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In the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, what is the dramatic significance of act III scene IV?

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ARUN S DSOUZA SR 4 C ST MARY'S CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH COURSEWORK - PRE 1914 PROSE 23RD APRIL 2003 Q. IN THE PLAY "HAMLET" BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, WHAT IS THE DRAMATIC SIGNIFICANE OF ACT III SCENE IV? Hamlet is known to be the most popular play written by Shakespeare. It is also, by a significant margin, the longest of Shakespeare's plays. It has been translated to many languages and has become the subject of excited and critical debate more than any other work of literature. The play was written around 1602 or 1603 at a period of time when Elizabethan London was a melting pot of unprecedented intellectual and artistic ferment. In Elizabethan England the conviction that retaliation for murder was solely the prerogative of the state and its legal institutions clashed with an irrational but powerful feeling that private individuals cannot be blamed for taking vengeance into their own hands, for ensuring that the punishment truly answers the crime. This response, arguably always lateen in criminal cases, was likely to become especially forceful when, as sometimes happens, the law proved impotent or else too corrupt to pass sentence. As Bacon conceded, 'the most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law to punish; else a man's enemy is still before hand, and it is two for one'. Reasoning of this kind presumably gave the 1584 Bond of Association what shaky justification it had. It was also likely to generate clandestine sympathy for avengers who found themselves in the position of Shakespeare's Hamlet: unable to obtain legal justice for the premeditated killing of a parent, sibling, or child because of lack of circumstantial evidence and/or of a court prepared to deal with the culprit. For Shakespeare at the turn of the century, when he addressed himself to the Hamlet story, contradiction and ambiguity of attitude towards revenge would have been part of the air he breathed. ...read more.


I think it was to see my mother's wedding" when Horatio states that he had attended King Hamlet's funeral. An important aspect of Polonius' death is that it is the doorway to the rest of the tragedy which follows soon after. So, in a way, the accusation of the tragedy laid on Hamlet due to his tragic flaw is somewhat shared with Polonius. Had Polonius not been an "intruding fool" he might have survived death and so Ophelia would not commit suicide and Laertes would not join Claudius' evil scheme to kill Hamlet. Shakespeare hence brings out Polonius' contribution to the tragedy in this scene. Polonius in fact was a very smart person who only appeared to be a fool. His tragic flaw was his inquisitiveness. He liked to poke his nose into everything and so this time he 'poked' it too far thus making his death-bed. After this murder follows now and episode of passionate intimacy unlike any other in the play. Here is where he really slashes his mother's conscience with the "daggers" he uses on her; he "wag[s] thy [his] tongue in noise so rude against..." Gertrude. He intends to hurt her, to insult her and to humiliate her to such an extent that it would shock her into a greater realization and acceptance of her own actions. This confrontation between the mother and son shows intense feelings of the strong love and affection that exists between them and this is a scene that grips the audience by its sheer verbal force. The comparison of Hamlet's "god-like" father to the "mildewed ear" that Gertrude married shortly after his father's death shows that Claudius was absolutely not even a fraction of what his father was. Shakespeare emphasizes this comparison through the use of metaphors, similes and other language techniques. The audience is able to understand Hamlet's deep love and respect for his father through these lines. ...read more.


His unbalanced state of mind causes him to pick up a fight with Laertes in a mourning ground. Another debate in this scene is aroused by his persistence in saving his mother from the so-called addition that she has for Claudius - the argument between whether Hamlet is suffering from Oedipus complex or not. This again contributes to the complexity of Hamlet's character. He "speak[s] daggers to her" in order to shame her into admitting her mistakes and joining his side which brings some critics to the conclusion that he suffers from Oedipus complex. Then again, he could just be advising her so that he could establish that bond between his father and mother so that Gertrude would not fall into the incestuous sin. He "do[es] not [want his mother to] spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker." I feel Act 3 Scene 4 is really one of the most important scenes which builds up the plot of this tragedy. Had Polonius not have been murdered, Ophelia and Laertes would never have been involved in the plot and so Claudius would have been unsuccessful in his evil scheme to kill Hamlet. The complexity of Hamlet's character and the addition of characteristics also make this scene important. The complexity of his character is what makes him interesting and this also allows the audience to relate to him. The mother-son conflict and rejoining also seasons the play as this makes the scene a very important climax of the play. Shakespeare's use of language adds variety to the play and also keeps Hamlet's description of his words as daggers to one's heart true. In more simpler terms, Hamlet would have been a big failure if Act 3 Scene 4 was omitted. Prince Hamlet would not have been so complex without this scene and so he would not be as interesting as he would be now. This is probably why Shakespeare's play still challenges the test of time making him one of the most famous playwrights ever recorded in history. ...read more.

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