As the scene opens the King is questioning Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about why Hamlet "puts on this confusion." Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don't have any satisfactory answers. Hamlet admits that "he feels himself distracted," Rosencrantz says, "But," Guildenstern adds, "with a crafty madness, keeps aloof" (3.3.8). By calling it a "crafty madness" Guildenstern is almost certainly not suggesting that Hamlet is only pretending to be mad. He means that in his madness Hamlet is wary and shrewd.
As Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are leaving, the King asks Gertrude to leave, too. He has sent for Hamlet, so "That he, as 'twere by accident, may here / Affront Ophelia" (2.2.30-31). He and Polonius, by "seeing unseen" are going to determine "If't be the affliction of his love or no / That thus he suffers for." Before she leaves, Gertrude lays a heavy burden on Ophelia. She says: And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
That your good beauties be the happy cause
Of Hamlet's wildness: so shall I hope your virtues
Will bring him to his wonted way again,
To both your honors. (2.2.37-41) So Ophelia, who was told to stay away from Hamlet, for fear that he would take advantage of her weakness, is now being told that she is strong enough to save Hamlet from his madness. Gertrude is hoping that Ophelia's beauty is indeed the cause of Hamlet's madness. If that's true, then Ophelia's "virtues" (her sweet, kind, loving nature) can cure him. Ophelia says only, "Madam, I wish it may," but we'll find later that she has a plan.
As the Queen is leaving, Polonius shows Ophelia just where to walk, and the King where to hide. He also gives Ophelia a book, probably a book of devotions, so that she can pretend to be reading when Hamlet finds her. This is a more than a bit hypocritical, and Polonius, just babbling on, comments that "with devotion's visage / And pious action we do sugar o'er / The devil himself" (3.1.46-48). Hearing what Polonius says, the King has a brief attack of conscience. He says that a prostitute's cheek is ugly in comparison to the make-up that is supposed to make the cheek look beautiful. So his "deed" is ugly in comparison to his "most painted word." This is as much as to say that all of his expressions of concern for Hamlet's mental health are lies.
Polonius hears Hamlet coming, so he and the King hide, probably behind an arras, that is, a tapestry or heavy curtain. Ophelia is left alone for Hamlet to find, but when he enters, he apparently doesn't see her because he's preoccupied with his great question, "To be, or not to be" (3.1.56).
After a few more words about how thinking stops action, Hamlet sees Ophelia and greets her. His greeting, like his soliloquy, is surprising. Ophelia has dumped him, and he has paid her a strange, silent visit that frightened her, but now he says "Nymph, in thy orisons / Be all my sins remember'd" (3.3.89-90). A "nymph" is a minor goddess of a field, forest, or stream, and a "nymph" is any beautiful girl that could be thought to look like a nymph. In short, Hamlet just called Ophelia something like "babe," and asked her to pray for him.
Even before Hamlet finally storms out, poor Ophelia interprets all of his anger as madness, saying "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!" (3.1.150). She remembers that he had been the perfect man, a soldier who was charming, educated, handsome, and a prince of whom great things were expected. It's not too much to guess that she hoped, even expected, to be his wife and eventually Queen. She describes herself as "of ladies most deject and wretched, / That suck'd the honey of his music vows" (3.1.155-156).
If Ophelia's actions match her words, she's weeping, and at this point an editor may put in a stage direction such as "Ophelia withdraws," because Polonius seems to act as if his daughter were not even there. If the editor makes Ophelia "withdraw," she has to come back into view later, so that Polonius can tell her she doesn't need to say anything because "We heard it all" (3.1.180). So, even if Ophelia withdraws and then comes back, Polonius is still a total jerk who doesn't care anything about his daughter's feelings.
Rozencrantz and Guildenstern report to the King that, while Hamlet seems distracted and sad, they do not have a concrete reason for his strange behaviour. The King is now forced to rely upon Ophelia for information about his nephew. Polonius arranges for Ophelia to be in a place where she will surely meet Hamlet, and then he and the King hide in wait for the Prince to arrive. Hamlet enters talking to himself, in a state of desperation, contemplating suicide: To be, or not to be, that is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them. To die; to sleep,
Ophelia greets him, intent to return the letters Hamlet had written to her, as Polonius demands. Hamlet, enraged at all women because of his mother's betrayal, can show Ophelia not a drop of affection. He lashes out at the poor girl, rudely suggesting that she quickly get to a nunnery. "Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" (3.1.121). Hamlet charges from the room and Ophelia is left to believe that Hamlet has gone utterly mad. But the hiding King knows better than to blame Hamlet's behaviour on unrequited love. Fearing for his own safety, Claudius decides to send Hamlet away to England, accompanied by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Polonius, who continues to meddle in the whole affair, suggests that the Queen will surely be able to discover what troubles her son, and that she should meet in private with Hamlet after the play, with himself eavesdropping behind the chamber-curtains. The King agrees: It shall be so:
Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go (3.1.189-90). Act 3, Scene 2
Hamlet coaches three of the Players and stresses the importance of the upcoming performance. They must not overact or improvise, for that will ruin the purpose of the play. Hamlet then confesses his plan to Horatio and asks him to watch the King's face during the poisoning scene. The King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern enter and take their seats. Hamlet, nervous and excited, lies down at Ophelia's feet. She tries to make conversation, but again, his answers are confusing and hostile. The Murder of Gonzago begins, and the King is visibly shaken. The King rises and Hamlet responds "What, frighted with false fire?" (3.2.263), chiding the King for being frightened by a mere play. The King calls for lights and the performance comes to an abrupt end. Hamlet and Horatio are left alone to discuss what has happened. They agree that the King has indeed behaved as a guilty man would, and Hamlet is overjoyed. When Rosencrantz comes in to tell Hamlet that the Queen wishes to see him, Hamlet revels in the idea of finally confronting her. "I will speak daggers to her, but use none" (3.2.389).
Polonius tells the King that Hamlet plans to visit his mother. The King is now aware that Hamlet knows his secret, and that he is no longer safe in his own castle. He soliloquizes on the crimes that he has committed, and falls to his knees to pray for forgiveness. But, he knows the prayer will remain unanswered, for he still enjoys the fruits of his treachery: But O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? "Forgive me my foul murder"?
That cannot be, since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?
Hamlet, on his way to his mother's chamber, sees the King kneeling in prayer, and his first thought is how simple a task it would be to plunge a sword into his uncle's back. But that will not do, for the King would be murdered in a state of repentance and would surely go to heaven. This would be a benefit and not revenge. He wants to kill Claudius in the same state of sin as his father was in when Claudius poisoned him -- that is, not "full of bread" -- not penitent and fasting. Hamlet wants the King to die when he is drunk or enraged or in his incestuous bed with the Queen. So the Prince goes, and the King is left to finish his empty prayer.
Polonius is already in the Queen's chamber, unable to resist telling her exactly what she should say to the Prince. As he is speaking, they hear Hamlet down the hall, screaming "mother, mother, mother!" (3.4.5). Polonius hides behind the wall hanging, intending to report every word that is said to the King. The Queen, terrified that Hamlet has come to murder her, cries out for help, and foolish Polonius echoes her cry from behind the curtain. Hamlet, thinking the King has followed him into the room, thrusts his sword into the drapery and pierces Polonius. When Hamlet realizes he has killed the wrong man, he stops to briefly address the situation, but shows no deep regret for taking Polonius' life. Hamlet holds Polonius himself directly accountable: Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell;
I took thee for thy better; take thy fortune;
Thou find'st to be too busy is some danger. (3.4.32-34) After this brief acknowledgement of Polonius's death, Hamlet attacks his mother with a barrage of insults and accuses her of being a hypocrite and a harlot. She is bewildered, and begs Hamlet to have mercy, but he is relentless. The Ghost, who has before expressed his concern for Gertrude, appears before Hamlet and reminds him to take pity on the Queen and to "step between her and her fighting soul." Hamlet, with now a calm and civil tone, urges Gertrude to confess her sins and refrain from further intimacy with the King. He bids her goodnight and looks again upon the body of Polonius. Hamlet is aware of the severity of his deed: "[I] will answer well/The death I gave him" (3.4.76-77). Hamlet leaves, dragging Polonius' body behind him.
The Queen informs the King that Hamlet has killed Polonius in a fit of madness, and he orders Rozencrantz and Guildenstern to find the body. Claudius, happy he now has a reason to send Hamlet away, tells Gertrude that they will report Hamlet's crime to his council.
In another room in the castle, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find Hamlet alone. They confront him, asking "[w]hat have you done my lord, with the dead body?" (4.2.5). Hamlet, scornfully contemptuous of the two courtiers, calls Rosencrantz a "sponge", and is outraged that they dare demand an answer from him: "what replication should be made by the son of a king?" (4.2.12-13). They persist and order him to accompany them back to the King. Hamlet replies: "The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body" (4.2.27-28).
In a meeting room in the castle, Claudius sits with his lords, and reports to them that Hamlet has killed his lord chamberlain. He tells them that the Prince must be exiled to England, but the public, who love Hamlet, must not know the true reason why he is leaving. Rosencrantz brings the guarded Hamlet before the King: King: Now, Hamlet, where's Polonius?
Hamlet: Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. Your
worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures
else fat to us, and we fat ourselves for maggots:
your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable
service, two dishes, but to one table: that's the end. (4.3.17-25) Hamlet finally tells Claudius that the body is on the stairs that lead into the lobby. The King informs Hamlet that he must leave for England, for his own safety. Hamlet slyly replies that he knows the King's real purpose for sending him away, but he nonetheless gladly obliges and bids farewell to his mother. When Hamlet exits the room, the King demands that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern follow the Prince closely, and they rush off. Claudius is now alone to reveal his sinister plan: he will send letters to England, a country "raw and red/After the Danish sword" (4.3.60-61), threatening war unless they assassinate Hamlet when he lands on British soil.
On his way to England, Hamlet meets a Captain in the army led by Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway. Hamlet asks the Captain where they are going and who commands the troops, and the Captain tells him that Fortinbras is leading his men to capture a "little patch of ground/That hath in it no profit but the name" (4.4.18-19). Hamlet is impressed by the idea of so many soldiers preparing to die for an inconsequential piece of land, and he admires their resolve. He longs to be more like Fortinbras and his men -- they do not lament and waste time pondering when honour is at stake: they act. Hamlet vows that, if he must still think at all, he will think only bloody thoughts. (For more on Hamlet's meeting with the Captain and why these lines are considered corrupt, please click here).
Scene 5 opens back at the castle in Elsinore, where Hamlet has been gone a few days. The Queen, Horatio, and a gentleman are discussing poor, tormented Ophelia, who has shattered under the strain of her father's death and Hamlet's cruelty and has gone completely insane. Ophelia enters the room and begins to sing a song about a dead lover and another about Saint Valentine's Day. The King arrives and speaks gently to Ophelia. She leaves, mumbling good night to the court, and the King asks Horatio to follow her.
A sailor brings Horatio a letter from Hamlet. He writes of his capture by pirates on his way to England. These "thieves of mercy" have released the Prince, on the condition that he will repay them when he returns to Denmark. Hamlet finishes the letter by asking Horatio to come to him at once, and to ensure that the King receive letters intended only for him. Finally, Hamlet writes that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have continued their course for England. Horatio grants the sailor permission to take the letters to the King, imploring him to return swiftly, so that they can meet with Hamlet at once.
The King and Laertes meet to discuss Hamlet. The King tells Laertes that he cannot harm the Prince directly, out of respect and concern for his beautiful Queen, who loves Hamlet above all else. Moreover, Claudius cannot enrage the people of Denmark, who adore the Prince and would surely rise up in protest. So the King proposes that they arrange a fencing match between Laertes and Hamlet, and that Hamlet, thinking it is for sport, will use a blunt sword, while Laertes will use his own military sword. To ensure Hamlet's death, Laertes will coat the tip with a poison "So mortal, that but dip a knife in it/Where it draws blood, no cataplasm so rare/ . can save the thing from death/That is but scratch'd withal" (4.7.142-45).
Ophelia is to be buried in the churchyard and the two gravediggers preparing her grave find it unusual that someone who has committed suicide be buried on sacred ground. They agree that Ophelia is receiving a Christian burial because she is a gentlewoman, belonging to "great folk." They banter back and forth, trying to alleviate the boredom of digging. Horatio and Hamlet come upon the scene just as the second gravedigger is leaving to fetch some liquor from a nearby tavern. Hamlet is disturbed that the first gravedigger, who has begun to sing a love song, can be so happy on such a solemn occasion. Horatio replies that habit has made the gravedigger indifferent to the gravity of his work. The gravedigger produces a skull that belonged to the King's jester, Yorick and Hamlet takes the skull, sparking his thoughts on death and its power to ravage even the most wealthy and powerful of people.
Back at the castle, Hamlet expresses regret for his outlandish behaviour at the grave site. He converses with Horatio, telling him that he intercepted the letter Claudius sent to England, and replaced his own name on the death warrant with the names of the courtiers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet presumes that they met their end in England, but their deaths are not on his conscience, for they were destroyed by their own persistent meddling. Horatio is shocked by Hamlet's cynical apathy: "Why, what a king is this!" (5.2.62).
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! Fortinbras orders four captains to carry Hamlet away and give him a soldier's burial, and he salutes Hamlet's kingly virtues as the play comes to a close.
Mabillard, Amanda. Hamlet Plot Summary. Shakespeare Online. 15 Aug. 2006. .
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The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
Going to a Play in Elizabethan London
Publishing in Elizabethan England
Religion in Shakespeare's England
Entertainment in Elizabethan England
London's First Public Playhouse
Shakespeare Hits the Big TimeOn The Mousetrap More to Explore
Introduction to Hamlet
The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot
The Norway Subplot in Hamlet
Hamlet Plot Summary
Deception in Hamlet
Hamlet: Problem Play and Revenge Tragedy
The Dumb-Show: Why Hamlet Reveals his Knowledge to Claudius
The Elder Hamlet: The Kingship of Hamlet's Father
Hamlet's Relationship with the Ghost
Quotations from Hamlet (with commentary)
Hamlet Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
Hamlet: Q & A
Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I. (2.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: To be, or not to be. (3.1)
Soliloquy Analysis: Tis now the very witching time of night. (3.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: Now might I do it pat. (3.3)
Soliloquy Analysis: How all occasions do inform against me. (4.4)
The Baker's Daughter: Ophelia's Nursery Rhymes
Hamlet as National Hero
Claudius and the Condition of Denmark
O Jephthah - Toying with Polonius
The Death of Polonius and its Impact on Hamlet's Character
Blank Verse and Diction in Shakespeare's Hamlet
An Excuse for Doing Nothing: Hamlet's Delay
Foul Deeds Will Rise: Hamlet and Divine Justice
Defending Claudius - The Charges Against the King
Shakespeare's Fools: The Grave-Diggers in Hamlet
All About Yorick
Hamlet's Melancholy: The Transformation of the Prince
Hamlet's Antic Disposition: Is Hamlet's Madness Real?
The Significance of Ophelia's Flowers
Ophelia and Laertes
Mistrusted Love: Ophelia and Polonius
What is Tragic Irony?
Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
Shakespeare's Sources for Hamlet
Why Shakespeare is so Important
Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers
©1999-2014 Amanda Mabillard. All Rights Reserved.
Hamlet's Sixth Soliloquy falls in Act 3, Scene 3. The basis of this scene is formed when the play has been abandoned and skipped by the guilty King Claudius. Hamlet planned the play deliberately, so as to catch the conscious of the King and to find if he indeed killed his father and the dead soul was right in his blame. Now, Hamlet has found the truth and intends to kill the villain who killed Prince Hamlet's father.Original Text: (Act 3, Scene 3)
Now might I do it pat now he is praying,
And now I'll do it, and so he goes to heaven.
And so am I revenged, that would be scanned.
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread -
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May.
And how his audit stands, who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
'Tis heavy with him, and am I, then, revenged;
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent:
When he is drunk asleep or in his rage;
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in it.
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damned and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays,
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.Summary and Explanation
In Act 3, Scene 3, we observe the sixth soliloquy of Hamlet. It arrives soon after, when he sees the King Claudius and draws a naked sword to kill him. He comes with such intentions but restrains himself when the thought arises in his mind that by killing the murderer King, while he is in the act of praying and seeking forgiveness for his sins, will send him directly to Heaven and this, according to Hamlet, will not be revenge. HamletвЂ™s thinks that as he is the sole son of his dead father, and his aim is to seek revenge and fulfill the promise of his fatherвЂ™s murder. He says that it will be unfair if he himself sends the murderer of his father straight to heaven and that will be no revenge at all.
Hamlet thinks that King Claudius killed his father in a state, when there was no reason for God to wave his sins and misdeeds, and HamletвЂ™s father must have paid or paying the divine penalty of his crimes and sins. Now to kill Claudius in a position, where his sins will be ignored and he will be sent straight to heaven is no revenge at all. Hence, Hamlet decides not to fulfill his task this time. He tells himself to wait for an opportunity and kill the King when he is вЂњdrunk, asleep, or in his rage, or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed, at gaming, swearing or about some act that has no relish of salvation in it.вЂќ
In this way, when the King Claudius will be killed, he will have to pay for his sins and misdeeds, and will be totally accountable for his crimes and that will justify the act of revenge and the promise the Prince Hamlet made to his beloved, dead father.More Hamlet Soliloquies
Read the original text with a summary and analysis here of the first soliloquy in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.
Read the original text with a summary and analysis of the second soliloquy from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.
Read the original text with a summary and analysis of the third soliloquy in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.
Read the original text with a summary and analysis of the fourth soliloquy (To Be, or Not to Be) from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.
Read the original text with a summary and analysis of the fifth soliloquy from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.
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Takwa ben Mohamed 9 months ago
Very well-written articles!! Shakespeare's diction is really difficult and
i was so confused about it but now every thing is clear
ignore the previous comment sorry to be such a pain! I wrote this on the wrong soliloquy!
my mistake it does appear in act 3 scene 2
Syed Hunbbel Meer 6 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan.
Yes, that is what Hamlet thinks in this soliloquy. As he says:
"A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge. He will kill King Claudius when:
"When he is drunk asleep or in his rage;
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in it."
Instead he plans to kill King Claudius, so that the revenge can be equalized:
So Hamlet will kill King Claudius when he is committing an act of sin and Claudius will go to hell .
The chapel scene, which features this soliloquy, was expurgated from any versions of the play for early 200 years--until the mid-1800's--because Christians were offended at Hamlet's "playing God" and determining the criterian for Claudius to go to heaven or to hell.
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