. His only consolation, other than her company, was that he could be to her what she had been to him for so many years—a trusted confidant, counselor, and friend—and that was what he now committed himself to being.
Aunt Betsey’s intuitions; David decides to find out if there’s another man—The only person who had any inkling of their feelings was Aunt Betsey, who silently surmised it through her usual astute observation of her nephew’s face. However, they never spoke of it directly, although Aunt Betsey left broad hints now and then, and there seemed to be a deep understanding between them. Agnes herself showed no signs of change, except for the occasional thoughtful look and sad smile, and she did not seem to have any awareness of David’s real feelings. All this reticence increased whatever confusion already existed, and David convinced himself there had to be another man, but he could not understand why Agnes kept her secret from him. In his determination to repay her for her faithfulness, he resolved to clear things up.
David gets the wrong idea from Aunt Betsey—It was in this frame of mind that David bid his aunt goodbye on his way out into the cold winter’s night. But before leaving, he could not refrain from asking her whether she knew anything more about Agnes’s secret love. Aunt Betsey said she thought she did, and when he asked her whether she was sure, she offered that she thought Agnes was going to marry. Determined to stick to his resolve and face this cheerfully, David wished God’s blessing upon her. His aunt, agreeing, blessed her husband, too. Hearing this bit of news from his aunt, David mounted his horse and set out for Canterbury, more determined than ever to broach the subject with Agnes.
David asks Agnes to reveal her secret love to him—Arriving at the Wickfields’, David found Agnes reading by herself. She quickly realized he was in a serious mood and gave him all her attention. It didn’t take David long to tell her that he knew she had a secret and he wanted her to share it with him, to let him be there for her. He assured her that his motives weren’t selfish, that he could take a back seat to whomever else she chose.
Agnes refuses to tell David and fends him off—Apparently, he struck a painful chord in her. As though she couldn’t face it, she moved quickly to the window, and he saw that she was crying, but something about her tears gave him hope. At the same time, he didn’t want to cause her pain, so he begged her to tell him what was going on, but she was adamant—she couldn’t speak about it just now. As she fended him off, David searched for some clue, and he began to wonder if there wasn’t some hope, after all, for the feelings he had buried. At first, he brushed them off. He wanted her to know that his motives were pure and unselfish, that he would be there for her no matter how their relationship changed outwardly. Hearing this, Agnes quietly informed him that he had misunderstood. Her secret was nothing new. She had held it within her for many years, but it was not something she would share, and she could bear it alone.
In a burst of passion, David and Agnes finally tell each other the truth—David’s thoughts were racing now as he realized the implications of what she was saying. As she began to walk away, he took her by the waist and held her close to him. He hadn’t come to tell her his deeper feelings, but now all his love, passion, and hopes burst forth as he dared to believe she might love him as something more than a friend. It was the closest thing to a marriage proposal, and when he saw her shedding tears of joy, he knew he had understood correctly. All the struggles he had felt in the last few years, the incompleteness he had sensed in his earlier marriage, the feeling of guidance and home she had always provided—all of it came spilling out now, and Agnes, too, admitted that she had loved David her whole life. That night, they walked together in the wintry fields, looking up at the moon and the stars and feeling at last that they had found peace and happiness together.
David and Agnes make their new relationship known to Aunt Betsey—The next day, David and Agnes went to Dover together, arriving in time for dinner. At first, they revealed nothing, but Aunt Betsey sensed something was different because she kept looking at David for clues, which meant putting on her spectacles. When she saw no hint of anything, she would remove them and use them to rub her nose, a sign that something was bothering her. Following dinner, when David told Aunt Betsey he had mentioned their conversation to Agnes, his aunt was perturbed and scolded him for betraying her trust. But when David put his arm around Agnes and they both leaned over her chair together, she caught on and became hysterical with joy—the only time David ever saw her like that. She hugged Peggotty and then hugged Mr. Dick. It was a happy moment for everyone.
David and Agnes are married; Dora’s secret request—Two weeks later, David and Agnes were married. It was a small but joyous wedding, with only the Traddles and the Strongs as guests. Afterwards, as David and Agnes drove off together, David felt at last that this was the love he had waited for all his life. But Agnes had one more thing to confess. Could David guess what it was? The night Dora died, she made Agnes promise that no one else would take her place.
Ten years later, David is a wealthy, successful author who lives in London with his family—It has been ten years since David and Agnes’s wedding. In the meantime, David has grown wealthy and famous as an author, and he and Agnes have moved to London and now have at least three children. When Chapter 63 opens, the family is together in the sitting room on a spring evening. There is a fire in the fireplace, the children are playing, and the scene is one of contentment and peace.
Mr. Peggotty visits from Australia—A servant announces the arrival of a personal visitor, a simple, rugged man resembling a farmer. It is Mr. Peggotty, and there is a joyful reunion. He is older, but still healthy and strong, and the children are immediately drawn to him. Mr. Peggotty recounts how he decided to take the long trip from Australia to visit David and his family before he got too old to do so. He would be staying in England for a month.
Mr. Peggotty tells of the hard work and success of the whole group of emigrants—After insisting that he stay with them, David and Agnes sat on either side of Mr. Peggotty, eager to see him and hear everything he had to tell. The word was that with hard work and patience, all the emigrants had prospered, between sheep farming, cattle raising, and other things. Mr. Peggotty felt with certainty that their group had been blessed.
Emily lives with her uncle, avoiding other people except when helping those in need—David and Agnes both wanted to know how Emily was doing. She had settled in with her uncle and was happy when around him, but she shied away from other people, except when helping those in need. Between that and her chores, she stayed busy. She could have married many times but felt that possibility was over for her, and there was something sorrowful and shy in her manner. No one there knew her history or why she was the way she was, though many people liked her.
Mr. Peggotty thanks David for keeping secret the bad news about Ham and Steerforth—Mr. Peggotty also thanked David for keeping the bad news about Steerforth and Ham from them. Mr. Peggotty himself, when he finally found out, managed to keep it from Emily for a year, but eventually she found out through an old newspaper brought by a traveler. David and Agnes wanted to know if the news had changed Emily. Mr. Peggotty said it did for a long time, but being away from people, out in nature, and staying busy helped her get through it. He saw her too often to gauge it correctly, but he thought he had noticed a difference and wondered whether David would recognize her.
Martha marries and moves to the bush—Agnes and David asked next about Martha. Mr. Peggotty told them that Martha married a year or so after they arrived. Women were few there, and her husband was a farmhand who had traveled a considerable distance. He proposed to her, and they moved to their own solitary place in the bush country. Before doing so, she asked Mr. Peggotty to tell her suitor her real life story, which he did.
Mrs. Gummidge decks a marriage suitor but remains loyal and helpful to Mr. Peggotty—What about Mrs. Gummidge? Mr. Peggotty started roaring with laughter when he heard the question, and soon they were all laughing uncontrollably. Even Mrs. Gummidge received a marriage proposal, and she reacted by smashing a pail over the suitor’s head. That incident aside, she remained completely changed. She totally dispensed with her lost, forlorn attitude and was the most helpful, hardworking, faithful person you could imagine.
The emigrants move to Port Middlebay after thriving in the bush; Mr. Peggotty pulls out the town paper—Finally, there was Mr. Micawber. What happened to him and his family? David and Agnes knew he had paid all his debts, which spoke well for him, but they were curious to learn more. Mr. Peggotty smiled and pulled out a newspaper. He explained they had all gotten their start in the bush country, where Mr. Micawber had worked as hard as anyone. Eventually, though, they had prospered so much they all moved to a town called Port Middlebay Harbour. Mr. Peggotty presented the Port Middlebay Times to tell the rest of the story.
Mr. Micawber fulfills Mrs. Micawber’s prediction; all the Micawbers and Mr. Mell, now Dr. Mell, and his family are thriving—The paper told of a dinner given in honor of Mr. Micawber, who was now a District Magistrate and regular columnist for the paper. The large room was packed to overflowing, and the town’s elite had crowded in to pay their respects to Wilkins Micawber, Esquire. He was introduced and toasted by Dr. Mell, David’s former teacher at Salem House, who had founded his own grammar school in Port Middlebay and was now married with children of his own, one of whom, Helena, was applauded for her beautiful dancing. Mr. Micawber’s own speech was received with great enthusiasm and applause. Further toasts were extended to Mrs. Mell and all the Micawbers: Mrs. Micawber and her extended family in England; Master Micawber, who delighted the audience with his singing; and the former Miss Micawber, now Mrs. Ridger Begs. The dinner and toasts were followed by dancing.
Mr. Peggotty points out a letter in the paper addressed to David and written by Mr. Micawber—Mr. Peggotty now drew their attention to another article, this one written by Mr. Micawber himself and addressed in formal terms to David, with the subtitle “The eminent author.” It was a public expression of gratitude and admiration for David’s contribution and achievements as an author. Mr. Micawber especially wanted to express that the people of Port Middlebay, who were as civilized as anyone, were his avid readers and always interested in David’s latest venture.
Seeing Peggotty and Aunt Betsey; visiting Ham’s grave; saying goodbye for the last time—During Mr. Peggotty’s time with David and Agnes, Peggotty and Aunt Betsey also came to see him. Toward the end, he and David took a trip to Yarmouth to see Ham’s grave, and in keeping with a promise he made to Emily, Mr. Peggotty collected some of the earth. Finally, David and Agnes both saw him off, and David knew it would be for the last time.
What became of everyone?—In his short closing chapter, David recalls the faces of those still living who played a role in his journey, and now he traces the outcome of their lives.
Aunt Betsey—First, there is Aunt Betsey, now in her eighties. Her eyesight might be weaker, but she still stands as tall and strong and energetic as ever, even walking six miles in the cold. Aunt Betsey’s longstanding wish for a goddaughter named Betsey Trotwood has been fulfilled, and that child was followed by a younger sister named Dora.
Peggotty—Then there’s Peggotty, also wearing glasses but still with her wax candle and needlework, and shoved in her pocket is the crocodile book, a cherished remnant of David’s childhood.
Mr. Dick—Entertaining himself and a new generation of boyish Davids with his kites is Mr. Dick. He still holds Aunt Betsey in the highest regard, but he is no longer too concerned with the Memorial.
Mrs. Steerforth and Rosa Dartle—Mrs. Steerforth has grown old and hunched over, and her mind is weak. She is easily confused, until she remembers that her pride and joy, her son, is dead, and she is struck by the pain of that realization. Her companion, Rosa Dartle, is the same edgy, bitter, impatient person, but when needed, she still has some compassion left for Steerforth’s mother.
Julia Mills, Jack Maldon—Julia Mills, now married to an extremely wealthy Scotchman, has returned from India. She is surrounded by the trappings of money and “society,” which includes the likes of such shallow individuals as Jack Maldon—and she has forgotten love and romance. To David, such an existence is the opposite of the things that make life worth living.
Dr. Strong, Annie, and Mrs. Markleham—Dr. Strong, that kindly old gentleman, has gotten as far as the letter D in his dictionary. But his marriage with Annie is happy, and his mother-in-law has been tamed.
Traddles and Sophy—Of course, there’s also Traddles. Time has moved a bit further along at this point, and Traddles is balding now, though what remains is as unruly as ever. He is on his way to becoming a judge, though he is modest about it. And he’s thrilled that he’s achieved all his life goals, and more. He is earning almost twice as much money as he expected to, his boys are receiving excellent educations, and Sophy’s sisters are either happily married or living with either them or their father, the Reverend. Only the “Beauty,” now a widow, is unhappy, having been through an imperfect marriage. But Traddles feels they can and will restore things.
It is Sophy’s birthday, and the house is full of relatives. It is one of the houses Sophy and Traddles once dreamt of owning, long before they could afford it. Now that they actually live there, they still give away the best rooms to Sophy’s sisters, who always seem to be staying with them for one reason or another. But for all their wealth, there is still the same simple good cheer that has always been a part of their home.
Agnes—Such are the faces that people David’s life. Yet among them all, one stands out and shines more brightly than all the others. It is Agnes, the guiding light of his life, who is beside him now and will be there till the end.