Hamlet is a play that has proved successful throughout the years. This type of play is known as a revenge tragedy, which was particularly popular in Shakespeare’s time. It also appealed to all social classes, since there was murder as well as sexual innuendoes for the lower classes and reference to the Gods for the upper classes. A typical revenge tragedy contained five sections; exposition; anticipation; confrontation; delay; completion.
There were also standard themes, which included: a melancholy and hesitating avenger; a villain who was to be killed by revenge; plotting; murders; madness; a ghost who calls for revenge; the death of the avenger. Hamlet, being a revenge tragedy, contains most of these points. Hamlet is a melancholic play about a son, Hamlet, avenging his father’s unlawful murder, also named Hamlet, which was committed by his own brother, Claudius. Who then married Old Hamlet’s wife, Gertrude, after a few weeks of his death. And as Hamlet says “You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife, and would it were not so, you are my mother”.
There are two quotes that sum up the play. “All is not well, I doubt some foul play”(Act 1 Scene2) and ” Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Act 1 Scene 4). This is a play with many twists and turns; there are additionally many dramatic scenes, which show the character’s inner feelings. One of these scenes is Act 3, Scene 4. It is undoubtedly one of the most important scenes the play. It is so significant as it provides an insight into how the characters are feeling on many issues, and unlike most scenes in Hamlet, here we get to see How Gertrude really feels as she usually does not say much.
This is mainly because in that time women were not encouraged to speak their mind. In this scene we witness Polonius’ death as he is brutally murdered by Hamlet. Hamlet also accuses Gertrude of being unable to control her sexual desires and he becomes infuriated with her for showing disrespect for King Hamlet’s memory by marrying Claudius so soon after his death. He additionally compares King Hamlet to Claudius, portraying King Hamlet as one of the Gods and Claudius as a villain. Throughout this scene Hamlet is relatively aggressive but the peak comes when he talks about what Claudius has done.
Soon after, the Ghost of King Hamlet appears and reminds Hamlet of his purpose and to comfort Gertrude at this critical stage. As Gertrude cannot see the ghost she assumes that his ‘antic disposition’ is in actual fact true madness, but Hamlet convinces her he is not mad and asks for her forgiveness. He furthermore tells her not to sleep with Claudius and requests her not to reveal his pretend madness. Hamlet then plots to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet subsequently leaves pulling Polonius’ body after him, leaving Gertrude alone in her bedroom.
This scene is probably one of the most important as it is one of the rare ones where we catch sight of the genuine relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude, we also see Polonius at his most obsequious. It is additionally the first time we see Hamlet committing cold-blooded murder. This scene furthermore prepares us for the climax of the play, as it has given us an insight into what Hamlet is capable of. It is important for another reason, which is, that is shows us the reactions of different characters to different situations.
For instance when Hamlet sees the Ghost and when Gertrude witnesses Polonius’ murder. During the scene there could be a constant background noise of rain so that it adds to the eerie mood of the castle. The scene begins with Polonius talking to Gertrude. It is quite dimly lit, with a few candles to give the impression of night. The corners of the room will be dark and a few other areas will be too. As this is at night and since Polonius wants to spy on Hamlet and give the impression that all is conventional, Gertrude will be wearing night-clothes.
Polonius will be smart, as he wants to impress the Queen. When he talks to Gertrude it is quite hurried and in a slightly nervous tone as he is expecting Hamlet any moment “I’ll silence me e’en here”. As he wants to make an impact on the queen he continuously compliments the King and Queen, he does this now “that your grace hath screened and stood between much heat and him”. When Hamlet calls “Mother, mother, mother! ” Gertrude quickly tells Polonius to hide behind the arras and at that moment Hamlet walks through the door.
Hamlet has not had a chance to get changed as he came from the play to where Claudius was supposedly praying to Gertrude’s closet, so he will still be wearing his day clothes. For that reason Hamlet will be quite agitated already so he is not really perturbed with Gertrude’s problems and monotonously says “Now mother, what’s the matter? ” When Hamlet next speaks it is very aggressive and forces Gertrude down onto the bed very forcefully when he says “come, come and sit you down, you shall not budge”. The bed is used to symbolise how Hamlet feels for his mother, as he subconsciously desires his mother.
Subsequently Gertrude cries out for help, which Polonius reacts to making Hamlet aware of his position consequently Hamlet draws his sword and stabs Polonius twice. He leaves the sword in there until he says “is it the king? ” where he pulls it out and the body falls to the floor, and lightning strikes with a crack of thunder over the body so we can see who it is. This is similar the Olivier production, but very unlike the Branagh production, where Hamlet stabs Polonius many times in a very brutal attack.
I believe that this is too brutal as Hamlet could contemplate killing someone but I do not think he would repeatedly stab someone so close to the family that many times. Although Hamlet does not actually know who is behind the arras, I think that he suspects Polonius, as he knows it’s not Claudius. Even though he says, “is it the king? ” since Hamlet just saw Claudius praying, before he came up to see Gertrude and he know that Polonius constantly interferes with matters of no concern to him. However Branagh most probably did it this way to show the aggression building up in Hamlet and also reinforcing the idea that it could be the king.
What shocks people the most is the fact that Hamlet did not even think about killing him, he just did it. This may be because he had just seen Claudius and still had the anger and hatred inside him and he did not really care who it was as long as he had killed someone. He could have thought it was Claudius as he says later “I took thee for thy better. ” Hamlet had the extra aggression building up as he felt that Gertrude must not trust him or otherwise why would she have Polonius spying on them.
All through the scene Hamlet is very aggressive this can be shown in his facial expressions. In all three films Hamlet is portrayed as being very forceful to his mother and in Zeffirelli’s film he is depicted as having sexual feelings towards his mother as he is shown thrusting on top of her. This is known as an Oedipus complex, where Hamlet unconsciously desires his mother in a sexual manner, and is extremely jealous of Claudius as not only did he inherit the crown but his mothers bed. This may also make him unable to commit in a loving relationship with Ophelia.