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Commentary On Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2 From Line 216 "Hamlet Madam, How Like You..." To Line 249 "Ophelia The King Rises"

1928 words - 8 pages

The passage under study is taken from Shakespeare's Hamlet which was first performed in 1601 at the Globe Theatre.The King, that is Hamlet's father, is dead and his uncle Claudius has already married his mother, the Queen Gertrude. Prince Hamlet then meets the ghost of late Hamlet who demands him to exact revenge from Claudius as he has poisoned him. Next, Claudius and Polonius his adviser apply themselves to trying to find the reason why Hamlet has become so upset notably confronting him with Ophelia who has rejected his love following her father Polonius's command. As for the Prince, he is determined to feign madness to gain time and prove Claudius's guilt. The coming of a band of players allows him to set a trap for the latter as he requests a play dealing with similar deeds to Claudius's to be performed. The excerpt under study is extracted from the middle of that performance.Prince Hamlet's so-called madness supplies him with a excuse to play on words. Moreover, his scheme makes him enthusiastic and talkative. So, we will firstly examine Hamlet's behaviour in interaction with Claudius's. We will also consider to what extent his process is successful. Secondly, his conduct towards his mother, Ophelia and the others characters present will be studied.For starters, the conflict that opposes Hamlet the protagonist to Claudius the antagonist constitutes the basis of the plot. Hamlet as the hero of the revenge play must actually avenge his father's crime. The band of strolling players who go to the castle of Elsinore agrees to perform The Murder of Gonzago which refers to Claudius and Gertrude's very actions. Hamlet indeed wants to have an evidence of Claudius's guilt since he fears the ghost with whom he talked to be an evil one, a "damnèd ghost" as he says (p.252). He hopes that Claudius will react. In a soliloquy uttered in act 2, scene 2, he actually says that he"ha[s] heardThat guilty creatures sitting at a playHave by the very cunning of the sceneBeen struck so to the soul that presentlyThey have proclaimed their malefactions"In the excerpt, Hamlet's scheme puts him in an excellent mood. He cannot help talking and giving details about the play. He is highly ironical insofar as he tells his father-in-law that "poison in jest" is "No offence i' th' world" (l.220-221). The discrepancy between the assertion and what is implied here is so big that we can easily state Hamlet's tone to be sardonic, that is mocking, cold and bitter. He is provoking Claudius. Nevertheless, the latter keeps calm, what encourages Hamlet to carry on.Next, when he is asked the title of the play, Hamlet substitutes The Mousetrap for the real one, The Mousetrap being more eloquent with regard to his goal than The Murder of Gonzago. The title he gives is a metaphor which highlights the use of the play-within-the-play, that of catching the conscience of the King. And here again, the Prince would not only answer the question, he would also add details aimed notably at...

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