Up Close: Three scenes from Hamlet

These three 19th-century illustrations of scenes from Hamlet have been mounted together to form one object in the Folger collection. Can you identify what’s happening in each of the scenes?

In the original drawings by British illustrator John Jellicoe, a telltale caption or quote from the scene accompanies each picture, but here we’ve hidden those phrases to make guessing a little harder. (You may notice other writing on the illustrations; someone was apparently very irked about the lines marking the drawing edges.)

Click through the arrows to see captions that zoom in on different parts of the image. Click the eye icon to hide or display the captions. You can also examine the image at your own pace by clicking and dragging to move and by scrolling to zoom in and out.


  • 1. Ophelia going mad as she gives out flowers.
    2. Hamlet’s return from England, where the grave digger helps him reacquaint with poor Yorick.
    3. Actors performing the Murder of Gonzago, as Hamlet hints to Claudius and Gertrude that he knows the truth.

  • 1. The first scene where Hamlet is pointing at Claudius the King, reveals that by in acting the murder of Gonsago; he’ll catch the conscience of the king. Claudius reacts by saying “Lights… Lights… The play exposes the king’s guilt.

    2. the Commedia dell’Arte Players reveal how Hamlet’s father died. That happens by having Claudius hooded and pouring arsenic in the ear of his brother, who is the Old King.

    3. The Gravedigger’s scene in the churchyard. Hamlet is holding Yorik’s scull, who was a jester, when Hamlet’s father was King of Denmark.

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