The chiasmus of the title quotation emphasizes how Polonius has categorized his life; his duty is always to his king, whereas his soul is held to God. This illustrates that Polonius has a very simple, medieval approach to life and is a very conservative characters. This simplistic view insinuates that there are only two focal loyalties in life; that of respect of hierarchy, and that of reverence. Polonius is obsessed with the idea of ‘for king and country’ and this is the one fault he has. Hamlet attacks Polonius’ ideas by killing Polonius himself, albeit by accident. Here Shakespeare undermines the idea of certainty by illustrating that accidents can, and do, happen, even for the people who cherish God and the King.
“Hamlet: Thou find’st to be too busy in some danger.”
The killing of Polonius is a turning point in the play, because once the death of Polonius takes place, all the other deaths take their shape; Ophelia going mad, Leartes and Claudius plotting against Hamlet and Hamlet plotting against Claudius.
Hamlet, the play, is a different type of revenge tragedy to previous plays of similar genre. Hamlet takes time to consider the consequences of his revenge. Hamlet has many chances to kill Claudius but does not, for example, when Claudius is praying Hamlet does not kill him because Claudius will go to heaven, not hell.
“Hamlet: Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.”
It is not enough for Hamlet to just kill Claudius; it must be a perfect revenge. This portrays Hamlet at his most chillingly revengeful frame of mind. There are also pragmatic reasons for not killing Claudius quickly. Hamlet has his doubts about the ghost, as ghosts were not believed in at that time.
“Hamlet: It harrows my soul with fear and wonder.”
Shakespeare directly contrasts Hamlet and Leartes in this matter. Hamlet takes him time to consider the facts, but Leartes decides that he wants to kill Hamlet as soon as he discovers who killed Polonius.
“Leartes: Let come what comes, only I’ll be reveng’d
Most thoroughly for my father.”
This illustrates Shakespeare’s portrayal of how different people act in different ways to life.
Hamlet finds it hard to believe that his mother remarried to soon after the death of his father, and that she married Claudius.
“Hamlet: She married – O most wicked speed! To post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets.”
The ghost orders Hamlet not to harm his mother and this he obeys, but he does confront her about the matter. Hamlet wishes is to express his anger to Gertrude. He also wishes to somehow induce her to stop loving Claudius. The latter would mean that Gertrude would not condemn Hamlet for killing or attempting to kill Claudius if she did not love Claudius. Hamlet would have the freedom he would need to kill Claudius. Firstly Hamlet treats Gertrude badly, as his feigned insanity permits him to do.
“Hamlet: … almost as bad, good mother,
As kill a king and marry his brother.”
However, his second goal is decidedly more difficult as one means of achieving it would be for Hamlet to kill his mother or make her go insane. However, he cannot do so because he cherishes a basic psychological inhibition against destroying his own mother. Also, he needs his mother's love much more than he needs Ophelia's love. While Ophelia's love is important to him, since it is a lover's love, Gertrude's love is much more significant. To destroy his mother would be to attack his own identity and since Hamlet cannot induce his mother to stop loving Claudius by killing her or driving her insane, as he did with Ophelia. He confronts her with concerning of Claudius' crime, in the hopes that she will somehow think about it, realize that Claudius is guilty, and cease loving Claudius, all without thinking that Hamlet believes these facts, himself. However, since Hamlet confronts her with these premises in a state of feigned insanity, she has no reason to believe that the rational Hamlet believes them on the inside. So, she will not be obliged to make that difficult choice between Hamlet and Claudius. Gertrude fails to respond, though, and a subsequent conclusion that she no longer loves Claudius does not occur.
Shakespeare also illustrates Hamlet’s doubts about the ghost by introducing the play. Hamlet's decision to stage a play is made clear in Act 3 Scene 2.
"Hamlet:… catch the conscience of the King"
This decision re-enforces the fact about his obsession with gathering information about whether or not Claudius' committed the crime. The reason he does this is that, whatever Hamlet learns from such information, whether it proves Claudius' guilt or not, Hamlet will feel great psychological relief from the information. If the information disproves that Claudius killed the king, then Hamlet will be relieved of his obsession to kill Claudius, along with the intense stress it induces within him.
In addition, proving that Claudius is guilty has great psychological advantages for Hamlet. For one thing, such proof will prove to him that his endeavour to kill Claudius is justified. Therefore, he will not be engaging in his risky, dangerous task for no reason. Such proof will also allow Hamlet to engaging in a crime that violates many moral, political and religious principles when not justified. It will also provide Hamlet with the opportunity to use hard evidence to prove to his friends and loved ones that Claudius is guilty. This might make them support Hamlet in his endeavour, thus providing him with the support he needs to carry it out.
Shakespeare portrays Hamlet as a tragic hero, although a very unique one, and that his ideas of throwing back the limitations of reason and exploring the inner aspect of his character are just as significant today, as they were in Shakespeare’s time. Hamlet’s strongest beliefs, as a renaissance man, are that people should not just stand for what they are told is right but look for their own answers. A modern genre audience would also be able to connect with these ideas, and so the play is very suitable for audiences today. Many of the ideas portrayed, in the play, are still significant today. For example, a very important aspect of life, portrayed in the play, is that of respect towards the King, or Queen, which is very important now as it was in Shakespeare’s time. One aspect of the play that is not a part of life now is that of burial rules. When the grave diggers are preparing the grave for Ophelia they argue about whether she should be buried or not as they are not sure whether she committed suicide or not. Nowadays, whether a person commits suicide or not they still get a full burial. This is an alien idea to modern audiences and, therefore, stands out as strange. The majority of the play, though, is compatible with modern day audiences, and is, therefore, understood easily by those watching it.