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Hamlet Commentary - Act III.

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Act III. Scene I. - A Room in the Castle.

Hamlet: "To be, or not to be: that is the question...."

The King's spies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report to King Claudius on Hamlet's behaviour. Hamlet is eager for King Claudius and Queen Gertrude to watch a play tonight which Hamlet has added lines to. King Claudius and Polonius listen in on Hamlet's and Ophelia's private conversation. Hamlet suspects Ophelia is spying on him and is increasingly hostile to her before leaving. King Claudius decides to send Hamlet to England, fearing danger in Hamlet since he no longer believes Hamlet is merely lovesick. The King agrees to Polonius' plan to eavesdrop on Hamlet's conversation with his mother after the play to hopefully learn more from Hamlet.

Within a room in at Elsinore Castle, King Claudius, accompanied by Queen Gertrude, Polonius and Ophelia, asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to explain further why Hamlet "puts on this confusion, / Grating so harshly all his days of quiet / With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?" (Why Hamlet acts as if he is mad), (Lines 1-4).

King Claudius' comment above that Hamlet is "putting on" a display of madness, clearly tells us that King Claudius no longer completely believes Polonius' theory that Hamlet is lovesick; instead it suggests Claudius knows Hamlet's lunacy is an act...

Rosencrantz pledges what he has seen, saying of Hamlet that "He does confess he feels himself distracted;" (Hamlet does confess to feeling distracted), (Line 5), Rosencrantz adding however that Hamlet will not tell him the "cause" of his distraction (Line 5).

Guildenstern backs up Rosencrantz, telling King Claudius that Hamlet has avoided giving explanations for his behaviour, but "with a crafty madness," (a cunning madness), instead "keeps aloof, / When we would bring him on to some confession / Of his true state" (keeps aloof, when we try to ask him his true mental state), (Lines 8-9).

Queen Gertrude now questions Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Line 10), learning that Hamlet did receive (welcome / greet) Guildenstern and Rosencrantz "Most like a gentleman" (politely like a gentleman), (Line 11).

The Queen also asks of Hamlet's general activity (Line 15), learning that Hamlet was enthusiastic and happy at the arrival of the players (actors) in the court, Rosencrantz saying that "there did seem in him a kind of joy" (Line 18).

Polonius now adds that Hamlet "beseech'd" or urged him to "entreat" or request that King Claudius and the Queen watch the play to be acted for Hamlet tonight.

King Claudius, who now seems very wary of Hamlet's emotional state, is very pleased to hear his nephew is happy again, saying "With all my heart; and it doth much content me / To hear him so inclin'd" (it pleases me with all my heart to hear that Hamlet is so inclined), (Line 24).

King Claudius now tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to "give him [Hamlet] a further edge, / And drive his purpose on to these delights" by which Claudius means for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to encourage Hamlet to follow this acting interest of his since it appears to make Hamlet happy (Line 25).

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern now depart, King Claudius asking his wife, Queen Gertrude to also leave since as Claudius explains, he and Polonius have arranged for Ophelia to meet Hamlet at which point the two men will hide so they can eavesdrop on Hamlet's and Ophelia's conversation to learn if Hamlet's behaviour is the result of "the affliction of his love" (Hamlet is lovesick), (Line 36) or not (Lines 29-37).

Queen Gertrude leaves, telling Ophelia that she wishes that her "good beauties be [are] the happy cause / Of Hamlet's wildness [madness];" in which case Queen Gertrude hopes and tells Ophelia that "I hope your virtues / Will bring him [Hamlet] to his wonted [normal] way again," (Line 39).

Ophelia respectfully replies to the Queen, "Madam, I wish it may" (Madam, I hope it does), (Line 41).

With the Queen now exiting, Polonius tells Ophelia where to walk, whilst Polonius and King Claudius hide behind an arras (a tapestry wall).

Polonius tells his daughter Ophelia to "Read on this book;" (Line 44) or be reading a book since Polonius explains reading a book "may colour / Your loneliness" or rather make it more convincing when Hamlet finds her (Line 45).

Polonius now mentions that under the guise of devotion, one can often do tasks (such as making Ophelia spy on Hamlet) that are evil and wrong which he likens to sugaring over or making less offensive, the devil.

Polonius: "We are oft [often] to blame in this, / 'Tis [it is] too much prov'd [proved], that with devotion's visage [face / appearance] / And pious action [devoutly religious or virtuous action / doing something with the guise that it is holy] we do sugar o'er [over] / The devil himself (we do sugar over or cover up / disguise the most vile, horrid things which of course are represented as devil-like)" (Lines 46-49).

King Claudius' conscience is now awakened by Polonius's remark since King Claudius in an aside to himself, agrees with Polonius' sentiment that one can commit wrong with all the right actions (Line 50), King Claudius explaining that "The harlot's [prostitute's] cheek, beautied with plastering art [made beautiful with makeup], / Is not more ugly [is not uglier] to the thing that helps it / Than is my deed [killing King Hamlet] to my most painted [false, hypocritical] word:" before exclaiming the weight of his guilt with the line "O heavy burden!" (O! how heavy is the burden of my guilt!), (Lines 52-54).

Hearing Hamlet coming, Polonius tells the King that they should withdraw or hide from view behind the arras before Hamlet sees them (Line 55).

Hamlet now enters and alone, speaks his third soliloquy, the famous " To be, or not to be:" soliloquy. Beginning with the lines "To be, or not to be: that is the question:" (Line 56), Hamlet asks himself whether it is more noble in the mind to suffer "The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," or to "take arms [fight] against a sea of troubles [a mountain of worries]," and by fighting or opposing them, to then end those worries (Lines 56-61).

Next he asks the question of whether to die or to sleep (Lines 64-90) pondering philosophically the difference between the two, before noticing Ophelia (Line 88).

Ophelia and Hamlet cordially greet each other (Lines 91-93) before Ophelia tells Hamlet that she has "remembrances of yours," (letters) that she says she had longed to "re-deliver;" (return) to him (Lines 94-96).

Hamlet pretends that he never sent them but Ophelia reminds him that he knows very well that he sent them to her. Ophelia now remarks on how those remembrances contained "words of so sweet breath compos'd [made of such sweet, beautiful phrases], (Line 98).

She tells Hamlet to deny this no further since as she says "Rich gifts wax poor [are made poor] when givers [like Hamlet] prove unkind" (Lines 100-101).

Hamlet, realizing that Ophelia is acting very cordially and unusually starts to indicate his distrust of Ophelia by saying "Ha, ha! are you honest?" (Line 103), Ophelia gasping "My lord!" (Line 104) before Hamlet then asks "Are you fair?" (Line 105) these being very rude questions to ask a lady and questions more appropriate to a man inquiring about a prostitute in this time...

We can sense that Hamlet already distrusts Ophelia and may be wondering who may be listening in to his conversation...

Ophelia now asks Hamlet what he means, Hamlet answering that "if you be honest [if you are honest] and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty" (Line 109).

Ophelia asks Hamlet whether beauty could have any better commerce than honesty, Hamlet answering that beauty and honesty form a paradox (Lines 111-116) before telling Ophelia that "I did love thee [you] once," (Line 117).

Ophelia replies that Hamlet certainly made her believe so and now Hamlet beginning to feel enraged, tells her it was a lie, "I loved you not" (Line 122).

Ophelia replies that she "was the more deceived" (Line 123) before Hamlet tells Ophelia to go to a nunnery; men such as Hamlet are not to be trusted.

Hamlet now asks her whether she would she be "a breeder of sinners?" Hamlet saying that he has committed acts that would make it better if his mother had not given birth to him (Lines 124-128).

Hamlet now says that he is proud, revengeful and ambitious, telling Ophelia that "We [men] are all arrant [aimless] knaves (fools / barbarians), all [of us];" (Line 132) before telling Ophelia to "believe none of us" and to go to a nunnery (Line 133).

Now in a line which clearly shows us that Hamlet totally distrusts Ophelia, Hamlet out of the blue, asks Ophelia "Where's your father?" (Line 135).

Ophelia who knows exactly where Polonius is, lies saying Polonius is "At home, my lord" (Line 136).

Hamlet,clearly realizing that Ophelia has betrayed him and must be working on King Claudius' behalf, insults King Claudius by saying " Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in's [in his] own house" before curtly saying "Farewell" to Ophelia. (Lines 136-139).

Note: The fact that Hamlet finishes his initial conversation to Ophelia quickly after asking about Polonius suggests Hamlet is angry at being betrayed by Ophelia since he wishes his so- called love to leave his sight immediately. Additionally, Hamlet's insult of King Claudius was so offensive and declamatory in its syntax that we must conclude its purpose is for Hamlet to prove to his spies that he knows they are there...

Hamlet now directly insults Ophelia, telling her that he would give her a plague as a dowry should they marry and that no matter how pure she is, she will not escape "calumny", telling her again to go to a nunnery but in a tone suggesting less that it is advise and more that it is an order (Lines 141-144).

Hamlet now adds that if Ophelia must marry then she should marry a fool, "for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them" before again telling her to go to a nunnery (Line 145).

Ophelia asks the heavenly powers to restore Hamlet or return him to normal, Hamlet launching another blistering attack on Ophelia, who he now clearly sees as having betrayed him by working for Claudius.

Hamlet tells Ophelia that "god hath [has] given you one face, and you make yourselves another:" adding "you jig [a ludicrous ballad], you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God's creatures," before Hamlet tells Ophelia that he will not take it, and to leave his sight immediately, since he tells Ophelia that she "hath made me mad" (Line 155).

After denouncing all marriages, Hamlet leaves, leaving Ophelia to mourn "what a noble mind is here o'er-thrown [overthrown]:" (Line 159) or as she later says, "Blasted with ecstasy:" (Line 169) which used to be so ordered and authoritative (Lines 160-161).

With Hamlet gone, King Claudius and Polonius emerge from the arras, with King Claudius certain that Hamlet is not in love, adding that what Hamlet said "Was not like madness" (Line 173).

King Claudius notices that Hamlet's so called madness may very well be an illusion, since he remarks that "There's something in his soul / O'er [over] which his melancholy [sadness / depression] sits on brood;" and adding that he has no doubt that "the hatch and the disclose [the real reason for his behaviour] / Will be some danger;" (will be dangerous to him), (Lines 174-176).

Certain that the real cause of Hamlet's behaviour poses a threat to him, King Claudius decides that to prevent any danger to his person by sending Hamlet away to England where distance alone should make him less of a threat than he is to King Claudius here in Denmark.

King Claudius:

I have in quick determination / Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England, / For the demand of our neglected tribute: / Haply the seas and countries different / With variable objects shall expel / This something-settled matter in his heart, / Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus / From fashion of himself.

(I have decided to send Hamlet to England in return for those neglected tributes that have not been paid to me there. Hopefully this change of location shall settle the problem in Hamlet's heart, which his thinking about is only worsening, putting him at odds with his normal character), (Lines 177-182)

King Hamlet now asks Polonius what he thinks of his idea, Polonius answering that he still feels that "The origin [the cause] and commencement [beginning] of his [Hamlet's] grief / Sprung [came] from neglected love [Ophelia's rejection of Hamlet]" (Line 185).

Polonius now scolds Ophelia since he is still certain she is the true cause of Hamlet's behaviour before suggesting that King Claudius may "do as you please;" (Line 189).

Polonius does however, receive King Claudius' permission to have Queen Gertrude speak with Hamlet after the play so that Polonius can learn more for the King by listening in to their conversation (Lines 187-195).

King Claudius ends the scene by both giving Polonius permission to spy on his wife and nephew's (Hamlet's) conversation and by warning of the danger, complacency represents...

King Claudius: "It shall be so [you, Polonius have my permission]: / Madness in great ones [Hamlet] must not unwatch'd go [Madness in great ones should not go unwatched]" (Lines 195-196).

Act III. Scene II. - A Hall in the Castle.

Queen Gertrude: "The lady doth protest too much, me-thinks."

The play Hamlet had added lines to is performed. The mime preceding the play which mimics the Ghost's description of King Hamlet's death goes unnoticed.

The main play, "The Murder of Gonzago" is performed, causing King Claudius to react which convinces Hamlet that his uncle did poison his father King Hamlet as the Ghost previously had told him...

Hamlet pretends not to know that the play has offended King Claudius. Hamlet agrees to speak with his mother in private...

The scene opens with Hamlet speaking with several players (actors) who will soon perform the evening's play. Hamlet urges these players to speak their lines with subtlety, "trippingly [gently] on the tongue;" instead of shouting them out bluntly like a town crier (Line 1).

Hamlet also urges the actors to gesticulate (use hand motions) lightly (Line 3), telling the actors to "acquire and beget a temperance [maintain self-restraint, or a moderation in their acting] that may give it [their performance] a smoothness" (Line 7) since this will better depict a "whirlwind of passion," in Hamlet's opinion (Line 5).

This advise and Hamlet's comments that "I would have such a fellow whipped [I would have someone whipped / beaten] for o'er-doing (overdoing / overacting) Termagant;" (a play), (Line 15), suggest that Hamlet is something of a connoisseur, if not an well-informed patron of theater.

Hamlet now tells the players to avoid overacting (Line 17), the First Player pledging to do so (Line 18).

Hamlet now goes on giving out advise, telling the players (actors) not to be too tame either and instead to "let your own discretion [judgment] be your tutor: suit [match] the action to the word, the word to the action;" (Lines 19-20).

Note: In Hamlet telling the actors how to match actions to words to make them believable, one cannot help but notice a certain irony that Hamlet who is also playing a role (madness) is advising the players on how they too can be more convincing in their own performances...

Hamlet continues his advise (Lines 20-40), telling the actors above all else to "o'erstep not the modesty of nature [do not overstep or go beyond the modesty of nature / do not be unrealistic];" since as Hamlet explains, "anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing [anything so overdone is away from the purpose of playing or acting]," and will only make the "judicious grieve [upset people who know theater];" and the "unskilful [ignorant] laugh," (Line 30).

Since Hamlet is hoping to flush out his uncle's (King Claudius) guilt with the player's performance, it is obvious that Hamlet would want the play to be subtle and not overdone; Hamlet needs a realistic play to get a response from his uncle, not a laugh.

After some further discussion (Lines 41-51) the players (actors) leave, and now Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter.

Hamlet asks "will the king [King Claudius] hear this piece of work [will the king watch the play]?" (Line 52), Polonius telling Hamlet that the King will watch the play as will Hamlet's mother Queen Gertrude before leaving (Lines 52-54).

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern now leave when Hamlet asks them to tell the players to prepare the play or to quote Hamlet, "make haste" (make speed, work quickly), (Line 54).

Horatio, Hamlet's trusted friend from the very first act (remember the guard platform at Elsinore Castle?) arrives, Hamlet immediately praising his one truly trustworthy friend (Line 60).

Horatio modestly plays down Hamlet's compliments and Hamlet now pledges that "bless'd [blessed] are those / Whose blood and judgement are so well co-mingled / That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger / To sound what stop she please," (blessed are those whose body and judgement are so well mixed that they are not able to be influenced by fortune as are most others), (Line 73).

Hamlet also adds that if knew such an honorable man, he would " wear him / In my heart's core, aye, in my heart of heart, / As I do thee (you, Horatio)", (Line 77).

Having finished complimenting Horatio as a man of good judgement, Hamlet tells his friend that "There is a play to-night before the king; [tonight the king will watch a play]" (Line 80).

Hamlet also explains that within the play he has added some lines in which "One scene of it comes near the circumstance / Which I have told thee of my father's death:" (one scene in the play closely re-enacts what I have told you about how my father, King Hamlet died), (Lines 80-82).

Hamlet now tells his trusted friend Horatio that when he sees the actors take to the stage, he should "Observe mine uncle;" (watch my uncle, King Claudius), (Line 85).

Hamlet explains that "if his occulted guilt / Do not unkennel in one speech, / It is a damned ghost that we have seen," (if my uncle's guilt does not reveal itself in one specific speech of the play, then it was a damned or evil Ghost that we saw, and what the Ghost told us is not true), (Lines 86-88).

Hamlet also adds that he too, will be watching King Claudius' expression during the play and that after it, he and Horatio will together decide whether King Claudius killed his father or not...

With the play about to begin, Hamlet bids his friend to take his place, telling his friend that for their plan to work, "I must be idle:" (I must be unassuming / I must lay low), (Line 95 and Lines 90-96)

King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, Polonius the Lord Chamberlain, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and "Others" now enter to watch the play...

Immediately upon entering, King Claudius asks Hamlet how he is. Hamlet replies "Excellent, i' faith;" (excellent, I believe), (Line 100), hiding his true feelings from King Claudius.

In what now becomes a very obvious war of words, King Claudius replies to Hamlet, "I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words are not mine" (you are telling me nothing with this answer, Hamlet), (Line 101).

Hamlet replies to the King "No, nor mine now" and asks Polonius if it is true that he once acted "i' (in / at) the university," (Line 105).

Polonius replies, that yes he did once act, Hamlet asking in what play?

Polonius answers that he acted in Julius Caesar (Line 109) which is a clear in-joke to viewers of this play, since Shakespeare had previously performed Julius Caesar at the Globe.

Further laughter ensues for the audience, when Polonius says "I was kill'd [killed] i' (in) the Capitol; Brutus killed me" (Line 109-110).

Viewers of this play would remember that the actor playing Polonius, played Caesar in Julius Caesar. Besides the in-joke that the actor who plays Polonius says in this play that he previously played Julius Caesar, we have the further irony that just as the actor playing Polonius was Julius Caesar, the actor playing Brutus is considered likely by many to have played Hamlet in this play, a character who will ultimately be killed by Polonius (who played Caesar in Julius Caesar).

Returning to the play, Hamlet makes another in-joke by saying to Polonius, "It was a brute [pun on Brutus who the actor playing Hamlet likely played] part of him to kill so capital a calf there" (Line 111).

Learning that the players (actors) are ready, Queen Gertrude asks Hamlet to "sit by me" (Line 116).

Tellingly, Hamlet declines; we already know from his soliloquies that Hamlet distrusts his mother almost as much as his "uncle", King Claudius.

Hamlet now insults his mother by saying "No, good mother [sarcasm], here's metal more attractive" (Line 117).

Noticing Hamlet's hostility, Polonius asks Claudius whether he noticed this (Line 119) and Hamlet takes his place at Ophelia's feet after asking her, "Lady, shall I lie in your lap? [An insult to Ophelia's virtue, continuing Hamlet's prostitute theme earlier in the play]" (Line 120).

Ophelia, insulted by this question, tells Hamlet "No, my lord" (Line 121), Hamlet pretending that what he really meant was "I mean, my head upon your lap?" (Line 122).

Ophelia replies "Ay, my lord" (Line 124) and now Hamlet continues to attack Ophelia by innocently asking, "Do you think I meant country matters?" (Did you think I was talking about intimate matters / sex?), (Line 124).

Ophelia, keen to maintain her virtue and reputation, politely replies "I think nothing, my lord" (Line 125).

Hamlet now moves in for the kill, offhandedly replying "That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs" (that is a good thought to have between a women's legs, a very vulgar remark whose imagery shows Hamlet has no respect at all for Ophelia whom he sees as a prostitute for selling her soul to King Claudius and using his affection for her for profit in spying on him), (Line 126).

Ophelia replies to this remark "What is, my lord?" (Line 128), Hamlet replying with the word "Nothing" (Line 129).

Ophelia now tells Hamlet that he is "merry," (Line 130). Hamlet agrees, saying why should he not be, his own mother looks so cheerful, after his father died but two hours ago (Lines 133-136).

Ophelia reminds Hamlet and the audience, that King Hamlet actually died two months ago (Line 137). Hamlet now sarcastically complains that it has been two months and his father's memory has not yet been totally forgotten. This will not do, he says and he now adds that there must be some hope now that a great man's reputation (King Hamlet) could actually last half a year beyond his death...

The "dumb-show" or short play preceding the main play begins (Line 147).

In this "dumb-show" or short play, the King and Queen in the short play enter, very lovingly showing their affection for one another... The two embrace each other, the Queen kneeling to make a protestation or declaration of love to the King.

The King lifts her up, placing his head upon her neck, and the King is laid gently upon a bank of flowers where he falls asleep. The Queen noticing her King asleep, gracefully leaves.

Now another man enters. He takes the King's crown off his head, kisses the crown and pours poison into the King's ears and then leaves.

The Queen returns and finding her King dead, "makes passionate action" or declaration of her grief.

The Poisoner now returns and attempts to woo or court the Queen with gifts. She rejects these to begin with, but eventually "accepts his [the Poisoner's] love."

Note: Though this play mirrors King Hamlet's death at the hands of King Claudius, neither King Claudius nor Queen Gertrude make any response to it. The reason suggested is that King Claudius is a man able to keep his emotions in check and that Queen Gertrude not knowing that King Hamlet was poisoned can not see any similarity to her own situation. While it is true Queen Gertrude is married to King Claudius, King Hamlet's murderer, only in Act III, Scene IV do we realize that Queen Gertrude had no idea that her previous husband (King Hamlet of Denmark)) was murdered by her current husband (King Claudius of Denmark).

The play ended, Ophelia asks Hamlet "What means this, my lord?" (What was the play about?), (Line 147).

Hamlet replies that the "dumb-show" which mimics King Claudius' and Queen Gertrude's behaviour is a "miching mallecho; it means mischief" (it is about scandalous deeds, it is about mischief and wrongdoing or evil), (Lines 148-149).

The Prologue (a person, like a narrator) now enters and Hamlet tells Ophelia who does not understand the meaning of the play, that the Prologue, "this fellow:" will explain to all, Ophelia wondering if the argument or plot of the main play has been foreshadowed or revealed by the "dumb-show" she has just watched (Line 150).

Hamlet also adds that the Prologue will also tell Ophelia whatever she chooses to show him (Lines 155-157).

Ophelia, annoyed, tells Hamlet that "You are naught, you are naught" and says she will watch the play instead (Line 158).

The Prologue speaks, saying "For us and for our tragedy, / Here stooping to your clemency, / We beg your hearing patiently" (Lines 160-163).

Hamlet wonders if this Prologue has any meaning (Line 164) to which Ophelia replies "'Tis [it is] brief, my lord" (it is brief / short my lord), (Line 165).

Hamlet agrees saying "As woman's love" (Line 166), a clear insult to Ophelia and Queen Gertrude who so quickly shifted her love from one man to another (Queen Gertrude shifting love her from King Hamlet to King Claudius and Ophelia her loyalty from Hamlet to King Claudius).

With the Prologue finished, the main play called "The Murder of Gonzago" is performed...

The plot is almost the same as the "dumb-show" with a King and Queen again declaring their love and devotion for each other. Interestingly the Player Queen (actor playing the Queen) pledges to never remarry (unlike Queen Gertrude!) should she lose her King and husband (Lines 228-235).

Hearing this Hamlet says "If she should break it now!" (Line 236) after the Player King tells his Queen that her words of loyalty are "deeply sworn" (deeply pledged), (Line 237) before the King excuses himself to go to sleep (Lines 167-241).

Note: The Player Queen in declaring her loyalty to her King is making the very same pledge of loyalty, Hamlet believes his mother has broken in remarrying. In Hamlet's eyes his mother should have stayed a widow after his father (King Hamlet) died and not remarried. It is this unspoken pledge that Hamlet believes his mother has broken that Hamlet cannot forgive his mother for...

The play now is interrupted by Hamlet who slyly asks his mother, Queen Gertrude, "Madam, how like you this play?" (Madam, how do you like this play / what do you think of it?), (Line 241).

Queen Gertrude now famously answers "The lady doth [does] protest too much, me-thinks [I think]" (Line 242), a line that suggests Queen Gertrude is starting to realize that the play is echoing her own behaviour in remarrying after her first husband's death.

As far as Queen Gertrude is concerned, this Queen is protesting far too much and we can sense she does not appreciate her life being mirrored by this play since she seeks to downplay the Player Queen's loyalty in the play which is clearly an embarrassment to her own...

To make this point absolutely clear, Hamlet now replies to his mother "O! but she'll keep her word" (O! but she will keep her word to be loyal and remain a widow unlike you), (Line 244).

King Claudius now interrupts this charming little mother-son conversation to ask Hamlet if he knows this play well and if it in any way is offensive or insulting, Hamlet replying that it is not offensive and that the players "poison in jest;" (poison or offend jokingly) and that the play has no offensiveness at all (Lines 245-248).

Satisfied with Hamlet's lie, King Claudius asks Hamlet what the play is called. Hamlet replies that it is called "The Mouse-trap" which is really a description for what Hamlet hopes this play will do; catch a mouse (King Claudius with his guilt as proof that he killed Hamlet's father) and shame his mother (Line 250).

Hamlet now explains the plot to King Hamlet, saying that the murder happens in Vienna, the Duke's name is Gonzago, his "loyal" wife, Baptista. Hamlet cheekily tells the King that this play is a "knavish (cunning / nasty) piece of work:" but says this should not matter since the play's action (murder) should not touch or bother "we [Hamlet sarcastically means King Claudius and Queen Gertrude] that have free souls," (Line 256) should it?

The play now continues with the Player (actor) playing Lucianus entering the stage. Hamlet tells the King that Lucianus is a nephew to the "king" in the story just as Hamlet is a nephew to King Claudius.

Ophelia tells Hamlet that "you are a good chorus, my lord" (Line 259) by which she means he is a good commentator / guide for the play.

Hamlet returns the compliment by nastily remarking that he could interpret her love "if I could see the puppets dallying", a clear reference to the fact he knows Ophelia does not love without shadows listening in (King Claudius, Polonius and Queen Gertrude).

Ophelia politely remarks that Hamlet is "keen, my lord," (Line 262) to which Hamlet again insults Ophelia by crudely replying "It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge [to reduce my spite]" (Line 264).

Having finished his spiteful remarks, Hamlet beckons the actor playing Lucianus to "Begin, murderer;" and to "leave thy damnable faces [stop smirking]," and begin his part of the play (murdering Gonzago), (Lines 266-269).

"Lucianus" now recites his lines, which describe him poisoning Gonzago by pouring poison into his ear as he sleeps (Lines 270-275).

Hamlet who is continuing his running commentary of the play, explains to all that Lucianus is now poisoning Gonzago in the garden whom. Hamlet also adds that now we will see how "the murderer gets the love of Gonzago's wife" (how the murderer, a clear parallel to King Claudius gets the love of Gonzago's wife, a parallel of course to Queen Gertrude), (Line 280).

This last line finally rouses King Claudius since Ophelia announces that "The king rises" a sure sign that he is displeased.

Hamlet, enjoying all this and feigning innocence says "What! frighted with false fire?" (What, was King Claudius frightened by a fictitious story or false fire?), (Line 282).

Queen Gertrude asks her husband how he is and Polonius fearing the King is upset calls for the play to end (Lines 283-284).

King Claudius meanwhile ushers his first words since realizing the play mirrors his own killing by saying "Give me some light: away!" a clear sign that King Claudius is alarmed and seeking to be as far a way as possible from his current feelings (Line 285).

Lights are called for, everyone leaving except for Hamlet and Horatio who now alone, can compare notes on what they thought of King Claudius' behaviour (Lines 287-301).

Hamlet, certain that King Claudius did kill his father, tells Horatio that "I'll take the ghost's word for a thousand pound" (Line 302), asking Horatio if he "Didst perceive?" (Line 303) or also notice King Claudius' reaction to the play?

With Horatio confirming that King Claudius did react to the part of the play where the poisoning happened, a clear sign of guilt, a jubilant (happy) Hamlet calls for music (Lines 304-312).

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, King Claudius' spies we will remember, enter, telling Hamlet that King Claudius is "in his retirement marvellous distempered" (King Claudius having left is extremely angry), (Line 317).

Hamlet pretends not to understand, asking the two courtiers if Claudius is distempered or angry "With drink, sir?" (Line 319).

Guildenstern replies no, King Claudius is distempered "with choler", a type of sickness to which Hamlet tells Guildenstern that he would be better off telling this to King Claudius' doctor (Line 320).

Guildenstern also tells Hamlet that his mother, Queen Gertrude has sent for him and would like to speak with him in private in her closet before Hamlet goes to bed, Hamlet deliberately pretending not to understand or comply with Guildenstern's request on his mother's behalf (Lines 329-350).

Before leaving, Rosencrantz tells Hamlet that "you once did love me" (Line 355), Hamlet making it fairly clear that he no longer trusts him (Line 356).

Nonetheless when Rosencrantz asks Hamlet what the cause is of his "distemper?" (anger or madness in this context), Hamlet deceives his so-called friend by saying he lacks "advancement" or has no ambition, a message he clearly wants King Claudius to receive (Line 361).

Rosencrantz asks how a man who has "the voice of the king himself for your succession in Denmark?" can lack ambition but Hamlet replies with a baffling proverb instead, denying Rosencrantz any further information (Lines 362-365).

Several Players (Line 366) with recorders (musical instruments) arrive and Hamlet takes the opportunity to humiliate his so-called friend Guildenstern.

Hamlet does this by repeatedly asking Guildenstern to play upon a pipe or play an instrument. Guildenstern repeatedly refuses, saying he cannot play until Hamlet in rage tells his so called "friend" that 'Tis [it is] as easy as lying;" (it is as easy as lying which you already do), (Line 379).

Guildenstern protests that he does not have the skill to play but Hamlet tells him "You would play upon me; [you would use me] you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery [you would try to learn all my secrets]; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, ex-cellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak" (Lines 386-395).

Finishing his insult, Hamlet asks Guildenstern if he thought he was easier to play than an instrument before telling him "Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret [worry, vex, annoy, harass] me, you cannot play upon me [use me]" (Line 396).

Polonius now enters, telling Hamlet that Queen Gertrude wishes to speak with him and urgently; Hamlet confusing Polonius by talking about a cloud and arguing over what it looks like before agreeing to seeing his mother (Lines 401-409).

Happy that Hamlet will see his mother, Polonius leaves followed by Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, leaving Hamlet once again alone to voice his thoughts...

Again in soliloquy, Hamlet urges himself to be firm in his purpose and not to let mercy, pity or love cloud his resolve to punish his mother, though he later says he will not physically harm her.

Hamlet tells himself, "O heart! lose not thy nature; let not ever / The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom; / Let me be cruel, not unnatural; / I will speak daggers to her [I will hurt her], but use none [but I will not physically hurt her];" before exiting (Lines 417-419).

Act III. Scene III. - A Room in the Castle.

King Claudius of Hamlet: "I like him not...."

King Claudius admits his growing fear of Hamlet and decides to send him overseas to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in order to protect himself. Alone, King Claudius reveals in soliloquy his own knowledge of the crime he has committed and realizes that he cannot escape divine justice...

Within a room in the castle, King Claudius expresses his feelings about Hamlet to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. " I like him not," (Line 1) he says, adding that he does not feel it is safe anymore to have Hamlet so close to them "To let his madness range [continue]" (Line 2).

By these lines we can clearly see that King Claudius' prudent concern about Hamlet has grown to fear following the play and it is a fear King Claudius is reluctant to show his subjects, hence the understatement.

Fearing Hamlet, King Claudius therefore tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that "I your commission will forthwith dispatch [I will send you away], / And he [Hamlet] to England shall along with you [and I will send Hamlet away with you to England]" (Line 4).

King Claudius finishes his thought by saying "The terms of our estate may not endure / Hazard so dangerous as doth hourly grow / Out of his lunacies" (our hold or reign may not endure the danger or is not safe from the threat that grows by the hour from Hamlet's increasing lunacy or madness. He is unpredictable and we are safer without him), (Lines 4-6).

Guildenstern pledges loyally "To keep those many many bodies safe / That live and feed upon your majesty" (we will keep safe the many many people who rely and benefit from your rule), (Line 8).

Rosencrantz echoes this support by likening the King to a very large "massy wheel," to which many many lives are attached to its massive spokes. If that wheel were to break, many others who benefit from the King will also suffer, Rosencrantz eloquently saying "The cease [end] of majesty [a King or Queen's rule] / Dies not alone," (Line 15).

Finishing his pledge of loyalty, Rosencrantz adds that "Never alone / Did the king sigh, but with a general groan" (Line 23) a reference again to the influence the King has on his subjects such as Guildenstern and Rosencrantz who both "live and feed" upon King Claudius' majesty or rule (Line 10).

King Claudius wishes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a speedy voyage, both men now exiting (Lines 24-26).

Polonius enters, telling King Claudius that Hamlet is now on his way to his mother's (Queen Gertrude's) closet or private chamber. Polonius tells King Claudius that he will hide behind an arras or hanging tapestry to hear what the two will say.

Polonius also compliments King Claudius by remarking how wisely King Claudius had said that Hamlet is likely to be truthful to his mother. Compliments complete, Polonius departs to take up his hiding position, promising to reveal all to King Claudius later (Lines 27-35).

With Polonius alone, King Claudius reveals his thoughts to us in his soliloquy. We quickly learn that King Claudius is a troubled man, saying "O! my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; / It hath the primal eldest curse upon't [upon it]; / A brother's murder!" (Line 36).

By this King Claudius means his crime is vile, foul-smelling and undeniably evil since his crime is the same as that committed by the first ever murderer, Cain who was cursed for murdering his brother by God.

King Claudius now goes on to lament that he cannot pray since "My stronger guilt defeats by strong intent;" (Line 40) by which King Claudius means he cannot pray since his guilt prevents him from praying which is what he wants to do.

King Claudius however realizes now that prayer can redeem him; God does not deny forgiveness to those who pray for it. Encouraged by this thought, King Claudius asks himself how he should start his prayer... "'Forgive me my foul murder?'" he asks himself, unsure (Line 52).

However King Claudius now realizes that simply praying for forgiveness will not redeem him; to be forgiven he must reverse as much as possible the harm he has done as well (restitution).

But King Claudius knows that "I am still possess'd [I still have] / Of those effects for which I did the murder, / My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen" (Lines 55), asking himself whether he can be pardoned yet still enjoy the fruits of his sin (his reign, his ambition and Queen Gertrude). Significantly King Claudius also does not say he actually wants to give these up.

King Claudius also mentions that unlike life where justice can be bought, in heaven, he cannot so easily alter his destiny...

Realizing that he cannot undo everything he has done (murdering King Hamlet for example) and that he would not want to give up what he now has (Queen Gertrude and his reign), King Claudius despairs, saying "O wretched state! O bosom [breast / chest/ heart] black as death!" before crying out in desperation and fear "Help, angels! make assay;" before telling his "stubborn knees;" to bow or kneel (Lines 65-68).

Next, King Claudius begs his heart "with strings of steel" to instead "Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe" before finally realizing his fate is now out of his hands and hoping "All may be well" (I hope everything will be okay) (Lines 68-72).

Have totally expressed his fear of impending doom to his audience, King Claudius retires and kneels in preparation for prayer...

Hamlet now enters, noticing that King Claudius is kneeling in prayer. Hamlet explains to us that "Now might I do it pat," (now I could kill him) but that he will not.

Hamlet explains that his father, King Hamlet was murdered in his sleep and so could not make his peace with god and instead died "full of bread, / With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;" (Line 80).

Explaining that because of the way King Hamlet died, he has no idea if his father is in heaven or not, Hamlet decides not to kill King Claudius now; to truly avenge his father, he must make sure King Claudius goes straight to hell.

If Hamlet kills King Claudius at prayer, he risks sending his father's murderer to heaven (Line 74).

Hamlet now heads off for his mother's closet or private bedchamber. King Claudius rises and advances towards Hamlet, saying "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:" (my words come out but my thoughts do not) adding that "Words without thoughts never to heaven go" (Line 97).

Act III. Scene IV. - The Queen's Apartment.

Hamlet: "Mother, you have my father much offended."

Queen Gertrude attempts to scold her son but Hamlet instead scolds his mother for her actions. Queen Gertrude cries out in fear, and Polonius echoes it and is stabbed through the arras ( subdivision of a room created by a hanging tapestry) where he was listening in to Hamlet and Queen Gertrude. Hamlet continues scolding his mother but the Ghost reappears, telling Hamlet to be gentle with the Queen. For her part, Queen Gertrude agrees to stop living with King Claudius, beginning her redemption....

The scene opens to Polonius telling Queen Gertrude to scold Hamlet for his recent behaviour whilst Polonius will listen from behind the arras, his hiding place.

Hamlet now calls out "Mother, mother, mother!", Polonius hiding from view as Hamlet nears (Line 5).

Hamlet now arrives, asking his mother, "what's the matter?" (Line 8).

Queen Gertude replies "Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended" (Hamlet, you have greatly offended your father, a reference to King Claudius), (Line 10).

Hamlet matches his mother's tone, telling her "Mother, you have my father much offended" (Mother, your actions have offended my dead father, King Hamlet), (Line 11).

The Queen ignores this telling Hamlet "you answer with an idle tongue" (Line 12) but Hamlet replies "Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue" (Line 13).

The Queen tells Hamlet, "Why, how now, Hamlet! (Hamlet, behave yourself!), but Hamlet asks his mother again what's wrong (Line 13).

Queen Gertrude asks Hamlet if he has forgotten who she is. Hamlet replies no, he has not, and he rudely describes her as "the queen," and "your husband's brother's wife;" (Line 16).

Hamlet also makes clear his shame by saying "And,-would it were not so!-you are my mother" (and though I wish you were not, you are my mother!), (Line 16).

The Queen prepares to leave but Hamlet insists she sit down until as he says, he can "set you up a glass / Where you may see the inmost part of you" (set up a mirror so that you can see what you are doing and see what you really are), (Line 20).

The Queen, panicking, asks Hamlet "thou wilt not murder me?" (You will not kill me, will you?), (Line 21).

Panicking further, Queen Gertrude cries "Help, help, ho!" (Line 22).

Polonius from behind the arras, forgets that he is hiding and echoes Gertrude's cries, shouting "What, ho! help! help! help!" (Line 23) until Hamlet notices the sound, draws out his sword, and stabs Polonius through the arras (hanging tapestry, forming a wall) after shouting "How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat [modern equivalent, a dollar], dead!" (Line 23).

Polonius, stabbed, says "O! I am slain" (O! I am dead), (Line 24).

The Queen asks what Hamlet has done, Hamlet asking, "is it the king?" that he has killed (Line 26).

Still thinking he has stabbed King Claudius, Hamlet agrees with his mother that the stabbing was indeed "A bloody deed! almost as bad, good mother, / As kill [killing] a king, and marry [marrying] with his brother", the first time Hamlet has truly spelt out to his mother why he disrespects her (Line 27).

Queen Gertrude is surprised, our first indication that she did not know that King Hamlet was murdered (Line 29).

Lifting up the arras and discovering he has killed Polonius not the King Claudius, Hamlet finds the time to insult Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain, calling him "Thou [you] wretched, rash, intruding [interfering] fool," (Line 31).

Queen Gertrude now asks Hamlet what she has done to him, to earn such hatred from Hamlet's tongue (Line 39).

Hamlet answers by saying it was such an act "That blurs the grace and blush of modesty, / Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose / From the fair forehead of an innocent love / And sets a blister there," and "makes marriage vows / As false as dicers' oaths;" (Lines 40-45).

The Queen asks what Hamlet means and Hamlet tells his mother to look at two pictures, one which is of King Hamlet, the other King Claudius (Lines 56-63).

Hamlet describes each one differently, using glowing, affectionate and respectful terms for King Hamlet and negative terms for King Claudius.

Hamlet chides Queen Gertrude for marrying a man, barely half the man King Hamlet was, asking her how she could possibly call her marriage with King Claudius love, Hamlet saying "You cannot call it love," (Line 68).

He ruthlessly asks his mother what she could possibly have seen in King Claudius, Queen Gertrude pleading for Hamlet to stop his merciless scolding (Lines 68-88).

Hamlet continues, finally accusing his mother of lustfulness, when he describes her actions in vivid, vulgar and detailed terms...

Hamlet: "Nay, but to live / In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, / Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love / Over the nasty sty,-" (Line 91).

The Queen begs Hamlet to stop, telling him "These words like daggers enter in mine [my] ears;" (Line 94), Hamlet now describing King Claudius to Queen Gertrude as "A murderer, and a villain;" (Line 96) and a man not nearly as great as King Hamlet before the Ghost of King Hamlet reappears.

Hamlet believes the Ghost has reappeared to scold Hamlet for his delay in avenging his murder but the Ghost has other goals and in particular is worried for Queen Gertrude.

The Ghost tells Hamlet to stop his merciless attacks, saying that he has appeared to "whet thy [your] almost blunted purpose" (remind Hamlet of what he must do to King Claudius), (Line 110) and tells him to "Speak to her [Queen Gertrude], Hamlet" (Line 114).

Queen Gertrude thinks her son is mad (Line 105). Hamlet does as the Ghost says, speaking gently with his mother who asks Hamlet to "Upon the heat and flame of thy [your] distemper [madness] / Sprinkle cool patience" (Line 122).

This peace however is quickly destroyed by Hamlet's frantic attempts to show his mother the Ghost which she does not see (Lines 124-134), this only causing Queen Gertrude to further believe her son is truly mad...

Queen Gertrude explains her son's vision of the Ghost as a hallucination or "ecstasy" (Line 139), (Lines 136-138) but Hamlet tells her it is not madness; he is normal (Lines 140-141).

Hamlet now tells his mother to listen to him and to "Assume a virtue," [become virtuous again], Hamlet telling his mother to "go not to mine uncle's [King Claudius'] bed;" and to not share his bed ever again but instead to sleep separately from him (Line 159).

Looking now at Polonius' dead body (Line 173), Hamlet expresses regret, saying "I will bestow him, and will answer well / The death I gave him" (Line 176).

Famously saying "I must be cruel only to be kind:" (Line 178), Hamlet now asks his mother not to tell King Claudius anything that he has said except that should King Claudius ask of him, to reply that Hamlet is essentially "not in madness, / But mad in craft" (Lines 181-196).

Queen Gertrude now assures Hamlet that she will not reveal a word to Claudius (Line 197).

Hamlet tells Queen Gertrude that he must now go to England, surprising his mother with this news and telling her that "my two schoolfellows [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern], / Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd," (my two school friends whom I would trust as much as adders or fanged snakes ready to strike), are trying to lead him to "knavery" (Line 205) or wrongdoing (Line 202).

Assuring his mother that he will instead "blow them at the moon" (Line 209) or punish them, Hamlet he wishes his mother goodnight after announcing that he will dispose of the Lord Chamberlain's (Polonius') body: "I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room" (Line 212).

The scene ends with gruesome sight of Hamlet dragging Polonius' body off to the neighbouring room...

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