In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act 3, scenes 1 and 2, describe your reactions to the scenes.Describe what you think about the characters, actions, events, etc.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With regard to Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act Three, scenes one and two, Claudius and Gertrude express concern for Hamlet, though we can assume only Gertrude's worry is sincere. Polonius and the King conceal themselves so they can spy on Hamlet and Ophelia.

Hamlet delivers his famous "To be or not to be" speech, contemplating suicide, which gives indication that he is struggling with depression— certainly over his father's death and his mother's hasty remarriage—his indecision over avenging his father's death, and paranoia regarding his inability to trust those around him.

Ophelia enters and Hamlet is unkind and dismissive. He knows that he cannot trust her as well as the others, but he seems to miss the point that she must follow the directions of the men around her, specifically the King and her father: in this male-dominated society, she has no choice. She fears that Hamlet has gone insane. The King and Polonius continue to try to figure out what is ailing Hamlet.

In scene two, Hamlet is addressing the actors. This scene provides "a play within a play." The performance has been designed by Hamlet, to reenact the murder of Old Hamlet. Hamlet hopes to wring a guilty response out of Claudius, giving Hamlet the proof he needs that the information Old Hamlet's ghost has shared with him is reliable. While the play is presented, Hamlet torments Ophelia—making rude and suggestive comments, steeped in sexual innuendo—which greatly embarrasses her.

The play, by the way, is called The Mousetrap—interesting that Hamlet is attempting to catch a "rat." Seeing the murder of the "Player King" gets the reaction Hamlet wants, as Claudius springs to his feet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come to tell Hamlet that Claudius is angry, and that Gertrude wants to see him. After they leave, Hamlet hopes that he will have the ability to be tough on his mother when they meet.

Now that Hamlet seemingly has proof of his uncle's guilt, the plot will begin to move more swiftly as Claudius must know that while Hamlet acts insane, he seems to have some knowledge of Claudius' actions. How else could the play have been changed to directly reflect Claudius' murder of his brother? The women are genuinely guiltless in these scenes, while the King and Polonius are caught up in deceit. Hamlet is shrewd and skillful in getting the result he wants, though ultimately it will not help him overall.

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