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TOPIC: What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene)

What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #841

shakespeare wrote:
Aristotle? :?:

Oh yes, Aristotle is where Hamlet, the university student, got his material about the senses, that he proceeds to lecture about, to Gertrude.

If you have absolutely nothing else to do, try wading through the link that follows, for a while. It's Aristotle's "On Sense and the Sensible" (as that section of the Aristotle writings is sometimes called.) ... e.1.1.html

Shakespeare, bless his mischevous heart, used Aristotle's 'Sense and the Sensible' as part of making Hamlet look crazy to Gertrude.
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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #843

Gertrude is sitting in the chair, and Hamlet is standing, pacing some, and swinging his sword around, using the sword as a pointer. It's reminiscent of something. Hamlet, as we know, has been a university student at Wittenberg. As Hamlet tries to lecture Gertrude, it's like a professor, with his pointer, lecturing a student.

The familiarity of the situation, in that way, makes Hamlet "go back to school," so to speak. He becomes "Professor Hamlet" lecturing "Student Gertrude." This should not be taken as premeditated by Hamlet. The familiarity of it to him - a person sitting in a chair, and another person standing with a 'pointer' - leads Hamlet into what he does.

Earlier, Hamlet said to Horatio:
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

One thing that makes Hamlet so difficult, is that there's nothing in the play that you can simply ignore. 4000 lines of play, and it all connects. Hamlet mentioned philosophy, and here we go with philosophy, albeit of the 'mad' variety. Aristotle.

(The First Quarto of Hamlet states that the play was performed at Cambridge and Oxford. The college crowd would have absolutely loved this scene, as 'Professor Hamlet' madly lectures 'Student Gertrude' about Aristotle, while another 'student' is already lying there dead on the floor, killed by the 'Professor' with his 'pointer.')

Hamlet says.....

Sense, sure, you have,
Else could you not have motion:

The concept of sense being necessary to motion is from Aristotle. Aristotle is also known for logic. Hamlet, the university student, is going to try to put his education to good use. He's going to try to use Aristotlean concepts to prove to Gertrude that she shouldn't have married Claudius - as Hamlet paces, and waves his 'pointer' around.

And with Hamlet not knowing that Gertrude thinks he thinks Claudius is the one there dead on the floor.

but sure that sense
Is apoplexed, for madness would not err,

Oh, dear, Hamlet shouldn't have mentioned madness. As far as Gertrude can tell, that's all she's seeing. She has no idea she is now "Student Gertrude" being lectured by the "Professor."

Nor sense to ecstasy was ne’er so thralled
But it reserved some quantity of choice

Mostly connects to something elsewhere. For the immediate purpose, Hamlet is arguing, logically, that sense always implies choice. Fair enough.

To serve in such a difference. What devil was’t
That thus hath cozened you at hoodman-blind?

That's a little something about the Ghost, before it enters. Blink, and let it go by.

Immediately, Hamlet is asking Gertrude the rather rude question: are you blind? Hamlet asks, while he cannot see himself, looking like a crazy nut waving a sword around.

Hamlet now goes into the details of Aristotle and the senses, and as he does so, he's demonstrative and insistent, as he tries to make his point.

His mentions of the individual senses, and sense organs, is his attempt to say to Gertrude, if you could only see, you should have known not to marry Claudius. Or, if you could only hear, you should have known better. And etc. That's what he's trying to express.

Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,

When Hamlet says "Eyes without feeling" he puts his hands behind his back (to symbolize 'no feeling') and he leans toward Gertrude, and opens his eyes as wide as he can. Again! It now seems to Gertrude that every third thing he says, he stares bug-eyed at her. Like a lunatic.

While he has his hands behind his back, (symbolizing 'no feeling,') Hamlet hooks his sword on the back of his pants, to free his hands. He needs both hands free for what he does next.

When he says "feeling without sight," he closes his eyes, (to symbolize 'no sight,') and he holds his arms out in front of him, toward Gertrude, and wiggles his fingers. How his show looks to Gertrude? Well, you know.

Hamlet then says "Ears without hands or eyes." He points at his ears with the index fingers of both hands. He then splays his hands, close to his head, with his thumb tips touching his ears. He again leans toward Gertrude, and opens his eyes as wide as he can, and wiggles his fingers. He has just done that at his mother, the Queen. He can't see how he looks. Gertrude can - he looks crazy, and rather rude.

Hamlet has forgotten his sword for the moment. As he continues to pace back and forth in front of Gertrude, and try to lecture her sternly, his sword is hanging from the back of his pants.

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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #851


... smelling sans all,

When Hamlet says that, he grasps his nose, and he looks at Polonius's body.

The show Gertrude sees, is Hamlet standing there, holding his nose, looking at Polonius, and with Hamlet's sword hanging from the back of his pants.

Hamlet continues, trying to argue that if Gertrude had any sense at all, she shouldn't have married Claudius. As Gertrude watches and listens, as far as she can tell, it's Hamlet who has no sense at all.

Or but a sickly part of one true sense
Could not so mope.
O shame, where is thy blush? ...

Gertrude is sitting in the chair, pale with worry and fright, seeing Polonius dead on the floor in front of her, and her son apparently having totally lost his mind. Hamlet, all worked up, is pacing back and forth in front of her, red in the face. He's asking her where the blush is, while he can't see his own red face.

Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine in a matron’s bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,

Hamlet is trying to make the point that if she, an older person, doesn't behave virtuously, why should he, a younger person, try to behave properly? It's a good point. In the process, he calls himself a "flaming youth." She does understand that by "youth" Hamlet is referring to himself.

It's important to notice the word "youth." It's the last personal reference term Hamlet gives Gertrude, as he continues. So, as he continues, Gertrude thinks Hamlet is basically talking about himself.

And melt in her own fire; proclaim no shame
When the compulsive ardor gives the charge,

At the word "charge," Hamlet has an impulse to wave his sword. However, he suddenly realizes he isn't holding it. It baffles him. Where's his sword?? All wrapped up in lecturing Gertrude, he's forgotten what he did with it.

As Gertrude watches, she sees Hamlet look at his hands, and then look down at his empty scabbard. It's obvious that he's looking for his sword. He then turns back and forth, and looks on the floor, wondering if he dropped it. As he searches, she sees perfectly well that his sword is hanging from the back of his pants - where he put it. And now he can't find it.

Hamlet stops and thinks. You can almost see the wheels turning. He thinks back through what he's done. Ah, he remembers! When he did "eyes without feeling" he hooked the sword on the waistband of his pants to free his hands. Is it still there? He reaches behind him, and yes, there it is! His whole face lights up, as he swings the sword around. He found it!

He smiles at Gertrude, and holds the sword up, to show her he found it. Look, mom, I found my sword!

He quickly realizes he's supposed to be lecturing Gertrude, so he frowns again, looks sternly at her, and proceeds, now with the sword firmly in his hand, again.

Since frost itself as actively doth burn,
And reason pardons will.

Hamlet's phrase "reason pardons will" goes back to the Prayer Scene. Hamlet heard Claudius speak of his 'will' to pray, and then of seeking 'pardon' for his offenses. Hamlet 'pardoned' Claudius's 'will' and it's still on Hamlet's mind, and bothering him.

Gertrude knows nothing of that, and still unable to follow Hamlet's figures of speech, she hears him speaking of frost burning in fire like wax, which sounds crazy to her. Hamlet seems to be saying he thinks he could make a candle out of frost.

After 'will' Hamlet stops, and looks at her as if he expects her to say something. Gertrude gets a chance to get a word in. Finally!

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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #861

Go back to Hamlet's coaching of the Players before the 'Mousetrap' play.

He said.....

"For in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul, to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant; it out-herods Herod. Pray you avoid it.
... suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now, this overdone, or come tardy off, though it makes the unskillful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve..."


That's what Hamlet said, when he was coaching. Now look back at what he has done while 'performing a show' for Gertrude in this Scene.

Hamlet has tried to 'perform' in a way to impress Gertrude with his show, to be convincing to her. Recall that earlier in this Scene he even mentioned setting up a "glass" for her, a mirror, the same as he mentioned in his coaching of the Players.

But what has Hamlet achieved here? He has torn the passion to tatters, he has given Gertrude, as far as she can tell, only an inexplicable dumb show and noise, he has overstepped the modesty of nature like he was wearing seven-league boots, and etc. He has overplayed his role so badly, he's made her think he's totally lost his mind.

This is, of course, an intentional irony from Shakespeare, in presenting his Hamlet character. Hamlet knows plays from the audience side. Hamlet knows what looks right to him when a good, trained actor does it. Hamlet has an intellectual understanding of how acting should be done. However, Hamlet is not, himself, a trained actor, and when he's "on stage" trying to do a big show for Gertrude, he can't do it right. He overplays it horribly. Rather than being persuasive to Gertrude, in a natural human way, he looks nuts to her.

Hamlet thinks the 'Mousetrap' play caught Claudius's conscience, so here in the Closet Scene he's trying to "put on a big show" to catch Gertrude's conscience, too, in the same way. But in trying to do his "big show" himself, Hamlet is the rankest of rank amateurs, and he cannot do it properly.

That's what Shakespeare is showing us in this Closet Scene. He's showing us Hamlet as such a bad actor, that to his "audience," Gertrude, he looks crazy.

And, oh dear, it gets no better for Hamlet.....
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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #862

Hamlet has stopped talking, finally, and is looking at Gertrude as though he expects her to say something. Oh, the things she could say.

What Gertrude has seen and heard from Hamlet has convinced her he's lost his mind. She didn't believe it, earlier, that Hamlet was mad. She knew he was depressed, unhappy, and not what he should be. Now Hamlet, himself, with his grossly overplayed "big show" has convinced her he's crazy.

Gertrude says.....

O Hamlet, speak no more:
Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grieved spots
As will not leave their tinct.

("Leave" is one of Shakespeare's 'contrary' word usages. A thing that won't leave it a thing that remains. The Bard used "leave" in a statement that carries the opposite of the normally expected sense for the word.)

Given a chance to speak - finally - Gertrude is trying to tell Hamlet it's grieving her soul that he's crazy. She hates to see her son like that. She uses a figure of speech about her soul.

Hamlet, unable to see his own show, doesn't know how crazy he's looked. What Hamlet hears, is Gertrude talking about her soul. That's exactly a point he's been wanting to make - the condition of her soul, because of her involvement with Claudius. When Hamlet hears Gertrude speak of her soul grieving, he thinks he's communicating on what he's trying to say. He doesn't understand she's trying to tell him it grieves her soul that he's nuts.

So Hamlet continues, with renewed energy, encouraged that he's getting his message across to her (he thinks.)

He exclaims.....

Nay, but to live
in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty!

Hamlet is using "sty" as a euphemism for hell. Hell was depicted in Medieval artwork, for example, as a sort of pigsty place. It's an obscure euphemism, but Hamlet happens to know it (Shakespeare knew it, that is.)

Hamlet, now that he's heard Gertrude speak of her soul, is trying to warn her that her behavior with Claudius, that he suspects, could damn her soul to hell. He's very worried about that.

Gertrude does not hear it that way. She takes "sty" as most people would, as reference to a common pigsty. And again, keep in mind Gertrude thinks that Hamlet thinks Claudius is the one dead on the floor. Therefore, Hamlet couldn't be concerned about her behavior with Claudius any longer. So what can Hamlet be talking about? Go back to the word "youth." Gertrude thinks Hamlet is talking about himself.

Gertrude thinks her son, who is crazy, has just announced to her that when he's feeling romantic, he goes out to the pigsty. To make love. And he's proud of it, and going to tell her all about it.

She objects.....

O, speak to me no more;
These words like daggers enter in my ears;
No more, sweet Hamlet.

She is basically trying to say to him, "spare me the details!" She does not want to hear about him in the pigsty. In the process, she happens to use the figure of speech about "daggers." It's pure coincidence (a small instance of the Wheel of Fortune motif in the play.)

However, Hamlet remembers saying "dagger" earlier. In his "witching time" soliloquy, he said he'd speak "dagger" to Gertrude, but use none. And here, she's said it, that he's speaking daggers to her. He's certain he's getting through to her now, doing exactly what he intended. She just said it!

Hamlet has no idea that what Gertrude found 'daggery' was when she thought she heard her son, the Prince, say he goes out to the pigsty, for immoral reasons. He's increasingly confident that he's communicating his message, and he keeps going.

A murderer and a villain,

Polonius is still there dead on the floor, right in front of Gertrude, and Hamlet is still waving the sword around. Gertrude, of course, thinks Hamlet means himself - and he's proud of being a murderer and a villain, by killing "Polonius-Claudius." Hamlet is trying to condemn Claudius, but Gertrude thinks Hamlet means himself.

A slave that is not twentieth part the kith
Of your precedent lord, a vice of kings,

Gertrude thinks Hamlet is exclaiming that he's not even a twentieth as good as Claudius was, and he's proud of it. Gertrude thinks Hamlet thinks Claudius is her "precedent lord," since Hamlet thinks Claudius is there dead.

When Hamlet says, "a vice of kings," she again thinks Hamlet means himself. Hamlet must think that since he's killed Claudius he's now the king, and he likes being a "vice of kings."

A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,

A "cutpurse" is a thief, a pickpocket. Gertrude thinks Hamlet is announcing that he's stolen the empire, and the crown, by killing "Polonius-Claudius." She thinks Hamlet is saying he's "the best pickpocket in Denmark!" She isn't going to dispute his claim to the title while he's waving that crazy sword around.

That from a shelf the precious diadem stole
And put it in his pocket.

Hamlet is demonstrative, again, when he says that. He makes the gesture of taking the crown from the shelf, and putting it in his pocket. He's trying to say Claudius stole the crown. But Gertrude, as she watches Hamlet, thinks he means exactly what he does. She thinks Hamlet means that he's now stolen the crown, by killing "Polonius-Claudius," and he's pleased that he's king now.

She tries to get Hamlet to stop raving, as she hears it.

No more.

But Hamlet, thinking that his own plan, his show, is succeeding, thinks she's trying to get him to stop condemning Claudius. Hamlet's not ready to do that, and he keeps going.

Here, the Ghost enters - which Gertrude can't see!

Hamlet notices the motion out of the corner of his eye, and he starts to turn, as he keeps talking.

Enter Ghost.
A king of shreds and patches.

Hamlet is trying to say Claudius is a "king of shreds and patches." Gertrude thinks Hamlet means himself, and he's proud of it.

The Ghost frightens Hamlet, and his hair stands on end. We know his hair stands up, because Gertrude soon says so.

So, Hamlet does a "fright response." He crouches a little, his eyes bug out, and his hair goes straight up.

But Gertrude can't see the Ghost. She sees only Hamlet. To her, it looks like Hamlet has done that, himself. He has made his own hair stand up.

As Gertrude perceives it, from her point of view, Hamlet has proclaimed himself "a king," and he's so happy about being a king, his hair stands up! Sproing!

And she's even more certain Hamlet's crazy.

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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #864

Review the show Gertrude has seen Hamlet 'perform,' so far in this Scene.

From Gertrude's point of view.....

Hamlet enters, and is impolite in greeting her.

He says she has a "wicked tongue" and draws his sword.

He holds the sword up in front of her face, and says he doesn't like it she's his mother.

He sets her in a chair and says he's going to slice her open and make her look at her gall bladder, etc. in a mirror.

He yells "a rat" and stabs Polonius to death.

He asks if Polonius is Claudius.

He says he's killed Claudius, and he doesn't like it she married his father.

He scolds the dead body of "Polonius-Claudius."

He sets her back in the chair, and accuses her of stealing forehead roses, and plucking the soul from the body of contraction.

He threatens her with his sword to make her look back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth at pictures she's already seen a thousand times.

He puts his hands behind his back and bugs his eyes out at her, and hangs his sword on the back of his pants.

He squints his eyes closed, holds his arms out at her, and wiggles his fingers.

He bugs his eyes again, and gestures nyah-nyah.

He grasps his nose and looks at Polonius's body.

He says "charge" and then starts looking for his sword, which he can't find because it's hanging on the back of his pants where he put it.

He finds his sword, and smiles like an idiot, and waves it around.

She tells him it's grieving her soul that he's crazy.

He announces he goes to the pigsty to make love.

She begs him to spare her the details.

He proclaims that he's a murderer and a villain, and that he's stolen the crown and put it in his pocket.

He proclaims that he's a king, and his hair stands up in celebration.

(And then it gets odd. Continued.....)
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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #866

Hamlet exclaims.....

Save me and hover o’er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! ...

Guards. It's like Hamlet can read Gertrude's mind. That's exactly what she's wishing, that the guards were there, to take away Hamlet's sword and restrain him. She probably never thought of the Castle guards as "heavenly" but she would at this point.

"Heavenly" and "wings" sounds like angels. Gertrude thinks that Hamlet, in his madness, is seeing angels.

Hamlet now recognizes the Ghost, in the exact image of his father, and he's fearful. He fears his father will scold him or punish him for not killing Claudius in the Prayer Scene, when Hamlet had such a good chance.

What would your gracious figure?

Hamlet says "gracious" because he's hoping his father will be gracious, and not be too rough on him for missing his opportunity.

After the apparent reference to angels, Gertrude takes "gracious figure" to mean God or Jesus. Hamlet must be hallucinating that he sees God or Jesus among angels.

She quite naturally concludes.....

Queen. Alas, he’s mad!

Gertrude is looking in the direction Hamlet is talking, and she sees nothing. There's nothing there, except the wall of the room some distance ahead of him.

Ham. Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That lapsed in time and passion lets go by
The important acting of your dread command?
O, say!

From the point of view of his 'audience,' Gertrude, Hamlet is talking to nobody. What Hamlet says sounds a little bit like something he might say to her. "Tardy" means 'late' and it is late at night. Also, he's her son. But what he says makes no real sense to her, and he isn't even facing her while he's talking.

Hamlet assumes the Ghost is there to scold him for not killing Claudius, when he had the chance, so Hamlet goes ahead and asks that. The image of Hamlet's father now makes him feel quite guilty, about letting Claudius live.

Ghost. Do not forget. This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

The Ghost repeats back the same thing Hamlet said, in different words. That isn't really why he's there, but it'll do as a reason, that Hamlet will believe. The "whet" line means "sharpen your sword" (for Claudius.)

But look, amazement on thy mother sits.
O, step between her and her fighting soul.
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.
Speak to her, Hamlet.

The Ghost's "conceit" line reveals why Gertrude can't see it. Hamlet, so adept at his own allusions, misses that one.

"Conceit" is a 'take' word, at root. The Ghost is speaking, in very subtle undertone, of a 'taking', which means a spell. It connects back to what Marcellus said, in the first Scene, "no fairy takes" (at Christmastime,) which was reference to the casting of a spell. That isn't what the Ghost outright says, it's the undertone of his line.

The Ghost tells Hamlet to step between Gertrude and her soul. Doing that literally would separate her soul from her body. That is, it would kill her. Hamlet doesn't hear it that way, of course, but the Ghost added a wicked undertone to his words. This Ghost is quite the "wicked wit."

Claudius isn't the only one who could order Hamlet locked up. Gertrude is the Queen, and she has real power, also, such as having someone locked up. The Ghost knows that, and he wants Hamlet free to commit murder. So he points out to Hamlet that Gertrude is upset, and instructs Hamlet to sooth her.

Hamlet stands and listens while the Ghost talks. As the seconds tick by, with Hamlet doing nothing, after all his frantic activity in this Scene, it seems to Gertrude he stands for a long time, as if he's gone into a trance.

In response to the Ghost, apparently Hamlet's father, Hamlet sheaths his sword, which is the best sight Gertrude has seen in ages, and he approaches Gertrude, and kneels beside her chair.

Ham. How is it with you, lady?

After what Gertrude has seen and heard from Hamlet, it would take an encyclopedia to explain how she is. However, she doesn't think that's the question. She thinks the question is how he is, and she says so.

Queen. Alas, how is’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy,
And with th’incorporal air do hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,

Gertrude uses a figure of speech about soldiers reacting to an alarm, such as the soldiers at Elsinore reacting if the Castle were attacked, by somebody. Hm. One wonders why that would be on her mind. It's as if she's expecting the Castle to be attacked, by somebody.

Your bedded hairs, like life in excrements,
Start up and stand an end.

This is the confirmation that Hamlet's hair stood up when he saw the Ghost, which Gertrude saw as Hamlet doing it, himself.

O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?

She calls Hamlet "gentle" in hopes that he's calmed down now, and as a reminder of what he's supposed to be, and she asks what he's looking at.

Ham. On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones,
Would make them capable. Do not look upon me,
Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern effects; then what I have to do
Will want true color, tears perchance for blood.

Hamlet is still excited, and he neglects the need to answer her question in a careful way. He's still trying to put on a show to impress her. And he's still not good at it. Hamlet's remarks make sense from his point of view, but to her it sounds like strange babble.

When Hamlet mentions "tears" he does cry. He's deeply affected at seeing the lifelike image of his father. Teardrops run down his cheeks. Gertrude can't tell why he's crying.

Queen. To whom do you speak this?
Ham. Do you see nothing there?

Gertrude tries again, to get clarification. Hamlet is confused that she can't see the Ghost - Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo did; why can't she? As already mentioned, Hamlet missed the Ghost's subtle allusion to a 'taking.' He can't believe she can't see it. He thinks she just isn't looking in the right place, like when he was trying to find his sword.

Queen. Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.
Ham. Nor did you nothing hear?
Queen. No, nothing but ourselves.
Ham. Why, look you there, look how it steals away.
My father, ...

Gertrude hears Hamlet say his father is there. She knows he means King Hamlet, and she knows that's impossible. Hamlet neglects to explain he's talking about a Ghost. She thinks Hamlet means his father, himself, is there. Can't be.

... in his habit as he lived.
Look, where he goes, even now out at the portal.

Exit Ghost.

"Habit as he lived" means the Ghost is dressed as Hamlet's father would normally be dressed in this setting. No armor. Ironically, what startled Hamlet so much was not seeing "the Ghost," but rather the sight of his father simply strolling in, in the normal way he would have. It took Hamlet a moment to realize it was the Ghost, again.

Hamlet tries to point Gertrude to exactly where the Ghost is, as it leaves, in the expectation that she must be able to see it. She can't.

Queen. This is the very coinage of your brain.
This bodiless creation ecstasy
Is very cunning in.

Gertrude is sure Hamlet is mentally unbalanced, and naturally takes it that he's hallucinating.

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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #876

Hamlet continues.....

Ham. My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,
And makes as healthful music.

If Hamlet's pulse is calm, he's doing better than Gertrude is. Her pulse is pounding, with worry and fear, as she sees Polonius still dead on the floor in front of her, and her son acting so strangely, sure that he's insane. Hamlet simply assumes Gertrude is a calm observer, thoughtless of how worried and upset she is.

It is not madness
That I have uttered.

Hamlet now mentions madness because he realizes that his reaction to the Ghost probably looked peculiar to her. He's trying to explain that away. But unable to see his own show, he doesn't realize how crazy he's looked throughout the entire Scene. His attempt to explain away only the Ghost isn't nearly enough, after everything she's seen and heard from him.

Bring me to the test,
And the matter will re-word, which madness
Would gambol from. ...

Hamlet is still somewhat in "school mode," and he's offering to be tested the way a teacher would test a student about a subject. It's traditional to require a student to "restate this material in your own words," as a test of whether the student knows the subject. But even if Gertrude understands that, she's in no mood to try to test Hamlet like a teacher testing a student. And Gertrude wouldn't know whether Hamlet was describing the Ghost correctly or not, no matter what words he used, since she didn't see it. Hamlet still doesn't fully appreciate the difference it makes, that she didn't see the Ghost.

Mother, for love of grace,
Lay not that flattering unction to your soul
That not your trespass, but my madness speaks.

Hamlet tries to get back on point, that he wants to talk to Gertrude about whatever wrongful things she's done - which he still doesn't know, specifically. With all his continuous talking, he hasn't given her a fair chance to tell him anything, even if she were inclined to tell him.

There's some very fine psychology going on with the Hamlet character, from Shakespeare. Although Hamlet is, effectively, continuously asking Gertrude what she's done, he talks over any answer she might give. He's doing that because he's afraid of what her answer might be. He doesn't want to hear it. It's a great irony that Hamlet really has no reason at all to worry about her answer. Her answer, if she gave it, would surprise him tremendously.

It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen. ...

"Rank corruption," and "infects unseen" are from Shakespeare to the reader, having to do with the Ghost, and Gertrude not being able to see it. Blink, and let it remain a mystery, what the Ghost is, if you wish.

To Gertrude, Hamlet's figures of speech are as if he's trying to be "Doctor Hamlet," talking about some plague or other repulsive disease. She doesn't know why he's saying that.

Confess yourself to heaven,
Repent what’s past, avoid what is to come,

Gertrude now hears Hamlet insisting she should "confess" and "repent," which is reminiscent of what a religious fanatic would say: "Confess! Repent! The end is nigh!" She now views with suspicion everything he says, and she thinks she's hearing a different facet of his madness, that he's also a religious nut.

From Hamlet's point of view, however, he is still trying to impress Gertrude with a "show," and he's adopted religious metaphor to try to do that. He just wants to sound impressive to her, not realizing his extreme words have the opposite effect.

And do not spread the compost on the weeds,

Gertrude is certainly not planning to go out at two o'clock in the morning, and spread compost on weeds. To her, Hamlet sounds mad for suggesting such a possibility. He still has her lost with his allusions and mixed metaphors.

To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue,
For in the fatness of these pursy times
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.

Queen.  O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.

Hamlet still has her lost, and his words sound like senseless babble to her, in which he's saying various things almost at random. It sounds to her as if he's called her "my virtue," then cast himself as "vice," and said she'll have to beg to do him any good. It sounds crazy, that he thinks virtue would have to beg vice's pardon, to do good. But the way she takes it is virtually the opposite of what he meant, due to the unusual way he phrased it.

She tries to tell Hamlet that it's broken her heart, that he's so crazy. The idea of her heart being broken in two is only the figure of speech she happens to use.

Ham. O, throw away the worser part of it,
And leave the purer with the other half.

Hamlet still believes that his show is working, and when Gertrude mentions her heart he thinks she's making reference to her affection for Claudius, that Hamlet assumes to exist. Hamlet thinks she means her affection is divided between him and Claudius. She did not mean that, however.

Hamlet's love of wordplay surfaces, inappropriately, as he plays with the idea of her heart being literally broken in two. He tries to tell her to throw away her affection for Claudius. But she still thinks Hamlet thinks Claudius is dead, there on the floor. Hamlet has never cleared up that point for her.

As Gertrude hears it, Hamlet is telling her to throw away half her heart, and then leave the other half of her heart with the half that was thrown away. In other words, she should throw away both halves, and be better off with no heart. Sounds nuts to her.

Good night, but go not to my uncle’s bed;

Again, Gertrude thinks Hamlet thinks Claudius is dead. Claudius, therefore, would not be in his bed. So why would Hamlet be telling her not to go there? It must be simply because she isn't the King, so Hamlet doesn't think she should sleep in the King's bed. It sounds to Gertrude as if Hamlet is worried she might think she's the King, and should sleep in the King's bed. It again sounds nuts to her.

Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
That monster custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this:
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery
That aptly is put on to refrain night,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence, the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either [fetch] the devil, or throw him out
With wondrous potency.

Gertrude can't follow Hamlet's mixed metaphors, and his run-together sentences, and it sounds to her like more strange babble about devils and angels. She takes it as a further symptom of his madness.

Once more, good-night,
And when you are desirous to be blessed,
I’ll blessing beg of you. For this same lord
I do repent. But heaven hath pleased it so
To punish me with this, and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So again, good-night.

Hamlet has said "goodnight" three times, so far, but he keeps talking as he thinks of more things to say. It sounds strange to Gertrude, of course.

Hamlet is, indeed, babbling somewhat by this time. That is not a sign that he's really mad, or pretending to be mad. Recall that it's probably about two o'clock in the morning, and Hamlet has had an unusually busy day. Since the morning, Hamlet has gone through the Nunnery Scene, the 'Mousetrap Play,' the Prayer Scene, and now this Closet Scene. He must now be very tired. Hamlet is still "tracking," basically, but he's rambling some. That is perfectly authentic. Any normal person would be rambling some by this time, from fatigue. Shakespeare probably knew quite well what it was to go through a long, tiring day, and how the mind then tended to wander. Showing Hamlet wandering in his thoughts here is wonderful craftsmanship by the great author, entirely normal and genuine for the way a person would be.

But as Gertrude hears Hamlet continue to speak of blessings, heaven, and being a "scourge and minister," she takes it as more religious fanaticism, a further symptom that Hamlet is crazy. For himself, however, after Hamlet adopted the approach of trying to use religious metaphor to impress Gertrude, he's simply stuck in it, temporarily.

I must be cruel, only to be kind.
This bad begins, and worse remains behind.
One word more, good lady.

Queen. What shall I do?

Gertrude is talking to herself when she asks the question. She's wondering what on earth she should do about the death of Polonius, and her crazy son.

Hamlet hears her, and takes it as a question addressed to him. He tries to advise her, as he continues.....
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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #879

Hamlet attempts to advise Gertrude.....

Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed,

The who? As earlier, keep in mind that Gertrude thinks Hamlet insanely thinks Claudius is the one dead on the floor. So who is this "bloat king" who might tempt her to bed? The King of Bloat? Where's the Kingdom of Bloat? It sounds to Gertrude like some king, and some place, which exists only in Hamlet's deranged imagination. Not only does Gertrude have no intention of going to bed with that king, she never heard of him.

Hamlet is trying to warn Gertrude against Claudius, and calling Claudius "bloat" (fat, stupid) in the process, but once again he has lost Gertrude.

As Hamlet continues, he's demonstrative, i.e. he "acts out" what he means, as part of his "show."

Pinch wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse,
And let him for a pair of reechie kisses,
Or paddling in your neck with his damned fingers,

Hamlet reaches out and pinches Gertrude playfully on the cheek, to show what he means. He smirks at her when he says "mouse." When he mentions kisses, he leans toward her face and makes kissing noises. When he mentions "paddling" with the fingers, he reaches out and pats her neck, like patting a dog. Hamlet is trying to demonstrate what he supposes Claudius might do, but she finds it all nothing but creepy.

Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft. ...

When Hamlet says he's "mad in craft" Gertrude takes it that he has some kind of crazy secret plan going.

'Twere good you let him know?
For, who that's but a queen - fair, sober, wise -
Would from a paddack, from a bat, a gib,
Such dear concernings hide? Who would do so?

Since Gertrude thinks Hamlet thinks Claudius is dead, who is this "him?" Apparently the King of Bloat, as far as she can tell.

Hamlet then asks her, who that's but a queen would hide dear concernings from a bat? She hasn't the slightest idea what queen would hide something from a bat. Guinevere? The answer to Hamlet's riddle is "a queen who cares about her own safety." He's calling Claudius a bat, etc. to insult him, but it only leaves Gertude mystified.

Hamlet has made a terrible mistake. He's trying to warn Gertrude that Claudius could be a danger to her. Claudius killed his own brother. He might have few compunctions about getting rid of a wife he saw as a threat. Claudius is that kind of man. Hamlet phrases his attempt to warn Gertrude in such a way that it's only gibberish to her, and his warning goes unheard. If she did understand Hamlet, she might be more careful around Claudius, such as, thinking twice before she drank from a cup Claudius had touched.

Hamlet let his fondness for wordplay run, and thinking that he had to be mysterious, he garbled his warning to Gertrude so that it does no good at all. This is not pretended madness by Hamlet, or real madness, it's just a plain old stupid mistake by him, due to his idea that he has to be mysterious, and from his personal addiction to wordplay. However, a serious warning is something you do not want to be mysterious about.

No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
Unpeg the basket on the house's top,
Let the birds fly; ...

Gertrude was not intending to climb on the roof of the house, and even less so at this time of the morning. It sounds crazy to her that Hamlet raises the possibility.

Hamlet, from his point of view, is using birds to represent secrets. This is as in the common expression, "a little bird told me." Then, the idea of the house's top means "don't shout it from the house top," meaning not to tell everybody. All he's trying to say is, "don't shout secrets from the house top." He simply means "don't tell," but he mangles the metphors so much it only sounds like crazy babble to Gertrude, as if Hamlet, himself, has caught a basketful of birds and put them on the roof, and he's now warning her to leave his birds alone.

... and, like the famous ape,
To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
And break your own neck down.

Hamlet's figure of the ape and basket is a subtle, abstruse allusion to Socrates, which takes a while to explain. Gertrude can't fathom it, and hears it as only more mad gibberish.

When Hamlet says the break-neck line, he's demonstrative again, and holds his hands out in a grasping motion, as though he has grabbed her by the neck. He's only trying to show what he means, again, but she sees it as a threat from him. Gertrude understands it that Hamlet is threatening to break her neck if she tells anybody about his basket of birds on the roof, or something.

Be thou assured, if words be made of breath
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to me.

She assures Hamlet that she won't say a word about his basket of birds that he has on the roof, or whatever it is he's worried about.

Hamlet: I must to England, you know that.

For almost the only time in the entire scene, Hamlet says a simple, understandable statement. Gertrude is rather taken aback to hear it. Goodness sakes, he said something she could understand!

Gert: Alack, I had forgot.
'Tis so concluded on.

Claudius mentioned the trip to England to Gertrude after the 'Mousetrap' play, either when Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, and R & G were all together, or while Claudius and Gertrude were together waiting for R & G and Polonius to return after asking Hamlet to talk to Gertrude.

Hamlet: There's letters sealed, and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fanged,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. ...

Hamlet knows about the trip because, as described earlier, he was hiding in Claudius's room from the beginning of the Prayer Scene.

... Let it work,
For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard, and it shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon. O 'tis most sweet
When in one line, two crafts directly meet;

Hamlet is rambling with fatigue here, talking to himself. Gertrude doesn't know what he means.

This man shall set me packing;
I'll lug the guts into the neighbor room;

The "neighbor room" is Claudius's room, the King's Room. Hamlet's reason for taking Polonius's body there is to 'kill two birds with one stone.' He's going to try to use Polonius's body in connection with killing Claudius. Hamlet intends to kill Claudius, and try to make it look as if Polonius did it.

Shakespeare allows Hamlet to think of a Macbeth-style move, like Macbeth's killing of Duncan, set up to make it appear servants did it. Hamlet plans to kill Claudius, try to set it up to make it appear Polonius did it, then Hamlet, who was passing by, killed Polonius to try to save Claudius, but too late. That kind of thing. However, when Hamlet approaches Claudius's room he'll discover R & G are there, which forces Hamlet to change his plan. Hamlet tells Gertrude none of this.

Mother, good night indeed; this councilor
Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,
Who was in life a most foolish prating knave.
Come sir, to draw toward an end with you.
Good night mother.

(Hamlet exits)

"Foolish prating" strikes a chord with Gertrude. As far as she could tell, nearly all she heard from Hamlet in the entire Scene was only foolish, crazy prating, none of which made any sense.

Hamlet drags Polonius out, to try his plan.

This is the end of the playscript dialogue, but not the physical end of the Scene. Gertrude paces and frets, wondering what to do about the death of Polonius, and her crazy son. Suddenly it strikes her what "neighbor room" meant. Hamlet meant he was going to take Polonius to Claudius's room!

Gertrude still believes Hamlet thinks Polonius is Claudius. She takes it that Hamlet is just madly wanting to put Claudius in his own room. But she foresees that when Hamlet drags Polonius into Claudius's room, Claudius will be there, and will immediately call the guards, and have Hamlet arrested for murder. Her son will be arrested for murder, caught red handed, literally, with the evidence against him! Fearing that, Gertrude rushes out, running to Claudius's room, where she expects to find Hamlet under arrest for murder.
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What happens in Hamlet (mostly Closet Scene) 8 years 2 months ago #900

  • akfarrar
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Willedever wrote:
We need to talk about what happens in the play, because it's so often done wrong, and for some things, it's always done wrong.

Only just caught up with this thread and am horrified at the idea of "Shakespearian correctness"!

I will start a so named thread in the Bits and Bobs part for people to kick the idea around.

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