And the Rest is Silence

Gia Arora
4 min readNov 12, 2023

The deaths in Hamlet, told through glimpses behind the dialogue.

‘Burning Cigarette’ by Vincent Van Gogh

This was it. This one small act of espionage — no, not espionage. He was gathering information. Yes, this one small act of gathering information, and his every suspicion would be confirmed. His daughter would not doubt him again.

Polonius leaned his head against the arras, heart racing. Any moment now, the prince would be in the room, confessing to his mad love for Ophelia and finally proving what Polonius had been saying for so long. Any mome —

Right on cue, a knock sounded on the door. He heard rustling, probably of the queen gathering her skirts and rushing to the door. He didn’t dare stick his head out to check: who knew what Hamlet, in his madness, would do?

Sure enough, footsteps followed the click of the door, and with them, Hamlet’s hushed voice, and the queen’s. Polonius frowned, leaning forward. He knew the queen would let him know what conversation chanced between them, but it was still infuriating that he couldn’t make out a word. Perhaps if they were just a little louder —

The queen screamed.

The racing of his heart doubled to a roar. The prince would not have hurt his mother, would he? He thought of the glint in Hamlet’s eye a few hours before, and his breath caught. “Help,” he whispered, then louder, “What, ho! Help! Help, help!”

It didn’t hurt immediately.

First there was a prick, a needle piercing his sternum. He looked down, and a scarlet flower bloomed from his heart.

The flower crumpled and his chest exploded with pain.

He was the first to die.


A laburnum tree brushed the surface of the river, its vines swaying in the breeze. The river’s banks were strewn with flowers, a stray petal getting caught in the current and floating into the horizon. The sun’s gaze was gentle, slipping a golden sheen over the world.

It was beautiful.

Ophelia kneeled by the river, fingering a small plant. Rosemary, that’s for remembrance. But this one was blue, and utterly lovely. A forget-me-not.

The river coaxed her closer, and she dipped her fingers in it. It was cool, the water clear around her skin.

I would give you some violets, but they all withered when my father died.

It was her, and it was the willow bark, and it was the laburnum tree.

It was the river, and it was a crushed petal.

It was beautiful.

She was the second to die.


Or perhaps they were the second. Who knows?

It is your duty, they said to them, your duty to your country, your duty to your liege.

Rosencrantz, and gentle Guildenstern.

Guildenstern, and gentle Rosencrantz.

There were two nooses, two stools. There were two drops, two necks snapping.

At least they went together.

They were the third to die.

Not third and fourth?

No, they were one till the end. Not even in death did they part.


Her son. Oh, her poor, grieving son.

Lost his father, then lost his love, and, what news is that? Lost his childhood friends?

She could not help him before. She vowed she would this time.

She raised the cup, wine staining her lips for a moment, before vanishing down her throat.

Wine that had been meant for her son.

She knew the moment she tasted the poison. It was sweet, slightly tart, a tinge of honey in honeyed wine. It felt right. It belonged.

She had been of some help to him, after all.

She was the fourth to die.


He should have been the first.

It was his fault, was it not? Heaven was closed to him, purgatory too kind for him.

A brother slain, a wife stained. A stolen queen, a life, a crown.

He had poison forced past his lips. A knife sank into his chest.

He should have been the first.

He was the fifth to die.


He was fire. He was vengeance. He razed a city, razed a kingdom. Thou vile king, where is my father?

He had been right, of course. The king was vile. If only he had known before.

The blaze in his heart had quieted to a smolder, a solitary spark.

Forgive me.

It should not have been like this. It should not.

Go, I’ll follow thee.

He could see his sister, reaching for him. His father, wiping away a tear. He squeezed his eyes shut.

He was the sixth to die.



Hamlet, Hamlet, Hamlet.

Noble prince, sweet prince, dear lord, sweet lord.

So much. He was so much.

He had been so much, once.

A noble mind, here o’erthrown. A noble heart, cracked.

This couldn’t be the end. There was so much left to do. A kingdom to run. A mother to mourn. Sins to forgive, sins to be forgiven for. And no time. No, none at all.

He took away the poison. He saved a life. To be, he insisted, to be. Despised love, prized love, so much love, love, love.

There was a rot at the heart of Denmark, and he was the last of it.

It was a tragedy. It always had been. He had known how it was going to end. In a lover’s arms, in a pool of blood, in death’s embrace.

Good night, sweet prince.

So many words, words, words. So many, and so few.

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

His lungs quieted. His chest stilled. A last, soft breath.

And then nothing.

The rest is always silence. There is nothing more to be said.

He was the last to die.