Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hamlet Act 3, Scene 4

Please use this space to comment on scene 4. Think about what we discussed on Thursday, with regard to the thematic implications of ghosts.

You may also use this space to comment on the film clip below from scene 3.

Also, list any questions you have for Mr. P. to cover on Monday. These question may pertain to the films, text or discussions we had in class.


  1. Act IV is the first time that Hamlet confronts his mother about her marriage to Claudius. Until now, Hamlet has always taken his anger out on his uncle, but he never really blames his mother. Once again, the queen seems very defenseless. Hamlet goes on a long rant about how disgusted he is with her, and all she does is act even more pathetic: “O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.” Also, it’s interesting that they never even discussed the scene in the play that Hamlet made for the actors. I thought that Gertrude would mostly question him about that, but she seems more concerned with Hamlet’s overall well-being.

    Hamlet once again makes Polonius seem like quite an idiot, killing him with one swing of his sword. It’s ironic though that Hamlet has so much anxiety over killing his uncle, but he seems to brush off Polonius’ murder like it was nothing. It’s also interesting to think about the father-son relationships. Now, both Hamlet and Laertes are left father-less.

    Question for discussion: Why couldn’t Gertrude see the ghost? At first I thought maybe Hamlet was the only one who could see him, but then again, Francisco, Barnardo and Marcellus saw the ghost earlier in the play.

    Response to the clip: I personally think this version is a weak performance of what could be a very powerful scene. While I read the scene, I pictured Claudius to be full of rage, shouting out his confession. Instead though, this version shows Claudius being very calm… he even smiles a little bit around 2:00. He also doesn’t act nearly as guilty as I imagined. He’s just a bit ticked off that Hamlet knows he killed King Hamlet. Lastly, I pictured the praying to be much more emotional. I thought Claudius would dramatically fall to his knees, but he slowly gets down on his knees and almost whispers his prayer.

  2. Wait… Polonius died…? This sort of irrational action by Hamlet makes me doubt his sanity even more. His rash decision to slay Polonius (72) almost reminds me of Vincent Van Gogh, cutting off his ear for the young prostitute that was told in his biography, “Lust For Life.” There is some sort of built up fervor that explodes at that very second. His decision to slay whoever was behind the curtain points towards how Hamlet is indifferent to possible consequences of murdering his “father-uncle”.

    But anyways: ghosts. I found it odd Shakespeare’s decision for Hamlet’s mother not seeing the ghost. Did not the guardsmen see the ghost earlier on in the play? Then why is this ghost invisible to the one closest to the ghost, the wife? But as I thought on it further, I concluded although the queen did not physically see the ghost of the king, she was equally as affected by the ghost as say, Hamlet, through the interrogation Hamlet onslaught. He half with anger and half verging on madness, accused the queen of incest and murder all throughout the scene. The queen felt the king’s legacy and presence well in her life because she knew the almost “betrayal” she has brought on to her deceased husband. Furthermore, because of her obvious guilt in the scene, I am convinced she knows Claudius killed his brother- there is no other explanation for her reeling guilt!

    Anyhow, again, that was a very moving scene, although personally so far Act III Scene III was by far my favorite. The clip below which illustrated the aforementioned scene I believe was a great performance- especially when King Claudius was praying and when Hamlet approached him almost maniacally. His eyes, fired with madness, is exactly how I imagine Hamlet.

  3. I want to comment a bit more on what Eunice mentioned in the first paragraph: the killing of Polonius.
    Like Eunice, I honestly think Polonius's murder is proof that Hamlet's insanity is not all an act. Hamlet stabs behind the curtain at Polonius because he believes it may be Claudius, hiding behind the curtain. This alone seems like an odd gesture, there was always a chance it wasn't Claudius and I for one would at least draw the curtain before stabbing.
    After stabbing Polonius, Hamlet barely mentions it, only calling Polonius a "wretched, rash, intruding fool." Then he moves on to other topics, namely yelling at his mother.
    The only other mention of Polonius is at the end, Hamlet says "heaven hath pleased it so, to punish me with this, and this with me" saying he does understanding that killing Polonius is a sin. As well at the end of the scene, Hamlet drags Polonius's body away. Literally, the stage direction is"Hamlet dragging in Polonius."

    Honestly the first time I read through the section I didnt even realize Polonius was dead, thats how little it was mentioned, The fact that Hamlet would take a murder of an innocent person so flippantly, and then just drag his body off at the end, no big deal, seems to me like he is sincerely insane. Though throughout the scene he trys to convince his mother that he is just pretending to be mad, the fact that only he can talk to the ghost and that he kills Polonius makes me believe he actually is insane.

    As for the film clip, I totally agree with Gabrielle, Claudius should have been way more mad! It would have made it much more entertaining.

  4. So much was revealed about the characters of Hamlet, the Queen, and Cladius that it seems to me to be one of the more important scenes in the entire play.

    In class, we talked about how Hamlet is very much a coward in his actions. He lives by the ghost of his father and can not make any decisions for himself. I did realize, however, that when using his words, Hamlet is very bold, possibly too much so. We see this when Hamlet approaches his mother. For me, although we know that Hamlet means well (even though he is mad...), this scene was a little bit difficult to read because it seemed as if he was slowly killing his mother with the words that he spoke. It seems as if she knows that marrying Claudius so quickly was wrong, but it is obvious that she loves Hamlet very much and that his words are very hurtful. Towards the end of Hamlet's "speech", the Queen keeps saying things like, "O speak to me no more. These words like daggers enter in my ears. No more, sweet Hamlet". It is as if she is being tortured. This scene lead me to think that perhaps Hamlet's words are his own but his actions belong to King Hamlet.

    As far as Polonius' death, I realized that Hamlet killed Polonius because he thought it might have been Claudius who was spying on them, however his reaction when he found out that he had killed Polonius was extremely conservative. The Queen did not really seem to react either, and Polonius' body remained in the room with them, through the ghost scene, until the end of the act. Like Gabrielle said, it is interesting that Hamlet and Laertes are now fatherless. As I just flipped through the pages of the last two acts, I noticed that Laertes has a pretty big role.

    Lastly, I was also wondering why the Queen could not see her first husbands ghost. I think that it may be because, unlike Hamlet, she is not haunted by his ghost. If this is true, Shakespeare is revealing that the Queen did not marry Claudius for some corrupt reason, but because she actually did love him.

    I really liked the film clip below. One thing that struck me was how Claudius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern were standing at the beginning of the scene. The two courtiers were facing each other while Claudius was between and slightly behind them. I reminded me distinctly of a marriage. Perhaps the director made this choice because they were making vows to discover the reason for Hamlet's madness? I'm not so sure, but the rest of the clip was also very well acted in my opinion.

  5. I agree with Gabrielle and Dana about the film clip; something was definitely lacking in Patrick Stewart's performance as Claudius. He did not sound as apologetic as I pictured Claudius when reading the play, as I did not feel any regret in Stewart's voice. In fact, the only thing that Claudius seems sorry about is the fact that he is going to have to pay for his actions with God. He prays out of fear, not out of regret. Anyway, I still felt the performance was a little "Branagh-esque": melodramatic and fake. I also thought that the choice was interesting of having Hamlet wear a crown but not Claudius. It's ironic because Hamlet never shows any interest in his inheritance.

    Hamlet finally does what blockbuster tells him to do and takes action. However, he kills not Claudius, but Polonius who, while spying on the conversation, is fairly innocent. His nonchalant reaction to his murder suggests that it is not the act of killing that restrains Hamlet from killing his uncle, but something else. Perhaps it is the consequences that would follow, particularly that Hamlet would then have to become king? Or maybe, like we talked about in class, he is trying to ignore his father's ghost and make his own decisions.

    I did not like the portrayal of the queen at all in this scene. While Hamlet incessantly accuses her and tells her how he thinks she feels, she keeps moaning and groaning and saying such things as, "O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain" (77). We never once get a sense from the queen as to how she truly feels. Does she love Claudius, or did she have other reasons for marrying him? This scene further emphasizes how superior Hamlet is to others, even his own mother. You would think that a mother would not let her son abuse her so, but Gertrude does and even after all this abuse asks Hamlet, "What shall I do?" (77). The only one who Hamlet does not seem to have power over is Claudius. The one time in the play that Hamlet shows his vulnerability in the presence of others is in Act I, Scene II, when Hamlet is compelled to stay in Denmark by his uncle. Maybe this feeling of inferiority also causes Hamlet to delay his act of revenge.

  6. To continue Rachel's observation that Laertes is now fatherless and seems to have a significant role in the rest of the play: As we have talked about in class, there are three prominent father-son relationships in this play. We also now have three father-son relationships that include a recently murdered father. So far, we know that Hamlet feels the pressure of his father's ghost to get revenge for his murder and somehow kill Claudius. We also know that Fortinbras is seeking revenge for his father's murder. Though his father isn't returning as a ghost, it is safe to assume that Fortinbras' desire for revenge stems from the weight put onto him by the idea of his dead father. Following this pattern, I think we're going to see Laertes have a need to seek revenge for his father's murder, which, in this case, means that he will be after Hamlet. As if the plot wasn't complicated enough yet... not to mention what this is going to do to the whole Hamlet/Ophelia thing.

    I actually liked the presentation of Claudius in the clip below. I like that he doesn’t seem guilty at all because what he’s actually saying is that he feels the guilt about killing his brother, but he doesn’t care about it as much as he cares about being the king and being married to the Queen. The clip makes him seem like he’s just trying to brush off the guilt so that he can better continue with all his ambitions, which I liked. I did not, however, like the Hamlet in this clip. I thought it made him seem a little too crazy. Reading that scene, I pictured Hamlet more scared and hesitant than the crazy and scheming Hamlet in the clip.

  7. Scene 4 was definitely a departure from the beginning part of the play and I would assume this is the shift into the climax. A lot is revealed here when Hamlet finally confronts his mother and this is where I really see the whole deal about "ghosts". The whole idea of ghosts is there is something from the past hanging over a person and influencing their decisions etc etc...

    The weird thing is you would think that the Queen would have some sort of ghosts following her considering she probably knew about her husbands murder, but she doesn't. Only Hamlet seems to has "ghosts" from his past. I would guess this is why the Queen can't see the ghost as she has no remorse or feelings about her husbands death. This is shown with the first few lines:
    Queen: Hamlet, thou hast THY father (current king) much offended
    Hamlet: Mother, you have MY father much offended

    I think this kind of clears up the whole question about whether she knew about the murder or not because clearly she has no remorse or ghosts hanging over her head.

    Then I agree with everyone else about Polonius' death being a shock since all there was was a stage directions of [Falls and Dies], like wow that was easy. But of course this will only complicate matters even more and now the question is how will the King react to Polonius' death? He seemed to be close to him so will he look to punish Hamlet or will it be Leartes seeking revenge?

  8. Act IV was full of drama! Pun intended.

    For me, the most striking part was the exchange between Hamlet and his mother at the opening of the scene. The concepts of “ghosts” and “duty” stood out:

    HAMLET: Now, mother, what's the matter?

    QUEEN GERTRUDE: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

    HAMLET: Mother, you have my father much offended.

    QUEEN GERTRUDE: Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

    HAMLET: Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

    QUEEN GERTRUDE: Why, how now, Hamlet!

    HAMLET: What's the matter now?

    QUEEN GERTRUDE: Have you forgot me?

    In this exchange, we see Hamlet vocalize his internal struggle directly to his mother. His sharp, snide responses are indicative of his desire to avenge his father, while continuing to honor his mother. There is no correct choice in this case. If he were to kill his uncle, he would jeopardize the future of his country, yet if he allows him to live, he must bear the weight of knowledge. This scene brought me back to Ibsen’s “Ghosts”. Oswald’s relationship with his mother is much like Hamlet’s. Both care for each other deeply, yet they are pulled apart by circumstances out of their control. The conflict between “right” and “wrong” drives the action of the play.

    Polonius’ death also came as a surprise to me. It happened so quickly, it seemed like a lapse in judgment to me. Or was this done simply to show how crazy Hamlet really is? I’m not sure on this one.

    As for the film, it was…ok. Nothing spectacular. Hamlet was a little too over the top for my liking. Did anyone else notice the different color buttons on the tuxedo shirts at the beginning? I think there’s some symbolism there. Why else would they some be black?


  9. I don't really think anyone is going to miss that lackey Polonious. I'm actually glad he's dead, I never liked him. He couldn't even manage to go down honorably or dramatically, just one quick stab and a truism and bam, no more Polonious. "I am slain!" really? thanks guy, hadn't noticed the sword in your gut, probably gave Euclid the inspiration for his last words. The fact that Gertrude and Hamlet don't seem to mind at all seems indicative of the universal disdain for the guy. Speaking of Gertrude, as soon as she gets called out she knows she's wrong. Ready for this? Milquetoast. Yup, look that one up. That's the only way I can describe the Queen, weak-willed women that she is. Good for Hamlet for finally letting it all out. Yay bluntness. Claudius has been made to seem very guilty by his reaction to the play, Gertrude is seemingly on the side of Hamlet now, and Polonious is dead. The tables have turned very quickly. Now would be a great time for something to go horribly wrong. Maybe Fortinbras the young will kick down the front door or something. I'd be more than a little amused if the ghost of Polonious went to Laertes and said avenge me, not that that's too likely. I look forward to the final showdown between Claudius and Hamlet. A sword fight would be nice, something more exciting than an exchange of increasingly caustic remarks preceded by "You killed my father" and a "ya so what". We shall see how this plays out.

  10. I don't like how Polonius died! I thought scene 4 was a weak scene. Although it obviously had important content, it was kind of weird and out of the blue to me. Yes, Hamlet has gradually been getting crazier and crazier, but his behavior in this scene was just so different that it was bizarre. Also, the interaction between the characters is just not what I would expect. It's one thing for crazy Hamlet to kill Polonius and then gesture to his dead body later on as though it was nothing, because he's crazy, but for the queen to be half-shocked and then continue a conversation with the son she just saw murder an innocent man and still try and beg for his approval didn't make sense. She's just as crazy as him, then, because she was so incredibly irrational in this scene.

    I did like scene 3's significance of not killing
    Claudius while he was praying. I did agree with Hamlet's reasoning: what good would it do to kill his uncle and send him straight to heaven? It would only cost Hamlet more grief and put his uncle out of his misery while his father continued to suffer. However, this was yet another excuse for him to delay the murder.

  11. I think Will's point is really interesting - obviously Hamlet doesn't have a problem with actually killing people. He's not afraid of physically taking a life, there's something else holding him back from killing Claudius. Now this is pure speculation but I think it might have something to do with the fact that he is getting a little crazier by the second. I think Hamlet's a little scared of himself. I'm not even sure if this makes sense really but I keep getting this feeling that Hamlet has no control over even his own actions anymore. Some other people have brought up how he keeps delaying the murder, and I definitely think this is really significant.

    Also as Bridget pointed out, the murder of Polonius did not faze the queen at all really. I thought this was strange too. I mean I understand that she's trying to reconnect with her insane son, but seriously.. he just killed a man. And this is a shot in the dark but maybe that kind of shows how chaotic Hamlet's world has become? When the queen basically condones murder of a fairly innocent man, you know somethings wrong.

    I actually kind of liked the clip of scene four. There isn't really much to add after everyone elses comments, but I thought this Claudius had a sort of sinister quality which I thought was effective. Hamlet's also completely nuts... but for once I thought this was pretty effective too.

  12. I found scene 3 highly entertaining. When Claudius confesses how guilty he feels, wanting redemption, and then claims he hopes there’s way to be forgiven will still keeping everything he gained I felt if I were reading a comedy instead of a tragedy. There was a similar feeling for me when in scene 4 Polonius just says “O I am slain” and dies. Nothing heroic, or even slightly tragic, he just sort off pops off.

    I read scene 4 and couldn’t help but be surprised by the Queen’s surprise. She is so shocked by Hamlet’s accusations, yet she had already viewed his little play. She reminds me of Pastor Manders, seemingly unable to believe things that don’t fit her view of the world.

    I also thought is was interesting how while in the past others could see the ghost, but now only Hamlet can. Is this just because Hamlet is crazy? Or is it the former King trying to hide himself? Maybe this is a display of how fervent Hamlet’s obsession with his father is, now only he can see the ghost, due to his loyalty to his father, and unlike his mother, not to Claudius, the killer. Or perhaps it is a further remark on how blind the Queen is to the treachery of Claudius, she cannot see the ghost as it represents the truth.

    As far as my feelings on the clip go it was good, but the suits completely threw me off. I felt like I was watching a business transaction, yet in the background there were soldiers fully dressing in armor. The whole thing just struck me as odd.

  13. I regret not being able to post on this blog before seeing the video clip in class. All I can do now is laugh as I think about Polonius crying out “Oh, I am slain!” and crashing to the floor with the ridiculous look on his face. Anyway…

    The brief exchange between Polonius and Gertrude that begins the scene tips me off that Polonius will be discovered at some point during Hamlet’s exchange with his mother. Thus, when Hamlet begins to attack the arras and ultimately stabbed Polonius, I was less surprised that he was dead and more surprised at Hamlet’s actions afterwards. As the Queen breaks down with the death of Polonius, Hamlet says to his mother “A bloody deed. Almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king and marry with his brother.”(73) Even though he has just killed a man and his mother witnessed it, Hamlet remains focused on terrorizing his mother and learning what she knows of Claudius’s actions. When combining this with the reappearance of his father’s ghost, the question of Hamlet’s sanity comes into the picture.

    My theory is this: when a person becomes so focused on a certain event or aspect of their life, it consumes their mind and personality and influences all their actions, much like the example of a young child losing a parent. Hamlet’s absolute obsession with avenging his father’s death IS his insanity. The ghost, however, is not a product of a mentally disturbed mind, but rather the one that caused it in the first place. Though he had suspected foul play in King Hamlet’s death, the ghost was the only thing which gave him a concrete image of the event and the murderer.

    One last thing: there is absolutely no mention or hint that Hamlet is raping his mother. Why would Mel Gibson put that into his version, besides the fact that he is insane? It does seem like an interesting possibility however, for it would a particularly…cruel form of payback on her had she known Claudius was the murderer.


  14. I found it extremely interesting to see the confrontation between Hamlet and his Mother. It felt like a weight off my shoulders that finally he outright said how he was feeling about her to her face. Their conversation was very tense for me; I had to read over it a couple times to figure out exactly the tone he was using. He seems very emotional; I took it as extreme anger. That’s understandable; however Gertrude’s reaction was pretty weird to me. She was also extremely emotional, but almost seemed to be denying the things that he was saying. She blatantly says that she does not like what she sees in her soul. I wonder if she was a big part of the conspiracy against King Hamlet or if it was more singularly Claudius’s idea.

    I found Polonius’s death extremely ironic yet significant. This whole time, Hamlet has been convincing himself that he is acting crazy in order to serve revenge on his father’s death. However, in doing this, he also kills another father. If he was truly grieving in a healthy way and was truly sane I do not believe that he would have acted like it wasn’t a big deal when he found it was Polonius that he had killed, especially since he was his ex-lovers father. To me, this was a sign that Shakespeare was leaving as if to say “hes trying to act crazy, but is becoming actually crazy in doing so”. Also in this death he reveals to his mother his plan when she says “As kill a king!”. Now she knows that Hamlet is out to kill the king for their marriage, and I’m curious to see where this takes his plan (if Gertrude will tell Claudius or not).

    Another interesting aspect of this scene is the fact that only Hamlet can see the ghost. This aspect makes me wonder if the ghost is really a figment of his deteriorating imagination. If the king’s ghost was real, would it want to be seen to Gertrude? I thought that it might help the ghost to avenge its death to confront his wife, possibly showing himself to her would reveal if she was truly an accomplice to his death (judging on whether she was scared or not upon seeing him). Maybe Hamlet really is just crazy.