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Hamlet Act 3 Scene 3 and Scene 4
Transcript of Hamlet Act 3 Scene 3 and Scene 4
Claudius, seeing Hamlet as a threat, decides to send him to England. He tells R and G to acts as Hamlet's escort.
Claudius kneels in church and attempts to pray. In soliloquy he expresses his guilt and laments his inability to pray for forgiveness.
Hamlet comes across Claudius kneeling. He is prepared to kill the King but, ironically puts it off, giving the reason that Claudius will go to heaven having just repented.
Rosencrantz articulates the importance of kingship, an idea that is central to the play. He explains the death of a monarch has consequences for society. The great irony here is that he is saying this to Claudius, a man who has committed regicide.
While this scene encourages some sympathy for Claudius, it can be seen as a low moment for Hamlet. Hamlet's desire to see Claudius eternally damned, seems particularly cruel. Hamlet plans to kill Claudius when he is sinning.
The murder of Polonius is 'a rash and bloody deed'. It is interesting to note that Hamlet is capable of acting if he doesn't have the time to consider his actions. In the Prayer Scene, it is Hamlet's reflection the state of Claudius' soul that prompts him to spare Claudius, whereas in this scene, ('the Closet Scene') Hamlet does not take the time to think about his actions.
Gertrude is intimidated by Hamlet's hysterical verbal attack and is in a state of shock as Polonius' body lies on the floor. Her words therefore cannot be seen as a genuine expression of guilt or as an act of self preservation.
Act 3 Scene 4
Hamlet comes to Gertrude's chamber. Polonius hides himself behind the arras.
Hamlet chides his mother for marrying Claudius.
Gertrude becomes afraid of her son and cries for help. Polonius cries out in response. Hamlet, thinking it is Claudius, stabs and kills Polonius through the arras.
Hamlet continues to accuse his mother of dishonouring Old Hamlet. She expresses shame. This may be genuine or feigned for Hamlet's benefit.
Hamlet sees the Ghost arrive but Gertrude cannot see it. She believes that Hamlet is mad and imagining his vision.
Hamlet calls on his mother to rebuff Claudius' romantic attention.
Gertrude listens to Hamlet as he explains that he is to be sent to England. He says that he knows R and G intend to harm him on the journey. Hamlet suggests that he has a scheme to turn this to his favour.
Hamlet drags Polonius' body away.
Hamlet Act 3 Scene 3 and Scene 4
Clearly unsettled by The Mousetrap, Claudius now sees Hamlet as a serious threat and decides to send him to England. Furthermore, The Mousetrap has pricked Claudius' conscience. His guilt is laid bare in The Prayer Scene as he agonises over his crime. It is difficult not to have some sympathy for the King as he gives voice to his shame and regret:
'O' my offence is rank: it smells to heaven'.
Claudius imagines his hand thick with his brother's blood; he sees no way for his sin to be absolved so terrible is his crime. Claudius recognises his failure to make peace with God. Prompted by greed and ambition he has damned himself:
'My words fly up, my thoughts remain below./ Words without thoughts never to heaven go.'
In a moment of supreme dramatic irony, Hamlet belives that Claudius is praying and gives this as his reason for not killing the King: '
A villain kills my father, and for that,/I, his sole son, do this same villain send/To heaven.'
However, Hamlet does not realise that Claudius is unable to pray.
However, Hamlet's motivation for sparing Claudius is ambiguous. It might show his inability to act and lack of determination or his lack of mettle to stab a man who is kneeling defenceless in a church.
Dramatic irony - when the audience knows something of which the characters on stage are unaware.
The killing of Polonius has serious consequences. It will eventually lead to Ophelia's madness and to the emergence of Laertes as an avenger.
Hamlet expresses little remorse for killing Polonius. When he discovers that it is Polonius whom he has killed, Hamlet speaks dismissively of this '
wretched, rash, intruding fool'
. He contemptuously drags Polonius' lifeless body offstage. Hamlet now sees himself as acting out of a divine duty and Polonius' death is simply unfortunate.
There is great irony in the argument between Hamlet and Gertrude. Gertrude has summoned Hamlet so that she may rebuke him and discover the source of his madness. However, it is Hamlet who admonishes her. He tells his mother that he wishes to show her a reflection of her own soul:
'You go not till I set you up a glass/Where you may see the the inmost part of you.'
Hamlet then proceeds to blame her for marrying Claudius; he shames his mother by pointing to her lustful nature. Hamlet's disgust is clear from the repulsive animal imagery he uses to describe her marriage bed '
the nasty sty'
Gertrude's response suggests that Hamlet's accusations have struck a chord with her conscience: '
O Hamlet, speak no more'
However, it could be argued that Gertrude's response is an effort to appease the emotionally overwrought Hamlet.
Hamlet urges Gertrude to rebuff Claudius and also to keep secret the fact that his madness is feigned. Although Gertrude ultimately remains with Claudius, she does keep Hamlet's secret. She never betrays her son. Is Gertrude truly sorry for the
'black and grained spots
' upon her soul? If so why does she remain with Claudius?
The Ghost makes an important reappearance in this scene. The Ghost serves to remind Hamlet of his duty to avenge: 'The visitation/Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose'. Some commentators see the Ghost as evidence of Hamlet's fraying mental state. They point to the fact that only Hamlet sees the Ghost. It musat be remembered that when the Ghost first appeared Marcellus, Barnardo and Horatio all saw it too. The 'reality' of the Ghost is therefore open to interpretation.