Hamlet Learning Objective: students will understand the development of the play including plot, development, and themes. Act 1, Scene 1: Brief summary During the changing of the guard in the middle of the night; the soldiers are discussing the appearance of a ghost that looks like the dead King Hamlet dressed in battle gear. The ghost appears but does not speak to the characters present. The characters speculate about what the ghost wants and what they should do. They decide to tell Prince Hamlet that his fathers ghost has returned.
Act I-- Exposition Scene 1 begins with servants idea of equality and merit of man, appeals to a broad audience. There are a series of unanswered questions which creates an overall tone of questioning and uncertainty. We as the audience are now questioning everything. The entire play begins with a dark scene in the middle of the night and set the tone for a tragedy. Introduced to Horatio (a scholar) and other characters (soldiers). Keep in mind: Horatio becomes an anchor for reality and reason (as a scholar). Horatios monologue Establishes: Setting Denmark, at a castle so we are dealing with
royalty. 16th century setting Denmark is Protestant (historical) Conflict Prince Fortinbras, son of Norways king is seeking revenge because King Hamlet killed King Fortinbras in a duel. Conflict King Hamlet is dead Conflict a ghost is haunting the parapets Tone: dark, somber, Gothic, uncertain (is the ghost real?) Theme: Father and son motif The story about Fortinbras seeking revenge is important because it establishes father-son relationships and the father archetype what are you willing to do for your fathers honor? We will quickly learn that Hamlet must decide whether to seek revenge for the death of his father; Fortinbras situation
will parallel Hamlets situation and we can evaluate Hamlets character compared to Fortinbras (and later Laertes) Fortinbras is a character foil for Hamlet because he acts with decisiveness which will force us to evaluate why Hamlet delays his plans for vengeance and develops a deeper layer of character development for the play. Ghost is important!!! The ghost introduces the idea of uncertainty the theme of reality versus illusion (insanity) is established. The ghost indicates that the death of someone was unnatural and there is no closure for the dead. This establishes for the audience that something is terribly wrong and sets the action for the play in motion. Believing in ghosts is a Catholic notion. Protestants do not believe in purgatory or lingering on Earth after death. The appearance of the ghost
would be highly controversial in Shakespeares time. This is a questioning of the certainty of the Catholic faith Protestant Reformation, King Henry VIII, Elizabeths mother, James I ascension to the throne, publishing Protestant bible Act I, Scene 2: Brief summary We are introduced to all of the key players. Claudius (the new King) gives a speech acknowledging his brothers death and his marriage to Queen Gertrude. He dispenses royal decisions (showing his immediate authority as ruler). We are introduced to Polonius and Laertes; another father-son relationship built on deception and spying which becomes a key element throughout the play and gives us another relationship as a foil to compare Hamlet and his relationships. (This also segues into Ophelia)
Claudius and Gertrude want to know why Hamlet is so moody and they tell him to act like a man and get over his fathers death already. We learn that Hamlet is contemplating suicide and that he feels depressed and deeply betrayed by his mother. Hamlets friends tell him about his fathers ghost and Hamlet decides to go see for himself. Hamlet soliloquy: We learn that Hamlet is contemplating suicide, he wont because it violates his religious beliefs this is important in that he will challenge other Protestant beliefs, but suicide is universally taboo in all Christian religions creating religious ambiguity Is this a sign of character weakness? Is Hamlet a weak male? During the soliloquy, we also learn a lot about Hamlet and
his perspective regarding everyone around him (including himself) which leads to character development. Perceives his mother as deceptive: generalized to all women. Views himself as weak, ineffective, self-doubt Establishes Claudius as the antagonist/villain Themes established through character development Gender roles: Male archetypes: Hamlet: First words are an aside; Hamlet is emotional and very moody. He has a dark humor. He is indecisive, introverted, intellectual, Typical Protestant son.
He idolizes his father and is struggling with his fathers death. He resents Claudius and his mothers marriage. He feels betrayed by his mother, and his family. Hamlet is not considered manly because he is more intellectual and emotional. (side note: we do not ever really know how old Hamlet is 15-30). Intelligence versus action. What if he acts hastily and he is wrong or mad? State consequences larger than the individual Compares self to Hercules (not): lacks self-esteem and self-worth. Establishes self-doubt before Hamlets journey. Male archetypes: Claudius:
Traditional manliness: arrogant, bold, very masculine and aggressive. Direct contrast to Hamlet. His opening monologue establishes his authority and his determination to move beyond his brothers death and deal with Fortinbras. Comparison to satyr suggests that no one is who they seem to be (appearance v. reality). Father archetype: Antithesis Not sympathetic or nurturing to Hamlet. Focuses on state business.
Can be compared to King Hamlet (ghost). Typical Shakespeare father unreliable, unsympathetic Shakespeares son had recently drowned in real life. Themes established through character development Female archetypes: Queen Gertrude: antithesis of a mother archetype, cold in tone, selfserving, and clueless, sexualized and simple. Happy over her wedding to Claudius and tells her son to get over fathers death. Establishes a conflict with Hamlets overgeneralization of his attitude towards women. Mother archetype; Gertrude is not a good mother and is the antithesis
of a nurturing mother. Gertrude is unnatural and expands a tone of unnaturalness to the play. Compared to Niobe (allusion): 2 levels of analysis Foil to Ophelia introduced later. Contrast to Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth is recently dead)? Acceptance of death: Is Hamlet weak because he loved his father and is mourning him? Should Hamlet have gotten over it after only a few months? Themes continued: Religious conflict and History lesson Protestant Reformation (Wittenburg, Germany Same place as Hamlets school): Martin Luther hammered the 95 Theses to the door of the Catholic Church demanding changes and an elimination of corruption.
1st challenge to the authority of the Catholic Church, establishment of Protestant faith. Rejected ideas of purgatory as superstitious; minimized authority of the church in daily life. King Henry VIII, wants to divorce his wife. Catholic Church denies the divorce; King breaks away from Church and establishes the Church of England under the Protestant banner and himself as head of the Church. Throws country into religious civil war. 2 issues: Purgatory and ghosts, Levirate v. Incest which will be addressed again in 1.5 Act 1, Scene 3: Brief Summary We are introduced to Ophelia (sister of Laertes, daughter of Polonius, girlfriend to Hamlet). Laertes is saying goodbye to his sister as he gets ready for school. He tells his sister that Hamlet will never marry her
and only wants to have sex with her. He cautions Ophelia to protect her virtue because it defines her value. Polonius shows up and dispenses with advice to his son as he begins his journey; then he questions his daughter about her relationship with Hamlet and reinforces her need to protect her virtue. Ophelia: Character Development Ophelia is important because she is a foil to Queen Gertrude will be used to illuminate gender biases and Hamlets unnatural relationship with his mother. Ophelia is warned to guard her virtue and not engage in sexual acts or her value will diminish. This is a direct contrast to the sexuality of the Queen who
is overtly sexualized throughout the play suggesting we should question the queens morality and value. Ophelia shows sassiness in her conversation with her brother because she declares he is a hypocrite engages in premarital sex with girls whose virtues should be protected. This highlights the role of women in Shakespearean society: Women have no social rights; property of men Value is measured by virtue and dowry; what can they bring to an arranged marriage Love is irrelevant and a female emotion This forces us to consider sexuality, morality, innocence, family rights, etc. Ophelia will be manipulated and used to manipulate Hamlet, suggesting
that she has no rights or will of her own within society (especially when her dad tells her to break up with Hamlet and then uses her to spy.) Polonius: parallel to Claudius- Polonius offers his son advice This above all, to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. (Act 1, Scene 3) Suggests Polonius believes in truth and honor: behavior is contradictory and hypocritical (continues this theme introduced by children). Reveals he was spying on his children because he knew about the conversation about Hamlet. Will later send spies to watch his son. Tone is different than his conversation with Ophelia; gender roles. This introduces the themes: Privacy vs. spying which is pervasive throughout the entire play. Everyone is spying and watching everyone else (including us as the audience watching the
play; so everyone is playing a role assuming they are being watched; therefore what is real? What information can be trusted? Can we trust what people are telling us as the audience? (Hint: if Horatio is there, it is reliable otherwise, you decide). This pushes (plot development) Hamlet throughout the play as he is manipulated, watched, and handled and he is forced to question who he can trust (tremendous pressure). Act 1, Scenes 4 and 5: brief summary Hamlet confronts his fathers ghost at midnight. He goes with the ghost even though his friends beg him not to go. Meanwhile, Claudius is inside having a party. The ghost reveals that Claudius poisoned him and demands that Hamlet seek revenge for his death.
Ghost reveals that he believes the affair between Claudius and Gertrude started before his death. Hamlet swears he will avenge his father. Hamlet forces his friends to swear to secrecy and sets his plan in motion by telling his friends he may act strange in the near future. Scene 4: Questions, questions: Technique of questioning Just like the opening scene (and any scene with the ghost), this scene begins with questions (what time is it? And more). These questions establish a tone of uncertainty and hesitation (lack of clarity) that is very important. We are dealing with the Gothic, supernatural ideas of the witching hour (similar to Hawthorne). Anything can happen, but what is real and what is
imagination (remember the witch on my porch). Expansion of religious discussion from earlier scene. Despite being Protestant, Hamlet accepts the presence of the ghost (and it appears others can see it too). Is this acceptance of the ghost Hamlets acceptance of his fathers death, but lack of closure over death? Does this scene actually reflect Hamlets fears of life after death? What happens after we die? Do we go to heaven? Do we go to purgatory? Do we just disappear? Hamlet wants to know why we are afraid of death? Does he go with the ghost to seek answers to these questions or does he genuinely believe it is his father? Dont go: other characters: Horatio (as the voice of reason) questions Hamlets decision to go with the ghost and suggests he is afraid the ghost will possess him and make Hamlet
insane and establishes uncertainty for the audience. This introduces the theme of madness more prominently and plays out during the conversation between Hamlet and the ghost: Is Hamlet already insane which is why he will accept the ghost? Meanwhile, Claudius is throwing a party; Hamlet is disgusted with the excess. When Hamlet criticizes Claudius, this illuminates the conflict between the two characters and further shows us that Hamlet does not trust or value
Claudius as a king or as a father. Contrast between values of characters. Is Claudius excessive? Is Hamlet too pious? How does this conflict with the previous scene and the accusations of Polonius and Laertes on Hamlets character? Historically, this criticism of the royal excess is a reflection of the criticism towards the English crown for generations. Henry was criticized for his excess and abuse of power. Elizabeth was criticized for her excess and controversial reign. James I was criticized for his excess and patronage of the arts and writing (specifically the theater). All three of these rulers are Protestant. Is Shakespeare suggesting something here? What do you think is his purpose for this commentary? Religious, political, other? Or is it just a moment where a young man is being critical of someone he is angry at?
Something is rotten in the State of Denmark Marcellus, Act 1, Scene 4 The diction of this quote is significant: Something= ambiguous referring to more than the ghost which forces us as the audience to question everything. Rotten= not just bad or wrong but decaying. Living, organic. Continuation of earlier statement from Hamlet about unweeded garden. State of Denmark= more than location, referring to State (govt) of Denmark which is the King Claudius, King Hamlet, Prince Hamlet, Queen Gertrude, Counselors, etc. Foreshadow of Claudius as the murderer and the deceptions that will drive the plot of the play Nothing is what it seems and we must be careful to identify what is real and what is a deception.
Scene 5; the talk and learning from the ghost Is the ghost real? Is the ghost really Hamlets father? Is the ghost a manifestation of Hamlets thoughts and fears? The ghost reveals all thoughts Hamlet already feared and revealed during the soliloquy (argument ghost is not real). If the ghost was really Hamlets father, why is he willing to sacrifice his sons Christian soul by asking him to avenge him by committing murder? Murder will not release a ghost from purgatory (religious theme) Is this misrepresentation intentional? Religious commentary again? Or just good plot development? If the ghost is in purgatory, does that mean it is a Catholic ghost? If so, can it be Hamlets father who would be a Protestant King? What does this suggest about the certainty of religion and faith? Hamlet is aware of this uncertainty and this is one suggestion to explain why he
hesitates in his quest for vengeance (delay). Note: other characters can see the ghost, but never talk to the ghost and are not able to overhear the conversation between Hamlet and the ghost. This will be relevant later. More Religious allusions: The ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius killed King Hamlet while the king was
napping in the garden. He says that Claudius poured poison in his ear. The king refers to Claudius as a serpent. Shakespeare makes common allusions to: The Garden of Eden. The serpent tempts Eve to break Gods law and commit the first sin which gets them thrown out of Paradise and makes them mortal. This suggests that Kings are mortal men who can be tempted to sin and/or killed. Questions divine right early Enlightenment, Age of Reason Cain and Abel: Children of Adam and Eve Cain kills his brother Abel because he is jealous. Cain is a symbol of the first murder, jealousy, ambition Abel is a symbol of martyrdom and the first death. Cain is cursed for killing his brother
How are these biblical stories relevant? Queen Gertrude: During the conversation, the ghost reveals that he feels betrayed by Gertrudes fickleness by marrying Claudius and further suggests he believes that Gertrude was having an affair before he was killed. But, he makes Hamlet swear he will leave Gertrude out of the situation because he loves her and feels she will face judgment when she gets to heaven. He places the blame on Claudius as a seducer rather than Gertrude Like father like son? Insanity and illusions? Does the ghost really love with Gertrude and want to protect her even in death?
Is this a fair double standard? What does this suggest about archetypes? Is this a suggestion that women are really weak and can not resist moral temptations? Is the betrayal of a brother (blood) worse than the betrayal of a spouse? Is this a manifestation of Hamlets beliefs and his accusations that his mothers marriage is wrong? Is the ghosts insistence that Gertrude not be harmed really Hamlets hesitance to harm his own mother? Adieu, Adieu! Hamlet, remember me! -The Ghost (King Hamlet) -- Act I, Scene 5 Although a short statement, this command is very significant: Reflects themes: Acceptance of death; universal fear of dying; and fear of being forgotten.
Father-son motif: what are you willing to do to honor your father? Pressure on Hamlet to avenge his father. Somber tone: very sad, father is saying goodbye. Hamlet declares he will act strange as part of his plan and makes his friends swear (repeatedly) not to tell Three concerns (problems): He repeatedly tells his friends to swear on the sword (why the sword and not the bible?) Hamlet shows us that he is already developing his sense of paranoia and he doesnt trust the people around him (even though the people immediately around him have seemed reliable, including Horatio) The ghost is demanding that they swear also, but it is unclear whether anyone else hears the ghost (remember the ghost has not spoken to anyone else in the play. Is only Hamlet hearing the ghost?
This sets us up as the audience to dwell in the uncertainty of the entire play. (the fallibility of certainty performance versus reality) We will constantly be forced to question whether Hamlet is acting or if his behavior is real. Is he already mad and in his madness is planning to pretend to be mad even though it really isnt pretending, but he doesnt know that because hes mad?! OORRRR is this scene the first time Hamlet pretends to madness to establish with friends (that he doesnt trust) that he is unstable creating credibility for the idea that he is already mad? End of Act I Breathe! We are just heating up. ;) Act II, Scene 1 If Act I is all about exposition, what is the
purpose of Act II in regards to plot structure? Act II is very short: only two scenes. Why do you think Shakespeare kept this section shorter? Act II, Scene 1 Polonius sends spies to watch his son. We learn that Hamlet is acting crazy. Ophelia says that Hamlet burst into her room and wept over her hand. Hes been giving her gifts and inappropriate letters. Polonius tells the Royals that Hamlet is really crazy and says hes planning on using his daughter to bait Hamlet and prove the crazy.
Beyond the previous discussions Polonius, spying, deception blah blah blah. Ophelia tells us that Hamlet has put his plan in motion or has he? Costume change (Hamlet is no longer wearing black) is it a performance or is he so focused on his revenge plot, hes getting over his grief? What about Ophelia? Why is she going along? How will this affect her character later? Act II, Scene 2 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show up. Minor characters, interchangeable Betray Hamlet continued development of madness, pressure, paranoia, who to trust? Polonius shows up Fortinbras is under control, his uncle told him to chill
(Thats all it took to get Fortinbras, a character of action to back down from his revenge plot?) Focus on Polonius!! Tells king and queen about Hamlets insanity and gives them inappropriate love letters supposedly written to Ophelia from Hamlet (sexual). King and Queen are shocked and appalled (and secretly glad Hamlet is showing interest?) Polonius plots to use Ophelia to set Hamlet up to prove hes crazy Polonius runs into Hamlet. Lets pause here and talk about this scene. Open your books. Gross imagery!! Fishmonger Hamlets playing games with someone who is playing games with him
References to a dead dog rotting in the sun. Asks if Polonius has a daughter- makes a connection between two (calling Ophelia a female dog in heat babies/pregnant= rot, maggots. Polonius is trying to determine if Hamlet is really crazy. Hamlet is messing with Polonius or is he? Friends true friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive. Hamlet is genuinely happy to see them, until he very quickly realizes they are there to spy on him (they even admit it). This will be a plot device to push Hamlet over the edge of trusting anyone. Hamlet learns that actors are coming to the
castle. Second part of plan emerges. Hecuba! The arrival of the players signals the beginning of the play within the play. Theme: Performance versus reality we are all actors performing in our lives. Character development: Hamlet is obviously literate, educated, cultured because he knows much about literature (everyone who knows about literature is cultured and refined ;) ). Hamlet asks the leader of the group to recite a monologue from a play. Lets look: Twas Aeneas tale to Dido Priams slaughter.
Allusions Greek tragedy: Pyrrhus is hunting for Priam Priam is killed by Pyrrhus while Hecuba (Priams wife) watches during the battle of Troy (remember the deceptive Trojan horse thing? Hecuba is devastated! Describes her anguish. Makes Hamlet cry! (Important!!) How is Polonius reacting? Murder of Gonzago plans soliloquy What does the soliloquy mean? Self-loathing (calls himself a rogue, peasant, slave, coward, whore, villain, ass
wait a whore?) An actor can mourn for Hecuba more than he has mourned for his father (back to the delay question) Suggests that the actor can never really show the depth of despair that he is feeling. Questions what the actor would do in his position (suggests that Hamlet must play the role of a hero?) Hamlet is building up to action. But needs definitive proof of Claudius guilt: devises plan. Murder of Gonzago (aka The Mousetrap) Act III If Act I is exposition; Act II is the rising action; what is Act III? What should we be looking for?
Scene 1: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report to the Royals: nothing to report except hes excited about the actors Royals agree to go to the play if it makes Hamlet happy (awww, does this sound like mean parents? Lets discuss) Wait! Claudius and Polonius move forward with their plan to trap Hamlet using Ophelia. Everyone agrees with this plan Polonius makes a terrible joke that piety and devotion are often a good cover for wicked deeds. Lets discuss this. How does Claudius react? (conscience, makeup) What could this mean? To be, or not to be that is the question
Most famous soliloquy! Or is it a soliloquy? Contemplation of suicide and death? About death in general? And why we are afraid? Contemplation of action versus no action? About accepting consequences? Trying to decide whether to act against Claudius? Is he really indecisive? Notice: he is interrupted at the end, we dont actually know what he was going to conclude! Does he know Ophelia is there? Does he suspect that he is being watched? Remember, he was
called for so he could run into Ophelia How does this change our understanding of this speech? Look at the language: Flings and arrows of outrageous fortune Arms against a sea of troubles Bear the whips and scorns of time To grunt and sweat under a weary life Interpretations/perspective Which is more noble? Not what he wants, but what he should choose difference? If this is it, why are we here? Whats the point? Hes doomed if he chooses to live, hes doomed if he chooses to die his soul is on the line! Universality
No personal pronouns Relevant and questioning all humanity Creates pathos (havent we all been there?) Confrontation with Ophelia: notice its the first time we actually see them together! Ophelia enters and interrupts Hamlets deep contemplation. Official break up: bad timing Ophelia wants to give Hamlet back letters and stuff (so he did give her something? Hamlet says no he did not give her anything she insists curious) Puns intended: honest/fair: Does Hamlet know? Then Hamlet gets mean! I did love you once. HA! Im lying, I loved you not.
Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? (Side note: notice we are now back to back with intense and emotional scenes what is Shakespeare doing?) Nunneries were places where pious women went to become nuns. It was also a place where families could send troublesome daughters. Women are breeders of sinners. Notice that this commentary is not solely against women. Self-loathing: suggests it would have been better if Hamlet were never born at all. Who is he really mad at?
Curses Ophelias marriage (remember she wanted to marry him) and says women turn men into monsters. Again women are terrible; but its in the creation of terrible men. Who is he really mad at in this scene? Accuses women of being dishonest because they wear face paint and deceptive clothing. Black moment? Wait for it? Dont decide yet! Ophelias shock suggests that in previous interactions Hamlet was never this cruel or behaved this way so Ophelia believes that Hamlet is truly mad Is he mad? Is he acting because he knows he is being watched?
Is he projecting his anger towards his mother onto Ophelia? Is he just angry and Ophelia is the target for Hamlets black mood. Notice: Ophelia is genuinely upset to see Hamlet this way. She appears to have truly loved him and is baffled and hurt by his behavior. Yet, she is part of the deception She blames herself (uh oh) (Side note: Notice how blunt and bold Hamlet is acting in Act II and Act III. Madness sets him free.) This is not enough for Polonius and Claudius now they will manipulate Hamlets relationship with his mother by plotting to have Hamlet talk to Gertrude while Polonius spies. Act III, Scene 2: The play within the play Act III begins with preparations for the play: Hamlet is taking on the role of producer and director. He tells to the first player: dont over act the part and make it
seem natural because it is very important. Notice: Hamlet is very bossy! And knows the theater quite well! Hamlet then asks Horatio to help him with his plan by watching Claudius reaction to the play. Notice: hes asking Horatio (the voice of reason) to be his witness. Notice what he says to Horatio: Lets take a look He doesnt trust his own perspective and judgment? Everyone shows up to watch the play Hamlet is acting erratic and strange again. Messes with Polonius and refuses to sit with his mother. Asks Polonius about theater he performed in college.
Julius Caesar Historical allusion Reference to betrayal Interaction with Ophelia: public vs. private behavior Hamlet is cruel to Ophelia and talks dirty to her. Lady shall I lie in your lap? very sexual Public humiliation: Everyone is watching them. Hamlet can get away with it because hes acting mad and is excused. Ophelia can not respond tries to ignore and deflect: If she shows she knows what he is talking about, she is a whore, damages her
reputation. Discussion shifts to Gertrude obsession with mother again. Sarcasm! Throughout the play, he keeps making rude comments and barbed statements. And we havent even gotten to the play yet. ;) Lets talk about the play within the play. The Performers act out the first scene in the exact way that the King Ghost described it. Then they perform a dialog between the dying king and his queen where they profess their undying love. The dying king suggests the queen may remarry The queen insists she will never remarry The dying king tells her to be careful with what she
promises. The queen hysterically insists she will remain true The king dies The queen is wood into marrying her husbands killer As the play progresses, Hamlet asks his mother what she thinks. Her reply: Methinks the lady doth protest too much. What does this mean? What does this imply if we accept that the theater can illuminate truth? The play continues on a bit more Hamlet alternates between messing with Ophelia, Gertrude, and Claudius. Hes really enjoying himself! the pretend king is killed
And Claudius reacts! What happens? Is this a confession? Or just an annoyed king because of the innuendos? What do you think? Hamlet believes he has his proof. He is jubilant and excited (think of the relief of knowing he isnt crazy and can now justify seeking vengeance and honoring his father!) Hamlet has a confrontation with R + G. Calls them out for manipulating and lying to him. Tells G to play the lute like they tried to play him. Everyone tells him that the king is upset and his mother wants to speak to him. Hamlet decides he will go see his mother and its time to confront her too!
But first: Act III, Scene 3 This scene begins with Claudius telling R + G to prepare for a voyage to England because it is unsafe now for Hamlet to be free. Why is Claudius feeling this way? Because he thinks Hamlet knows his secret? Or because he thinks Hamlet is plotting to kill him like the play? Hamlet is on his way to see his mother when he discovers Claudius is alone in the church praying. Lets read: (pg. 165) line 40 (Notice two soliloquys Claudius thinks he is alone and is talking quietly to himself Hamlet can not hear what Claudius is saying. Hamlet is talking to himself and Claudius cannot hear what he is saying) Dramatic Irony. O my offense is rank Rotting Denmark,
Allusion to Cain and Abel religious conflict Confession: Hamlet does not hear it! Ear motif vs. certainty of sight? Hamlet conflicted because vengence will send Claudius to heaven: going to wait until he can catch him in a sinful position: Focus on mothers sins again Murder plan is premeditated No concern for own soul in plan. Act III, Scene 4 Hamlet confronts his mother: Tone of rage! Notice there is no filter any longer
Role reversal: Child is chastising parent. Hamlet has crossed into boldness: no more asides or snarky comments. Gertrude is genuinely confused, shocked and fears for her life. (character development) Most of Gertrudes lines are questions: confusion, uncertainty, reactionary (just like Ophelia) She calls out; Polonius answers weird Hamlet stabs the curtains thinks hes killed the king nope (how would the king get there so quickly?) Hamlet is trying to determine if his mother was involved in the plot to kill his father. Enter ghost: talks Hamlet down
Gertrude cannot see or hear ghost. Hamlet appears to be talking to himself. Thinks her son is insane. Ghost reminds Hamlet who he is supposed to be mad at. Ghost points out that Gertrude seems genuinely shocked and puzzled. She also looks sad. Hamlet tells his mother that his madness is no excuse to ignore her own behavior. Hamlet begs his mother to clean up her act and quit
sleeping with her brother. Tone is calming down: Gertrude is off the hook. Hamlet begs his mother to keep this between them. Hamlet says he is sorry for killing Polonius; but he feels that it had to be done in his quest for vengence so the heavens may or may not forgive him but hell accept whatever happens for his actions. Hamlet reminds his mother that he is set to sail for England with two adders (poisonous snakes). He leaves the room dragging Polonius body. Creepy. Notice the language: very religious: dissonant to his state of mind and surroundings.l Pause for a commercial break:
Study guide is due on Monday. Add to the homework pack: Sketch a plot diagram of the play. What is the peak of action? Act IV, Scene 1 Act I: Exposition Act II: Rising Action
Act III: Climax, etc. Act IV: ??? Pay attention to the pace: what is happening? Claudius asks Gertrude what happened with Hamlet. She confesses that Hamlet killed Polonius she blames it on madness Notice how much of the story she omitted why? Claudius declares that Hamlet is too dangerous to keep around because he is deranged and killing people; commit to send Hamlet to England. Act IV, Scene 2 R + G confront Hamlet to get the body of Polonius. Hamlet refuses to tell them where he put the body denies Polonius a proper religious
burial. The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body. The King is a thing-- What do you think Hamlet is talking about here? Act IV, Scene 3 Claudius is dwelling on Hamlets madness and his fear of how people will react with Hamlet being sent away so suddenly. Pun intended: pg. 195: This is quite profound: Claudius: Now, Hamlet, Wheres Polonius? Hamlet: At supper. Claudius: At supper where? Hamlet: Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are een at him. Your worm is
your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service two dishes but to one table. Thats the end. Hamlet finally tells them he left the body on the stairs near the lobby (in plain sight?) Claudius tells Hamlet he must go to England. Hamlet says fine and says goodbye to his mother intentionally slights Claudius (thumbing his nose) Wait how did Hamlet already know this? Remember he told Gertrude about it! Claudius admits he is sending Hamlet to England to die. (England owes Denmark a favor so great they will kill a royal Prince? How corrupt is England according to
Shakesepeare.. Wink wink). Act IV, Scene 4 Meet Fortinbras! (da da da daaa!) Character Foil! Fortinbras is waging war against Poland for land that is worthless but in order to do it, he has to pass through Denmark Hamlet thinks this is an interesting plan. Hamlet gives a soliloquy basically admitting that he thinks Fortinbras is brave and clever. Hamlet is mad at himself because he is leaving for England and has not yet avenged his fathers death whereas Fortinbras is willing to die for a cause. Fortinbras inspires him to keep to his plan.
Act IV, Scene 5 Poor Ophelia the queen reluctantly consents to speak to Ophelia who has apparently gone crazy. Ophelia is singing non-sensical songs (although they do make a crazy sort of sense) First song; betraying a loved one and the loved one dying Second song: song about love? No bawdy song about a girl being fooled into having sex and then being dumped by the guy after she gives it up now this is interesting I hope all will be well. Ophelia says her father is being buried and Laertes is on his way back almost sounds ominous. Laertes shows up!
And he is not happy! He is looking for revenge! Notice the queen intercedes and tries to hold Gertrude back now thats interesting! The king says let him speak! Laertes swears his vengence on his fathers murderer! (Character foil! Very bold, very aggressive). And then he sees his sister!!... The language of flowers: Ophelia starts handing out flowers (217, l 204): notice there are no stage directions so who gets which flower is open to interpretation ask me about Mel Gibsons version! Traditional beliefs
Rosemary: remembrance (who does she want to remember?) Pansies: faithfulness, thoughts, togetherness, union Fennel: cast away evil spirits, purging, flattery (success) Columbines: sexuality, seduction, infidelity Rue: regret, bitterness (also used in Shakespeares time for abortions) what? Daisy: purity and innocence of heart (does she actually give someone a daisy?) Violets: faithfulness, humility, chastity (notice these are dead) Flower information from: Botanical Garden Society of San Francisco "Whereas for Hamlet madness is metaphysical, linked with culture, for Ophelia it is a product of the female body and female nature. . . . Ophelia's virginal and vacant white is contrasted with Hamlet's scholar's garb, his 'suits of solemn
black.' Her flowers suggest the discordant double images of female sexuality as both innocent blossoming and whorish contamination; she is the 'green girl' of pastoral, the virginal 'Rose of May' and the sexually explicit madwoman who, in giving away her wild flowers and herbs, is symbolically deflowering herself. . . . The mad Ophelia's bawdy songs and verbal license, while they give her access to 'an entirely different range of experience' from what she is allowed as the dutiful daughter, seem to be her one sanctioned form of selfassertion as a woman, quickly followed, as if in retribution, by her death." (Elaine Showalter, "Representing Ophelia") Claudius deceptive: Claudius tells Laertes to go ask people that he trusts what happened and they will all tell him that Hamlet killed his father and Claudius had
nothing to do with it. Is Claudius telling the truth? He even says, If by direct or by collateral hand/They find us touched, we will our kingdom give/our crown, our life, and all that we call ours/ to you in satisfaction. Why would Claudius make such a bold promise? This is so bold, Laertes believes him. Act IV, Scene 6 Horatio receives a letter from Hamlet: Hamlet was captured by pirates and will be returning to Denmark. The king must promise to pardon the pirates in Hamlets name because they returned him safely.
Tells Horatio to come get him. Makes a point of saying R + G are still bound for England without him. Act IV, Scene 7 Note: Act with the most separate scenes, but each scene is fairly quick. We are wrapping up various storylines all at once. Imagine a movie that keeps fading in and out from one scene to another. Claudius learns that Hamlet will be returning. Plots with Laertes to seek vengeance for Polonius death (and help Claudius out of a sticky situation).
The scene opens with Claudius telling Laertes that Hamlet killed his father and tried to kill him too. (ear motif) Laertes listens to Claudius poison. Laertes wants to know why Claudius didnt serve justice. Very good question. Claudius asks Laertes if he will follow his advice. Polonius says yes as long as the king doesnt try to stop his revenge. Claudius promises that his plan will help Laertes get his revenge and no one will realize that Laertes meant to murder Hamlet: It will look like an accident.
The plan: blood thirsty villains! Lots of flattery blah blah blah Laertes is an excellent swordsman. Challenge Hamlet to a mock duel to settle the matter of Polonius death but Laertes will use a real (sharp) sword. Laertes proposes putting poison on the tip so even if he only scratches Hamlet, it will still kill him. Claudius says that he will poison Hamlets drink so in case Laertes fails to scratch him, the poisoned drink will kill him. Enter Queen: Exit Ophelia While Laertes and Claudius are busy plotting Hamlets demise, the queen announces that Ophelia is dead she
drowned Ophelia was trying to get flowers. She fell into a brook. She just sang sad songs while she floated in the water. Her dress pulled her under water. Ophelia didnt fight or try to save herself. Is this suicide? If yes, why? Theories? Madness? Did the queen witness Ophelias death? Act V: The End!!! Waiitt fooorrr Itttt!!! Scene 1 opens with two grave diggers they are called clowns because they will introduce some comic moments to the play this is a tragedy device. The 1st grave digger asks why Ophelia is to be given a Christian burial when she committed suicide.
The 2nd grave digger answers that she is being given a Christian burial because her family is wealthy. Or (we could posit) she is being given a Christian burial because it was not suicide, but madness and an accidental death. Why there thou sayst: and the more pity that great folk should have countenance in this world to drown or hang themselves more than their even Christian The grave diggers start cracking jokes (hence, they are called clowns). Horatio and Hamlet show up and overhear the grave diggers which confuses Hamlet. Q. Whats the strongest (most lasting) thing you can build? Stronger than the mason, shipwright, or carpenter? A. Incorrect: The gallows maker it lasts through a thousand occupants. (Careful, dont suggest the gallows are more effective than the church what!!) A. The grave-maker- the houses he builds will last until doomsday.
This launches a huge conversation about the futility of death as bones get thrown around the grave yard, including the skull of Yorick, the old court jester. Remember, weve already talked about how all men end the same. This is a continuation of that conversation last time we saw Hamlet. However, the tone has changed; serious, philosophical, solemn. Plot device: Hamlet learns about Ophelia If you think about it, having Hamlet hang out in a graveyard is kinda creepy and doesnt seem connected to the rest of the play Until everyone shows up for Ophelias funeral (what happened to Polonius funeral? Just sayin) Hamlet has to learn about this situation somehow and it isnt dramatic enough to have
him just be told when he returns. Whats up with the priest? The priest gives a bizarre and hateful speech at Ophelias funeral service. How awful for Laertes. The priest admits that strings were pulled but hes only willing to do the bare minimum for the service. Whats up with this? Religious commentary: funereal services and rites are for the living and are part of the grieving process. The church is being hypocritical? What does this suggest about purgatory? Laertes declares his sister was truly innocent and will be an
angel in heaven. Gertrude declares she is sad that Ophelia wasnt Hamlets wife. Well, shes really helpful. Hamlet: What, the fair Ophelia? Then the scene gets weird: Laertes jumps into the grave to hold his sisters dead body and demands that he be buried with her. Excessive grief loss of sister AND father (no mother) Slightly incestuous level of grief (mirrors Hamlets infatuation with his mother). Hamlet jumps into the grave too and fights with Laertes over who loved Ophelia more. Wait!!! I thought Hamlet didnt love Ophelia!! Jerry Springer moment!
Side Note: When Hamlet jumps out, he declares: This is I, Hamlet the Dane This is how the King would announce himself Thoughts? Anyway, the fight is broken up with both guys swearing their love for Ophelia and swearing at each other Hamlet storms out: Let Hercules himself do what he may, the cat will mew, and the dog will have his day. Translation: Hell get whats coming to him! Whats with the Hercules comment? Claudius tells Laertes to be patient and stick to the plan (and its even
better now because Hamlet has given Laertes a real reason to challenge him to a duel.) Another side note: Why isnt anyone upset over Polonius? He was just buried too!? Act V, Scene 2: The end!! Resolution, Denouement its all the same! Or is it? Hamlet tells Horatio that he discovered a plot to kill him when he reached England; so, he rewrote the letter to kill R + G because they are traitorous rats! Note: He now takes death in stride no more contemplation or philosophy. Hamlet has definitely changed. Hamlet then lists all of the grievances against Claudius
(dead father, whore mother, and took the crown mirrors Claudius confession from earlier) and declares that he can gleefully kill Claudius for the offenses. Hamlet admits he is sorry for Laertes and wants to make peace with him (theres the Hamlet we love). Hamlet is told that Laertes has challenged him to a friendly duel right now! Claudius has staked his money on Hamlets success (hes overdoing it a bit 6 horses, 6 swords, 3 carriages, and a bunch of other stuff). Horatio tries to warn Hamlet to be cautious and offers to make his excuses if he doesnt feel up to it. (Interesting discuss).
Hamlet responds Act V, Scene 1, line 233 (pg 271) fall of the sparrow Not a whit, we defy augury: theres a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves, what ist to leave betimes? Let be. What is Hamlet saying to us here? He recognizes his friend is worried about him and he is acknowledging to his friend that he knows he is walking into his potential death because Laertes wants to kill him. This then, becomes a friend telling his friend goodbye. Whatever happens will happen; we are all going to die eventually, if it is his time let it be. Its all going to be ok. He is talking to Horatio: suggests this is a truthful, honest moment.
When its our time, its our time. We cant predict it or control it. We can only always be ready for it. Acceptance of death. Idea of fate: Gods will very religious (Protestant) connotations Emotional Resolution: Notice this statement is short. 6 lines. Compare to other soliloquys or monologues Hes done. Pondering over existentialism is over and hes accepted and decided. To be or not to be? Answer: Doesnt matter and its ok. (Whitman-esque) Resolved the impossibility of uncertainty: we can be certain about death.
Ends with a period. Declarative: Let be. Not interrupted. Finality to statement. Bold, direct as compared to Hamlets first line. If we respect the emotional crisis Hamlet has experienced, this is a release for him. Calm, resolved, at peace, sure of himself. Journey is over. Reflects Hamlets growth throughout the play from scared, anxious, hesitant to confident, calm, mature. Madness is over. He made it through and found humanity. Denouement: tie up loose ends As Hamlet approaches Laertes, he apologizes for the wrongs he has done him and blames it on his madness. Laertes tells Hamlet that he appreciates the apology
and will think on what Hamlet has said. His need for revenge is satisfied but hes not sure all is forgiven. They grab their swords and prepare for the mock duel. At first Hamlet is winning so Claudius attempts to get Hamlet to drink the wine. Hamlet declines. Denouement continued Strange moment with Gertrude: Gertrude intercedes and drinks the wine (did she know it was poisoned?), then gently wipes Hamlets brow (very motherly). Notice: she disobeys Claudius when Claudius tells her not to drink. She knows what she is doing. She is affectionate towards Hamlet for the first time in the play. Does she recognize what she has done and the damage she has caused to her son?
Claudius does not reveal the poison; instead he lets his beloved wife drink the poison. The duel continues and Laertes wounds Hamlet. In an aside, Laertes admits hes having second thoughts. After all, Hamlet and Laertes have been friends for a long time and Hamlet is hurting just as much as Laertes over everything (remember the Rosemary). Somehow they switch swords (how else will the play progress?) and Hamlet stabs Laertes. Gertrude, Hamlet, and Laertes all start to fall from the poison. I am justly killed with mine own treason. Claudius tries to cover what hes done but Gertrude announces
shes been poisoned by the drink meant for Hamlet so Claudius is revealed. Laertes furthers the revelation by telling Hamlet everything. What helps Laertes decide to reveal all? More denouement: Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and then forces Claudius to drink the last of the poisoned wine and Claudius dies quickly: fair retribution? As Laertes dies, he asks for Hamlets forgiveness and declares that the deaths of Polonius and Ophelia are neither of their faults. Hamlet is dying and tells Horatio to tell his story
(remember me). Horatio says he wants to die with Hamlet and Hamlet says dont do it; tell my story!!! They hear fighting noise and as Hamlet dies, his last words are: O, I die, Horatio; the potent poison quite oer-crows my spirit; I cannot live to hear the news from England; But I do prophesy the election lights on Fortinbras: he has my dying voice; So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less, which have solicited. the rest is silence. Hamlet predicts that Fortinbras will become the next ruler of Denmark and Hamlet feels this is a good thing. Notice this finishes up the ascension to the crown and puts to right the rotten state of Denmark because Hamlet has declared
Fortinbras his worthy successor (unlike the seizure of the throne through deceptive means by Claudius). Daaa da da daaa! Conclusion Fortinbras arrives and demands an accounting for all of the dead bodies and says that he will claim the throne since everyone else is dead. The English ambassadors arrive and announce that R + G are dead. Kinda anti-climatic yea? Fortinbras promises to give Hamlet an honorable (soldiers) funeral as a fallen king. Horatio promises to tell all. Place the bodies high on a stage for all the world (and audience) to see while Horatio tells the true story of what happened. This is a nice closing to the play. It reminds us that we have been in fact watching a play and must genuinely contemplate the idea of truth versus
performance. This moment (retelling Hamlets tale) shows that while theater is fictional, it has the power to immortalize and documents history. Think about all of the history that is included in the play and what we learned about the universality of humanity. Hamlet will be around for another 400 years. Final commentary and thoughts on Hamlet?