Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thursday 9 June

A-D In Hamlet 3.1, Hamlet and Ophelia have a strange conversation after he delivers the most celebrated soliloquy in history. What can be inferred from the exchange?

The conversation between Hamlet and Ophelia shows that Hamlet no longer has any faith in women, not even one that he presumably loved. His faith in women has been shattered with the thought of his mother being unfaithful to her marriage to his father with his uncle. Since this is before his mind throughout most of the play, it is no wonder that Hamlet does not trust Ophelia’s love to him.
            Hamlet not only does not want to be in a relationship with Ophelia anymore, but he also does not wish her well in finding a husband. He harshly tells her that, “If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny” (3.1.132-134). Hamlet seems to be threatening Ophelia; if she dares to marry, he will give her a “plague” for a “dowry”. I find it a bit curious that Hamlet is proclaiming that he will give Ophelia a “dowry” if she marries another man. After all, he is not her father, nor has any relation to her that is stated in the play; therefore, it is a bit strange to offer a dowry. Within the Oxford English Dictionary, however, it states that “dowry” can mean a “dower” (1). “Dower” is defined as “The portion of a deceased husband’s estate which the law allows to his widow for her life” in the Oxford English Dictionary (1). This adds more confusion: does Hamlet consider himself a husband to Ophelia already, even though they have not married? Hamlet could, I suppose, not understand marriage. In that case, perhaps he thinks that he can bestow a dowry on Ophelia even though they are not relations, or does he consider them to be already married because of their love toward each other?  Perhaps Shakespeare is showing, once again, how weird and unnatural the world of Hamlet is in relation to reality.
            In any case, Hamlet has threatened to grant Ophelia “plague” of “calumny” as her “dowry”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “plague” is not only the horrible disease that spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, but also “A blow (1a). “Calumny” is defined as “False and malicious misrepresentation of the words or actions of others, calculated to injure their reputation…slander” in the Oxford English Dictionary (1). Putting these two definitions together, Hamlet is telling Ophelia that he will slander her reputation to no end if she ever marries. These are very harsh words to a woman that was sure of one’s intention of granting a proposal of marriage.
            If Hamlet did love Ophelia as much as he professed in the letter Polonius read to the King and Queen earlier in the play, something profound had effect on him to drastically change his mind. I still believe that it is the belief that it is the marriage of his uncle and mother. Hamlet’s last remark to Ophelia reads, “…we will have no more marriage. Those that are married already—all but one—shall live; the rest shall keep as they are” (143-145). I cannot help but wonder if Hamlet is saying that he and Ophelia will no longer marry or if he is declaring that he will not stand for any marriage in general. I am almost want to say that Hamlet does not like the idea of anyone marrying, because he says that those who are already married should stay the same; all, that is, but one. That one marriage, I believe, is the one between his uncle and his mother, because it is the only one that has upset him during the entire play.

The conversation between Ophelia and Hamlet in Act 3 Scene 1 is indeed strange. Hamlet seems to be picking flower petals deciding whether or not he loves Ophelia. His indecision could be from madness alone but one might question whether it is all the mistrust built up from his mother’s deception.
            Hamlet first denies giving Ophelia the tokens she returns to him. His denial could be due to his mistrust of women. Perhaps he had forgotten them and he refused to believe her when she told him they were his. He wants to question her chastity before he admits anything as can be inferred from his asking, “Are you honest?” (3.1.104). After his mother’s deception he didn’t believe it was possible that Ophelia, his girlfriend of sorts, wasn’t cheating on him and planning his death as well. Later in the conversation he questions the whereabouts of her father, Polonius. Hamlet fears the plotting of anyone near the king or queen which is one reason why he seems as if he’s gone insane.
            The prince’s indecision in admitting his love seems like a mockery of womanly behavior. He finds women to be deceptive monsters perhaps he was playing a game with Ophelia by claiming, “I did love you once” (3.1.116), then later saying, “I loved you not” (3.1.120). The back and forth of his love and hatred resonates as a way of deceiving her much like he thinks she is deceiving him.
            Hamlet tells Ophelia multiple times to, “Get thee to a nunnery” (3.1.122). This is another strike from Hamlet: Prince of puns. The word nunnery, as is noted in the Bantam Classic version of the play, was used as a different term for convent. It also had a denotation as a brothel. This puns plays off the previous pun where Hamlet asks Ophelia If she is honest. Honest in noted to mean not only telling the truth, but also chaste. The double meanings of both these imply that he thinks her to be an unchaste woman and believes she belongs in a brothel, whereas, others might read it as her being honest and just and belonging in a convent.
            All the rage from Hamlet of her being unchaste comes from his hatred of his mother’s adulterous actions. Polonius might also have played a role in the mistrust since he was the one that suggested Ophelia treat Hamlet as if she was better than her level in the hierarchy, which led Hamlet to believe she was also acting deceptively.

Hamlet’s soliloquy questions both life and life after death and whether or not there is any point. Up to this point in the play, we see his mind slowly start to slip as he is driven to avenge his father’s death. By Act III, he is questioning why anyone would want to endure the pain and suffering that takes place among the living and that in sleep we “end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks” (3.1.62-63).
Hamlet still has a moral compass of what it right and what is wrong within himself, but he does not project this to Ophelia. By this, I mean that he knows he wants to kill his uncle, but he knows that it is wrong to kill someone, and may lead to his own death. He knows that he is being watched by Ophelia’s father and Claudius, and that Ophelia is not being truthful with him. After asking how Ophelia is fairing, he reveals that he did indeed love her, but that she, just like any other woman, is a sinner, a whore, and a liar and that it is much easier for a woman to transform from good to bad than vice versa: “the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness” (3.1.113-114).
This both angers and disappoints him and he proceeds to repeatedly tell Ophelia to “Get thee to a nunnery” (3.1.122) in which footnotes has translated as a brothel.
The significance of this exchange is that had Ophelia been truthful with Hamlet, he may have been able to have something to hold onto. Something to give him faith in humanity. But alas, she is not and thus the unraveling continues for Hamlet.

E-G  As 3.2 begins, the hero gives the equivalent of a master class in acting to the players he has hired. Why is it significant for the play as a whole?

It could be that the significance of  Hamlet’s “master class” instruction to the actors in scene 2 of Act III is a nod to the play’s over-arching theme of deceptive. Furthermore, the very idea that Hamlet is illustrating to the players the exact way to give a performance in such a way that it will affect an audience (“you must acquire and beget a / temperance that may give it smoothness” 3.2.6-7) is analogous to the several other well-delivered “performances” throughout the play. For instance, as previously discussed, Claudius’ finely crafted speech at the beginning of 1.2 that deftly encourages the audience to move past the death of his late-brother by putting the joy they should be feeling (due to the recent wedding) on equal footing with the sorrow they are feeling for the death of the former King. Additionally, much is made in the first act of the play about how the ghost appeared in the “fair and warlike form / In which the majesty of buried Denmark / Did sometimes march?” (1.1.46-48). Lastly, the conversation between Polonius and Reynaldo in the first scene of act 2 about how the royal counselor’s servant will surreptitiously go about information about Laertes  clearly shows the Polonius knows how to give good performances.
In addition, the content of Hamlet’s advice to the players could be seen as deeply ironic considering Hamlet’s penchant for being overly-dramatic. For instance, in this scene Hamlet encourages the players to exhibit a certain balance with their portrayals. He advises against the “whirlwind of your passions,” but also tells them “be not too tame neither” (3.2.6-15). This leveling of two extremes is analogous to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in scene 1 of Act III where he contemplates the two extremes of life and death: “To be or not to be: that is the question” (3.1.55).

Hamlet’s instruction to the players emphasizes how critical the show they are going to put on is to the rest of the play. This show is the turning point for Hamlet. King Claudius’s reaction to the scene where Lucianus pours poison into Gonzago’s ear confirms for Hamlet that what his father’s ghost told him is true; Claudius must have killed King Hamlet.
While being an indicator to the importance of the show, Hamlet’s instructions display his own particular knowledge on the subject of acting. Hamlet seems to know a great deal about plays in general, from his knowledge of the plot of The Murder of Gonzago to his ability to recall and quote numerous lines. He also has a long discussion with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about the current politics of the city players and the players who have come to play for him. When he asks what players they are Rosencrantz says to him, “Even those you were wont to take such delight / in, the tragedians of the city” (2.2.284-5).
It comes as no surprise, then, that Hamlet should have so much knowledge of acting. He’s taken a keen interest in it during his travels, enough to have gained and maintained a true understanding of the art form. This knowledge has become very useful to him, as Hamlet himself has become an actor during the course of the play.
Shortly after speaking with the ghost of his father and learning about his murder, Hamlet decides that he will take on the disposition of a man gone mad. This is how he plans to get away with taking revenge on his uncle, King Claudius. Hamlet says, “As I perchance hereafter shall think meet / To put an antic disposition on” (1.5.172-3). He says this while convincing the guards Marcellus and Horatio to swear that they will not speak of Hamlet’s visit with the ghost. They do swear, and so promise not to have any knowledge as to the cause of Hamlet’s “insanity.”
There are very few characters that Hamlet chooses to let see his true self after this meeting with Marcellus and Horatio. Nearly all, the King, Queen, Ophelia, and Polonius included, are tricked into believing that Hamlet has lost his mind. However, during his instruction to the players Hamlet does reveal himself. Whether they realize it of not, the players are allowed to see the sharp mind behind Hamlet’s act. The advice that he gives them to act by is the advice that he is currently living by. The state of their livelihood is the state of his life.

H-O  Why does Shakespeare allow the play's antagonist, Claudius, to deliver such an affective and emotional speech in the soliloquy "O my offense is rank, it smells to heaven" (3.3)?

It might seem strange that Shakespeare gave the main antagonist of Hamlet such a long and emotional soliloquy, but it actually is quite effect in making Claudius into a dynamic character as opposed to a villain who has one giant flaw that drives him to evil. Claudius openly acknowledges his crime of killing his brother, the “eldest curse” (3.3.37) referring to Cain and Abel. By saying this, Claudius reveals himself to be the murderer as well as completely coherent when it comes to his crime. There was no doubt that he knew what he was doing when he killed Hamlet Sr. However, the thing that separates him from the typical villain is that he feels guilty about committing the murder. Now that is guilt is starting to get ahold of him, he feels like “A man to double business bound” (3.3.41) or someone who is being pulled between both feeling guilty and feeling pretty good about his new position as king – and his new wife.
By giving his main antagonist a conscience, Shakespeare makes him more human. Yes he calculated and murdered his brother, but he feels strong regret over the act. He Claudius wants to pray and ask for forgiveness, but doesn’t think there is any possible prayer that would work to resolve his sins. He knows what he did was near unforgivable. By talking about these feelings of guilt and greed out in the open, even to no one buy himself, Claudius realizes that although he does regret the murder, and wants to beg God for forgiveness, that there is no hope for his soul and, besides, he likes the power and the Queen he has.

Shakespeare permits Claudius to deliver this speech because it allows the character to have some depth by showing remorse for his actions. If this speech was never delivered then there would not be the same emotional conflict in the reader and Claudius would be seen as a purely evil character, this speech allows for possible empathy to be given to him. Specifically, the lines “What if this cursed hand/ were thicker than itself with brother’s blood/, is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens/ to was it white as snow?” (3.3, 43-46) show not only regret in what he has done, but also a possible willingness to atone for his sins as heaven would want him to. When this is coupled with the fact that this was delivered as a soliloquy, it shows that these are most likely genuine emotions that Claudius feels, and this helps to make the relationship between antagonist and protagonist not seem as black and white as it had before. On top of this there is a bit of this soliloquy that could be applied to Hamlet, which is “In the corrupted currents of this world/ offense’s gilded hand may shove by justice/ and oft ‘tis seen the wicked prize itself/ buys out the law, but ‘tis not so above./ There is no shuffling, there the action lies/ in his true nature, and we ourselves compelled/ even to the teeth and forehead of our faults/ to give in evidence.” (3.3, 57-64), which Shakespeare used to make the reader wonder if the revenge sought by Hamlet is really that morally just when compared to what Claudius did in the first place. According to the laws of men, an act of revenge may be justified due to the fact that Hamlet would be upholding honor and Claudius committed murder for no reason other than personal gain. On the other hand, due to the religious connotation of this speech, the religious side of both acts must be looked at, and when murder is a sin there is not that much of a difference between the murders that Claudius committed and the murders that Hamlet, at this point, plans to commit. This becomes a tool that Shakespeare can use to add complexity to his play depending on how the individual reader analyzes it. If the reader is more impacted by justice on earth then they may see Hamlet as a good character and Claudius as bad, but if they care more about the religious implications of the play it is possible that they think both characters have good and bad qualities, and neither is wholly damned or forgivable. 

The plot of Hamlet revolves around an indecisive protagonist, and a world in chaos. By giving a very unlikable antagonist a soliloquy that shows he is conflicted about the actions he took to achieve his goals it humanizes him. Without this soliloquy the reader, or audience would be incapable of seeing Claudius as anything other than an unfeeling monster who saw nothing wrong with his actions. By depicting him in the way he did Shakespeare gave justification for Hamlet’s indecision in taking his revenge, if Claudius was pure evil, there would be no justification for such hesitation.
            The conflicted nature of Claudius’ decision is can be seen in the following passage, “My fault is past, but, oh, what form of prayer / Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder—“. (3.3.53-54) Here Claudius laments that his fault is in the past, thus he can do nothing to Chang it, nor does he know what prayers might secure his salvation. When he asks for forgiveness Claudius does not simply call his act a murder, but a foul murder, indicating he is aware that he knows how horrible it is to have killed his own brother, to take from him his crown, and his queen.
            Though Claudius is conflicted, he is still an ambitious villain who would not relinquish his ill gotten gains if he could find a way to keep the. This sinister aspect of his nature is shown in the following passage, “My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen, / May one be pardoned and retain th’offense?”. (3.3.55-56) These lines show the desires that drove Claudius to the terrible action of killing Hamlet Sr., the crown he envied to feed his ambition and the queen he desired to satisfy his lust. All of these were denied him by his birth order. He further questions if after being forgiven for his sin her could retain the spoils of his crime, showing that the rewards and not the forgiveness of his immortal soul were what truly mattered to him in the end.

P-R  Some have found Hamlet's soliloquy, "Now might I do it pat, now he is prayhing" (3.3) morally questionable. Why?

Hamlet’s soliloquy might seem morally questionable because as he is attempting to murder Claudius, he catches him in mid prayer and doesn’t follow through with murdering him.  Hamlet doesn’t want to murder Claudius while he is praying because that will send him to heaven and if he sends him to heaven then no revenge has taken place. Instead, he wants to wait until Claudius is in the act of a sin so that he will go to hell.  This is morally questionable because murder is already a sin, let alone purposely waiting to murder someone just so that they will go to hell. 
It’s almost like Hamlet is just making excuses as to why he isn’t murdering Claudius.  It seems like his conscious actually might show during this act and is stopping him from murdering Claudius.  Which would actually prove that he has morals, but this isn’t his excuse on why he doesn’t kill him.  His reasoning for not killing Claudius is where his morals are questioned.  Murdering Claudius isn’t enough for Hamlet to get his revenge.  The real revenge isn’t even murdering him.  The revenge is sending Claudius to hell.  So instead of killing him, he would rather wait until Claudius is performing a sin to kill him.

Hamlet’s soliloquy in 3.3 could be considered morally questionable because he is deliberately postponing Claudius’s murder so he will go to hell. Hamlet doesn’t feel it is adequate revenge to kill Claudius when he is praying because then Claudius will go to heaven, a luxury that Hamlet’s father didn’t get when he was murdered. It would only be true revenge if Claudius dies without first “purging of his soul” (3.3.85) and is sent to purgatory. Hamlet’s reasoning for why he doesn’t kill Claudius could be considered morally questionable because Hamlet wants to purposely send Claudius to purgatory. Murder is already frowned upon, even if Hamlet’s reasoning for murder is justified, but to murder someone in a fashion that doesn’t afford them the chance for last rites could be considered cruel. If the purpose of the murder is revenge then it is understandable for Hamlet to wait to murder Claudius. It would not be revenge if Claudius ended up in heaven. Hamlet says it would be “base and silly, not revenge” (3.3.79) to kill Claudius while he was praying. Hamlet’s murder of his uncle could be accepted as justification for his own father’s murder but purposely waiting so he could catch his uncle in a moment of sin so his uncle would go to hell seems a bit extreme.

S-Z Which lines strike you as most significant and telling in the exchange between Hamlet and Gertrude (3.4)?

A significant line in Hamlet would be when Gertrude told Hamlet “Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.” (3.4.9) the reason this line is significant to me is because Gertrude is talking about Hamlet’s stepfather not his real father. However, Gertrude never says stepfather she says father, from this it shows me that she doesn’t think of Claudius as a stepfather. It also shows that maybe she loves him a lot. She is also upset with Hamlet for offending Claudius.
            Another significant line would be when Hamlet says “Mother, you have my father much offended.” (3.4.10) the reason this line is significant is because Hamlet really is talking about his father. Hamlet is upset with his mother for going and getting married to his father’s brother. Hamlet is mad at his mother because she got over her husband’s death, and moved on very quickly. From this it shows me Hamlet is upset with Gertrude and Claudius and doesn’t want anything to do with his mother and stepfather, he hates having to think about Gertrude and Claudius together in his fathers bed.
            A significant line would be when Hamlet says “Nay, I know not. Is it the king?” (3.4.26) Hamlet was hoping that it was the king and instead it was Polonius. From this line it shows us that Hamlet had killed an innocent bystander and that he thought it was Claudius, it also seems like Hamlet may have wanted to get revenge and wanted to kill the king/stepfather. At this point it looks like he wants to kill Claudius for killing his father and then marrying Gertrude.
            Another line that seems significant would be when Hamlet says “A bloody deed-almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king and marry with his brother.” (3.4.27-28) the reason this line is significant is because this is where Hamlet says that he thinks Gertrude had killed the king and married his brother. That what Gertrude had done was terrible and it was a “bloody deed”.  
            A significant line that Hamlet said was “From the fair forehead of an innocent love and sets a blister there…”(3.4.43-48) from these lines it shows us that Hamlet is saying that Gertrude is a prostitute and it seems to Hamlet that his mother didn’t really mean anything when she had said her vows to his father. That it was all meaningless to her and that she had made false oaths to her husband. This also shows that he doesn’t really care for his mother anymore.


Act 3, scene 4 of Hamlet reveals a lot to the audience. In this encounter between Hamlet and his mother, the Queen, Hamlet confronts his mother about the murder of his father. In lines 28-29, Hamlet reveals to his mother for the first time that he knows of his father’s murder. Hamlet speaks to his mother and scolds her for her horrible acts of shame. In a span of 34 lines, Hamlet pours his heart out to his mother in frustration and confusion. In this scene, one of the most pivotal points is after this long speech that Hamlet gives.
            Queen stops Hamlet and orders him to “speak no more!” (3.4.88) because she knows that she is found out. She is overtaken by guilt and is scared as to what will happen next. Hamlet continues to go on about her “corruption” and “nasty” acts. This is a turning point for Queen. As she is upset about her son finding out the corruption behind everything between her and Claudius, she begins to beg to her son.
O Hamlet, speak to me no more!
These words like daggers enter in my ears.
No more, sweet Hamlet.
                                    (Hamlet 3.4.94-96)

She recognizes the trouble that she is in. Saying these lines not only show the audience her vulnerability, but it also shows Hamlet that she is guilty. These lines are significant to this exchange as a whole because, even though Hamlet does not acknowledge it at this point, his mother has just revealed her guilt to him. The line right after this, the first line of Hamlet’s next sentence, is also very pivotal. It is not clearly said who this line is addressed towards—Queen or Claudius—but the words “A murderer and a villain” (3.4.97) escape his mouth. Whether this is towards his mother or his uncle, these five words would be a stab at anyone. Making his mother feel even guiltier, Hamlet continues. This whole section of exchanges is significant to not only this scene, but to the play as a whole. 

There are two lines that strike me as most significant and telling the exchange between Hamlet and Gertrude. The one from Gertrude demonstrates her guilt while Hamlet’s quote transparently tells the audience that he has gone mad. Although he says he pretends to be mad in the play, there were already signs that he was drifting that way. He had considered suicide deeply, he pushed Ophelia away, he makes rash decisions about people and then takes his time acting, but when he does act he acts violently and precariously.
Hamlet feels no guilt when he kills Polonius despite the fact that he is Ophelia’s father. He also takes up his time to kill the man who killed his father, but does not know if he can handle the responsibility of taking another person’s life, except when he stabs an innocent man he’s response is not surprise or horror at what he had done, he annoyance at Polonius. Hamlet growls, “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell” as Polonius gulps down his dying breath (3.4.32). He feels no remorse as he drags Polonius off of the stage. He does not think what will happen to Ophelia, but shrugs off his deed with clear obsession in his eyes about his mother’s and uncle’s actions. Irony screams as the Laertes whose father Hamlet slayed stands up to kill him. He does not empathize with Laertes at all, it appears like he does not even remember that he killed a man.
He is narcissistic about what he has to do, he cares for no one else’s emotions. He was in his lost in his own world. He blames other people for his wellbeing. He desires isolation. He doesn’t falter as he terrifies his mother. He is lost in his own mind for most of the play. He walks for four hours in introspection. “You know sometimes he walks four hours together” (2.2.162). His act causes Ophelia to commit suicide which finally causes him to think of her before himself. 
            Hamlet finally slips into the dark realm, where sanity is left behind and insanity deems holds the tenure of the brain. Even the ghost thinks he has gone too far when he berates his mother in her own chamber. “O, step between her and her fighting soul” (3.4.114). His first kind words to his mother was to ask how she was and it was the only time he cared enough to ask a person how they were and not worry about himself was when the ghost demanded it of him. Yet, he scurried back to his box of blaming everything on others as he discusses the ghost and his madness with his mother. 
Gertrude admits her guilt in scene three. “Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul, /And there I see such black and grained spots/As will not leave their tint” (3.4. 90-92). Her sins weigh on her, but she does not wish to confront them. She thinks to herself that she is unforgiveable. What are these transgressions? Is her guilt caused by sleeping with Claudius or is it participating in the death of her husband that taints her soul? The only response to these questions in the play is her suicide.
 If she did not realize that Claudius murdered King Hamlet, she understood it when she recognized that he poisoned her son Hamlet. Gertrude wipes Hamlet’s face before she slips away as if giving her son one last hug goodbye. She did not have confession because she thought her sins were too dark to be healed by God. This is why Hamlet murders Claudius demanding him to “Follow my mother” (5.2.328). According to catholic tradition, without confession they both went to Hell.

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