Hamlet: Act 3, scene 4

Gertrude: ‘Hamlet, thou has thy father much offended,Hamlet: ‘Mother, you have my father much offended.” Gertrude speaks of Claudius as Hamlet’s father already, showing how she has forgotten of the Old Hamlet within a short space of time. This once again causes us to question her allegiances. Hamlet plays on this use of ‘father’ to mean Claudius, through reminding Gertrude who his true father is. He shows her that she has acted in a way so as to dishonour his memory, once again referencing her hasty remarriage and support of a corrupt Claudius.
Gertrude: ‘O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!’Hamlet: ‘A bloody deed: almost as bad, good mother/ As kill a king and marry with his brother.’ Shakespeare focuses on wordplay here; Hamlet seems to twist and contort what his mother says into an insult or criticism of her character. The use of rhyming couplet here also emphasises the point in the same way as it does when it is placed at the end of one of Shakespeare’s sonatas.
Hamlet: ‘Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell.’ Hamlet shows no remorse for accidentally killing Polonius, and instead insults him. The way Hamlet reacts to this killing arguably highlights inconsistencies in his character; many argue his hesitation to kill Claudius is because he wanted to be sure that he was just. He was clearly unjust here, and yet he stands by his actions. Hamlet has clear reason for anger though, since the reason Polonius is dead is because he was spying once again.
Gertrude: ‘What have I done, that thou dar’st wag thy tongue/ In noise so rude against me?’ Quotes like this seem to suggest that Gertrude truly is innocent, since she doesn’t seem to recognise her wrongdoings and is arguably blind to the corrupted nature of Claudius and the possible murder of her late husband. We get a sense that she is a ‘clueless’ woman caught in a male world of conspiracy. Here, she is punished for this naivety and passiveness.
Gertrude: ‘O Hamlet, speak no more:/ Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,/ And there I see such black and grained spots/ As will not leave their tinct.’ Hamlet’s criticisms of Gertrude lead to her being more introspective; if she was unaware of the role she played in Denmark’s corruption, then Hamlet is revealing it to her here. We get the sense that she is finally realising to some degree what is happening, and that consequently, she sees ‘black and grained spots’, evil, inside herself.
Hamlet: ‘Nay, but to liveIn the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,Stewed in corruption, honeying and making loveOver the nasty sty-‘ Hamlet goes into detail about the sexual nature of the relationship between Claudius and Gertrude. He makes what should be natural and beautiful a picture of disgusting corroboration of their conspiracy to kill the old King Hamlet.
Gertrude: ‘ These words like daggers enter in mine ears.’ This is especially potent an analysis of Hamlet, since his issue is with inaction, namely the inability to wield a sword up to Claudius. His words, which relate to his thoughtful side, and his procrastination, are called a dagger here- as though he is trying to achieve his aims through talking only.
Gertrude: ‘Alas, he’s mad!’ Despite the fact that this seems to confirm that Hamlet’s madness is genuine, it is important to remember that the ghost has chosen not to reveal itself to Gertrude ‘Why do you bend your eye on vacancy/ And with th’incorporal air do hold discourse.’- for what reasons it is unknown. It would suggest that the ghost is a malevolent spirit, since one in aim of justice would reveal itself and explain the situation to her also.
Hamlet: ‘My stern effects: then, what I have to do/ Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood’ This signifies Hamlet’s recognition that he can no longer rely wholly on emotion, and reside in his melancholic frame of mind- he needs to exchange these tears for ‘blood’, which of course indicates that he must find someone, Claudius, who will pay with their life for King Hamlet’s murder.
Hamlet: ‘I essentially am not in madness/ But mad in craft.’ Re-emphasising that his madness is nothing but an ‘antic disposition’, allowing him to investigate and manipulate events.