Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 5 - Summary

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Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 5 - Notes

Contextual Info:

  • Hamlet Act 1 Scene 5 involves Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, and the Ghost
  • This scene occurs somewhere outside Elsinore castle, and is a notable scene because it’s the first time Hamlet (or anybody) has a meaningful interaction with the Ghost
  • It’s also the first time the ghost speaks, and he has some pretty interesting news for both Hamlet and us, the audience

Plot Summary:

  • The scene opens with Hamlet chasing after the Ghost, demanding some answers
  • The Ghost confirms that he is indeed the Ghost of the late King Hamlet, Hamlet’s father, and that he’s been stuck in purgatory which, according to Catholic belief, is a place between earth and heaven for spirits to be punished for their sins during life
  • Hamlet’s naturally surprised/shocked, but what he’s about to hear will do more than just shock him
  • The Ghost of King Hamlet reveals that even though everybody believes he died due to a poisonous snake bite that happened while he was sleeping in the orchard, his brother Claudius was actually the one who murdered him by pouring poison in his ear
  • The Ghost continues to describe Claudius as a murderous, incestuous, adulterous beast since not only did Claudius murder his brother, but he also seduced Gertrude
  • Since the King died suddenly and had no time to repent his sins to the Heavens, his spirit is now stuck in purgatory
  • After saying all this, the Ghost has a final command for Hamlet: To take vengeance on Claudius, but also to leave his mother (Gertrude) alone as he takes his revenge; the Ghost exits the scene, leaving Hamlet alone
  • Hamlet swears to take action and curses his mother, saying that a person can smile and appear decent, but can also be a villain on the inside
  • Horatio and Marcellus catch up to Hamlet and they want to know what happened, but Hamlet doesn’t fill them in on his discussion with the ghost
  • Instead, Hamlet simply gives a vague hint as to a great offense that occurred - but he still won’t tell them exactly what happened
  • In the end, Hamlet makes his friends swear 3 times to never speak about or reveal the night’s events, the last 2 requests demanding that his friends swear by his sword
  • The Ghost’s voice chimes in like an echo of Hamlet’s, also demanding 3 times that the others will not reveal this secret, and the last time he also demands that the others swear by Hamlet’s sword
  • In the end, Hamlet tells Horatio that if he acts crazy/mad/insane in the next few days, that Horatio should not be surprised, but more importantly, that Horatio should not reveal that he knows anything about Hamlet’s act

According to the ghost, how did King Hamlet (the ghost) come about his death?

He fought so many times in the battlefields, and eventually he was slain in one of the wars that he participated in.
He was killed by his own brother during a sword fight.
He was killed by his own brother while sleeping. His brother poisoned him through the ears.
He was old, and it was about time that he might die.
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The ghost gives fairly clear instructions about what to do with Gertrude (his former wife), namely Hamlet's mother. Which of the following is its instructions?

Prepare to kill Gertrude. Such betrayal must be punished.
Prepare to make sure that Gertrude will not remain as queen of Denmark.
Tell Gertrude about what happened so that Prince Hamlet and Gertrude can decide on the next course of action.
Leave her alone. She simply is not to be touched, since the heavens will decide what to do with her.
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After the ghost leaves, what plan does Hamlet reveal?

He intends to poison Claudius
He plans on running away
He plans on embarrassing his mother
He plans on acting crazy
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