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Analysis of Hamlet Act II.2

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Introduction

Carina Comment on the Presentation of Hamlet in Act 2 Scene 2 Act 2, Scene 2 is an important scene for the audience's impressions of Hamlet, as it is the first time we can see the "antic disposition" of which he has previously spoken. He enters the scene on page 50, and immediately enters into conversation with Polonius. We can see that the act of his madness relies upon rhetoric devices such as puns and double meanings, which are deliberately intended to confuse. On page 51, for example, when Polonius asks him what matter he reads, he replies: HAMLET: Between who? In this, Hamlet is playing on the double meaning of the word "matter"- although Polonius intends it to mean his reading matter, Hamlet knows it could also mean personal matters, and picks the wrong interpretation, intending Polonius to think that his mental instability is such that he cannot follow the conversation. Although there are these occasions upon which Hamlet seems to be truly mad, the audience can see that he is being rather clever in constructing his act. When Polonius clarifies the meaning of the word "matter" which he intended, Hamlet responds with a thinly veiled attack on him: HAMLET: The satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, (...) ...read more.

Middle

This change in syntax clearly shows his mood- whereas before his short sentences showed doubt and mistrustfulness, these longer sentences show that he is what he is saying is exactly what he thinks- in contrast to the earlier part of the conversation, he now clearly seems to be relishing and enjoying the words as he says them. This is the first time that the audience is made aware of Hamlet's love of drama, which is an important part of his personality and will become vital later on in the scene, when the audience is made aware of his plans. It also explains how, when faced with the dilemma of how he should react to the news of the ghost, his immediate reaction is to put on an act. At the end of the scene, Hamlet is left alone and speaks his second soliloquy of the play. As is typical of Shakespearean dramas, soliloquies are used to give the audience an insight into the character's innermost thoughts and feelings without worrying about the opinions and reactions of other characters towards them. The speech is organised into three main parts: the first, a comment on the player he has just seen perform, followed by a self-critical analysis, before he goes on to explain his plan of action. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is at this point in the scene that the cynical facet of Hamlet's personality comes back into importance- we can see that he needs evidence before he acts, as he declares towards the end of page 63: HAMLET: I'll have grounds more relative than this. To the audience, this is further reinforcement of his suspicious nature- rather than simply take revenge without thought, he must first devise a plan to test the truth of the ghost's words. This in in keeping with what we have been told of his past- namely, that he is a scholar from Wittenberg, which at the time was one of the most prestigious universities in Europe. Therefore, his questioning nature is in keeping with this- for, being educated, he is less likely simply to accept what others tell him wthout proof. We see this during his "testing" of the motives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern earlier on in the scene, but only now does it begin to relate directly to the central plot. This concludes Act 2:2, during which Hamlet as a character has greatly developed. We see his plans begin to come together, as he feigns the "antic disposition" which was spoken of in previous scenes. The audience also begins to see his character develop, as we are introduced to such elements of his personality as his love for drama and his cynicism, all of which fashion the style which revenge will take, and ultimately guide the play to its inevitable ending. ...read more.

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