HAMLET- Act 3, Scene 3

Summarise the events of the scene. Claudius says Hamlet is a danger, and orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to prepare to leave for England. They agree that if the King were to die it would be a tragedy for the country, and exit.Polonius enters with news: Hamlet is headed to Gertrude’s room, where Polonius will hide behind a tapestry. Finally alone, Claudius cries out that his “offense is rank!” (3.3.36). He wants to pray, but doesn’t see how he can ask forgiveness when he possesses the spoils of the murder, neither of which he wants to give up: Gertrude and the throne. Yet he kneels to pray. Hamlet enters. He draws his sword to kill Claudius and be revenged. But it occurs to him that if he kills Claudius as Claudius prays, then Claudius will go to heaven. That isn’t real revenge, especially when Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father before he could pray, sentencing Old Hamlet to torment in purgatory. Hamlet decides to wait until Claudius is sinning to kill him. Hamlet exits. Claudius stops praying. The attempt was useless: “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. / Words without thoughts never to heaven go” (3.3.97-87).
How do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern unwittingly accept the corrupt state of Denmark? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern seem to indicate that the health of a country is dependent on a King’s legitimacy. They do not know that Claudius is illegitimate, but by suggesting this, they effectively condemn him and reveal the corrupt state of Denmark. “…keep those many bodies safe who live and feed upon your majesty…” Poison, Corruption and Death/ Appearance vs reality.
What does Claudius’s consideration of “…nor stands it safe with us to let his madness rage .” indicate? Claudius could again be referring to himself in third person- the Royal ‘we’- demonstrating another attempt to reassert his legitimacy. He could also be referring to Denmark in general, possibly showing his recognition of duty and thus his need to act with concern for his kingdom.
How does Polonius’s obsession link to social Darwinism within the play? Polonius is still stuck in the old plot, while new plots are afoot. Plonius’s inability to accept his defeat and adapt to new revelations will cause his downfall. Appearance vs Reality.
What generally does Claudius’s soliloquy serve as? It is justification for Hamlet to murder Claudius. Claudius with his “rank” offense realizes that he requires repentance but is unable to achieve it due to the extent of his corruption. Religion, honour and revenge/ Poison, corruption and death.
What does the structure of Claudius’s soliloquy indicate about its nature? Claudius speaks in blank verse to reflect his desire for intimacy with God as he tries to unburden his soul.
How is Claudius’s recognition of the “Primal curse” significant? Biblical allusion to Cain and Abel. They possessed jealousy as the result of knowledge (the fall)- this reflects Claudius’s jealousy which he gains through status. The notion of “the primal eldest curse upon’t…” gives an image of longevity and thus the notion that Claudius’s guilt and damnation is inescapable.
What is the significance of Claudius’s reference to “rain enough in the sweet heavens?” “rain” could also be allusion to tears and possibly forgiveness or pity. The implication that it comes from heaven indicates that Claudius believes that he is beyond even divine intervention, which increases his despair. Claudius seeks to be “white as snow” which suggests purity.
What is significant about Claudius’s listing of the spoils of his deeds (“My crown, mine own ambition and my Queen…”)? “My crown, mine own ambition and my Queen…” Claudius’s listing of these is significant. He places his crown first showing that he value power (or possibly responsibility or duty) above all else.He places ambition second, suggesting possibly his corruption which he believes is synonymous with his wealth. Claudius places Gertrude as last in the list, possibly demonstrating a lack of love for her, or also suggesting that he does not view her as a possession, or a prize, possibly demonstrating love or her complicity in murder? His repetition of “my” and “mine” suggests possessiveness and his obsession with material goods, further emphasizing his inability to be redeemed.
What does Hamlet’s decision to spare Claudius indicate concerning the extent of corruption? Hamlet realizes that Christianity is arbitrary. Getting to heaven is based on when you pray rather than who you are. Religion itself seems to have been duped by appearance. Hamlet waits to get true revenge.Action and Inaction/ Appearance vs Reality/ Religion, honour and revenge.
How is Hamlet’s possible naivety exposed within this scene? “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. / Words without thoughts never to heaven go” Hamlet is himself duped by appearance: Claudius only looked like he was praying. This is a development of his fatal flaw “conscience does make cowards of us all…”. Appearance vs Reality/ Religion, honour and revenge.