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Analysis of Hamlet's Act 3, Scene 4 - The Closet Scene

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Kyrstin Barkley

on 11 December 2014

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Transcript of Analysis of Hamlet's Act 3, Scene 4 - The Closet Scene

A Brief Summary
- Polonius tells Gertrude to call Hamlet to her chambers. He hides behind an arras to eavesdrop on their conversation.
- Like Polonius told her, the Queen chastises Hamlet. Hamlet then scrutinizes her morality and her marriage to Claudius.
- Hamlet becomes frantic, the Queen calls for help. As does Polonius as a result.
- Hamlet senses the intruder and stabs through the arras, killing Polonius.
-Hamlet wonders if it's the King, and is disappointed to find that it isn't.
- Hamlet continues to speak of Gertrude's betrayal, and she begins to feel very guilty.
- The Ghost then appears, reminding Hamlet of his true task of getting revenge. Gertrude can't see the Ghost, therefore she thinks Hamlet is actually insane.
- Hamlet describes the Ghost to her on the Ghost's orders, and tells his mother that he isn't actually crazy, that it's been an act.
- Gertrude promises to keep his secret.
- Hamlet reminds his mother of his journey to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and he comments on the emphasis of Polonius' death.
- He then bids his mother goodnight and drags the body away.
Other than the death of his father, his mother's failed morality and incestuous decision to marry his uncle, appears to be the source of Hamlet's general unhappiness. The Closet Scene makes this very apparent. This also brings up the possibility that maybe it is less his father's death, but the
betrayal of his mother
that is fueling his
revenge, and antic
disposition. Though the
death of his father was
very clearly the trigger for his woe, Queen Gertrude's decisions appear to be what sustains it.
Sigmund Freud's Theory
Oedipal Complex: a theory coined by Sigmund Freud that states that children have a strong desire for their parents.

Freud believes that the reason for Hamlet's procrastination is a cause of his love for Gertrude.
That if he were to kill Claudius, Gertrude couldn't "love" Hamlet back.
Hamlet tells Gertrude to stay away from his semen-filled bed.
Hamlet only kills Claudius after the death of Gertrude.
Knowledge Gained/ Repercussions
This scene resulted in the death of the King's right hand man, which in turn, gave his son Laertes motive to kill Hamlet. As well, the Queen becomes aware of Hamlet's apparent antic disposition, making her the only ally of the king to possess such information. This puts her in a precarious position. With the reappearance of the Ghost, Hamlet finds his lust for revenge reinvigorated, allowing it to come to fruition much faster.
Hamlet's Antic Disposition
This scene is well known for many reasons, one of which being the evidence it provides that could both prove and disprove the legitimacy of Hamlet's apparent insanity. It is this issue that we find to be the most prominent, therefore we've assembled all arguments made for both topics in this ever popular scene.
Analysis of Hamlet's Act 3, Scene 4 - The Closet Scene
Actually Insane
We learn in the beginning of the play that Hamlet has difficulty making quick decisions, and is controlled by his moral compass, and yet he immediately decides to stab the rat behind the arras without hesitation. This proves contrary to his original behaviours.
Before, everyone could see the Ghost as well Hamlet but when the Ghost appeared in the Closet Scene only Hamlet can see it.
Hamlet is angry when he arrives, his entire demeanor appears to have changed.
When he murders Polonius, Hamlet calls him an "intruding fool" as if he felt no sympathy towards killing him.
Hamlet kills Polonius, believing it might be the king, which was the true goal of his antic disposition, killing Claudius.
Hamlet's sympathy for Polonius could speak to his still existing morality.
Still maintains the ability to make valid points to Gertrude and explain his frustration efficiently enough to have her question herself. A person who was actually insane would struggle with this.
Hamlet is still able to comprehend the gravity of taking a life by stating that heaven has, “punished me with this, and this with me” (III.iv.158).

Reasoning Behind Hamlet's Behaviours
Themes Presented
This scene effectively displays a few of the prominent themes concurrent with those of the whole play.
Deception: Polonius hides behind the arras to spy on Hamlet.
Revenge: The Ghost appears to remind Hamlet of his mission to kill Claudius.
Madness: or lack there of. Gertrude and Polonius are curious about Hamlet's insanity, with he explains is fake.
Stichomythia in The Closet Scene
Stichomythia is defined as a verbal confrontation between characters in a play or book. Most of The Closet Scene can be considered Stichomythia, though specifically the first argument between Hamlet and Gertrude, as well as Hamlet's considerably disrespectful response when Gertrude asks him not to speak to her in such a vile manner. The inclusion of this form of conflict in The Closet Scene helps to display how far into madness Hamlet has descended.
For instance, in the Closet Scene the Queen tells Hamlet "Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue" to which Hamlet retorts "Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue."
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