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Analysis of Acts 2-3 in Shakespeare's Hamlet

By pinkboomerang Oct 10, 2012 1083 Words
1) Shakespeare uses Polonius’ character to make satirical observations about the corruption in King James’ court. Through Polonius’ character he also illuminates the universal theme of deceit. Find five quotes from acts 2 and 3 that support these observations about Polonius.

“You shall do marvellously wisely, good Reynaldo. Before you visit him, to make inquire of his behaviour.” – Polonius, Act 2 scene 1.

“Now gather and surmise”- Polonius, Act 2 scene 2 (Polonius reads out Hamlet’s private letter to the King & Queen and belittles their relationship.)

“I will leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between him and my daughter”- Polonius, Act 2 scene 2

“ ‘Tis too much proved, that with devotions visage, and pious action, we do sugar o’er the devil himself” – Polonius, Act 3 scene 1

“That the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in his own house. Farewell.” – Hamlet, Act 3 scene 1 (Hamlet knows Polonius is spying)

“You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said, we heard it all” – Polonius, Act 3 scene 1

“Behind the arras I’ll convey myself to hear the process…I’ll call upon you ere you go to bed and tell you what I know” – Polonius, Act 3 scene 3

2) Re-read Hamlet’s speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and rewrite the speech using modern, colloquial language (one paragraph)

Hamlet: I’ll tell you why—so you won’t have to tell me and give away any secrets you have with the king and queen. Recently, though I don’t know why, I’ve lost all sense of fun, stopped exercising—the whole world feels sterile and empty. This beautiful canopy we call the sky—this majestic roof decorated with golden sunlight—why, it’s nothing more to me than disease-filled air. What a perfect invention a human is, how noble in his capacity to reason, how unlimited in thinking, how admirable in his shape and movement, how angelic in action, how godlike in understanding! There’s nothing more beautiful. We surpass all other animals. And yet to me, what are we but dust? Men don’t interest me. No—women neither, but you’re smiling, so you must think they do.

3) Complete the following quotes and identify who says them:

“This is the very ecstasy of love”
“I did repel his letters and denied his access to me”
“I have found the very cause of Hamlet’s madness”
“I doubt it is no other that the main: his father’s death and our o’er hasty marriage.” “Brevity is the soul of wit”
“To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand” “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” “I am mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw” “Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindles villain! Oh vengeance!” “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” “To die, to sleep- to sleep perchance, to dream to dream. Ay, there’s the rub” “Oh my office is rank, it smells to heaven”

“This visitation is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose” “I must be cruel only to be kind”
“My two schoolfellows whom I trust as I will adders fanged. They will bear the mandate”

Red= Hamlet
Green= Polonius
Blue= Ophelia
Pink= Gertrude
Purple= Claudius
Black= Ghost

4) Discuss the way that Hamlet’s moods fluctuate throughout acts 2 & 3. Write a 400 word integrated response. You might consider the following:

* His behaviour with Ophelia
* His reaction to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ‘s presence at Elsinore * His taunting of Polonius
* His enlisting the players to enact “The murder of Gonzago”. * His self-loathing and contemplation of suicide (see the soliloquies) * His decision not to kill Claudius
* His confrontation with his mother
* His killing of Polonius.

Throughout acts two and three of “Hamlet”, it is evident that Hamlet’s moods fluctuate substantially, as his despair and self-loathing at his own inability to take revenge turn into anger and frustration at his family’s lack of sorrow for his father’s death. Shakespeare establishes Hamlet’s despair and self-loathing in Act 2 scene 2 though his soliloquy; by juxtaposing it with the player’s scene to highlight the decline in his mood; while the actor’s performance fills him with enthusiasm it also serves as a cold reminder of his own lack of ability to take action, and his initial enthusiasm dissolves into self-hatred, expressed through alliteration when he describes himself as “a dull and muddy-mettled rascal”. Furthermore, Hamlet’s idealisation of the King his father, and his rhetorical question “Am I a coward?” imply not only that he feels unsure, but also that his perspective is distorted, and thus his self-hatred is exemplified because he is not seeing the situation in the worst way possible. However directly after this, Hamlet’s dialogue becomes much more aggressive, as his despair turns into anger, which (expressed through again through alliteration) he directs at Claudius “Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindles villain!” His mood fluctuates yet again where, at the end of the soliloquy, his self-assurance is shown through the rhyming couplet “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” In addition, during his conversation with Ophelia in Act 3 scene 2, Shakespeare uses Hamlet’s comments, which become more and more blunt, in order to illustrate the decline in his mood. Beginning with Hamlet’s uncharacteristic, overtly sexual puns “Lady, shall I lie in your lap?” Hamlet’s mood comes across as playful, however it becomes more and more evident throughout the conversation that Hamlet seems to be taking delight in making Ophelia feel uncomfortable. This is confirmed through Hamlet’s sarcastic account of his father’s death which is expressed through satire in order to expose and ridicule his family’s lack of remorse towards his father’s death. “So long? Nay then let the devil wear black, for I’ll have a suit of sables”. Hamlet’s exasperation intensifies towards the end of the conversation with his allusion to his mother and simile (“tis brief my lord”) “as woman’s love”. Through these techniques, Shakespeare makes us aware that Hamlet is not simply “merry, he is still deeply upset about his father’s death and frustrated that his family does not share his grief. Therefore, Hamlet’s moods fluctuate a in a number of ways throughout acts two and three of the play, as shown through his soliloquys and the literary techniques Shakespeare uses.

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