Write a Critical Analysis on Hamlet Act 3 Scene 4

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Act 3 scene 4 – also known as the ‘closet’ scene – is a pivotal moment within play. It depicts Hamlet’s confrontation with his mother, Gertrude, over his recent decisions and behaviour, and dwells over the relationship between the two.

The scene begins with Polonius telling the Queen to be “straight” and direct with Hamlet about his ways and that he – Polonius – will be hiding in silence; which is ironic, as it is his inability to stay silent which leads to his death. Quite strange within this brief introduction into the scene is that Polonius finds it fit that he should have to tell the Queen what to say and do when talking to her own son – and it is these sorts of foolish interjections, into business which do not concern people of his nature, which render his death inevitable.

Following Hamlet’s entrance into the scene, Gertrude tries fruitlessly to exemplify her authority. She first tells Hamlet that he has “thy father much offended” which he immediately counters by saying that she has the Old Hamlet “much offended”. The sudden change of subject to the dead – the Old King Hamlet – sets the scene for the later comparison which apparently hurts Gertrude at the heart.  The conversation progresses with Gertrude attempting yet again to show her status as his mother by reminding him, “Have you forgot me?” however, likewise to the earlier counter, Hamlet reminds her that she is her “husband’s brother’s wife”. Hamlet’s fixation upon the condition and actions of Gertrude rather than his own, exemplifies his resentment upon her – however, this may also be seen as Hamlet’s love and concern for his mother; this view is later enforced by his advice for Gertrude to keep her “virtue” or what’s left of it, by not retreating to Claudius’ bed.

The scene then takes a most shocking turn with Hamlet actually putting meaning behind his words and taking his thoughts past their boundaries into action. Gertrude, realising that she is no match for Hamlet in this argument, attempts to “set those” who has the power and authority to make him listen. Hamlet however takes her back by force and sets up a mirror to see the “inmost part of” her. This can obviously be mistaken as literally seeing the inside of her body, which Gertrude takes on and interprets as an attempt of murder – which leads to her screams for “help”. Polonius now foolishly, still from behind the arras, shouts for help – the fact that he does not come out himself shows his cowardice – and this is what leads to his murder.

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Hamlet’s sudden decision to kill the “rat” on the basis of sound conveys his irrational personality – at this point – and sets the basis for the reader to assume that on some level, he may be ill at the mind. However, from this brutal act I can only assume that he was incensed due to Gertrude’s stubborn actions. Aside from the act itself, Hamlet still refers the deed “almost as bad” as “kill a king and marry his brother”. This comment shows that Hamlet is still fixated upon the actions of Gertrude rather than on the sin at hand ...

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