In Act 5 scene 2 of Hamlet, describe your reactions to a character, action, or idea you confronted in the scene.In Act 5 scene 2 of Hamlet, describe your reactions to a character, action, or idea...

In Act 5 scene 2 of Hamlet, describe your reactions to a character, action, or idea you confronted in the scene.

In Act 5 scene 2 of Hamlet, describe your reactions to a character, action, or idea you confronted in the scene.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Act V of Shakespeare's momentous play, Hamlet, continues what Harold Bloom calls the "dance of contraries."  In the first scene, the rustic gravediggers render a grotesque parody of Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy by giving the serious subject of death a darkly comic interpretation.  Then, in Scene 2, Hamlet tells his friend Horatio how he overcame Claudius's scheme to have him murdered in England.  Now, while Hamlet has been appalled at the treachery of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he feels justified in what he has done to them because they so eagerly engaged in the plot to kill him.  However, he feels guilty about his behavior toward Laertes after the death of Polonius because in Laertes's desire to avenge the death of his father, Hamlet perceives his own urges for vengeance against Claudius:

by the image of my cause I see

The portraiture of his. (5..2.77-78)

Then, when the courtier, enters Hamlet parries with Osric who extends to Hamlet the invitation of Claudius to engage in a fencing match with Laertes.  Much like his conversation with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Act II, Hamlet continues his apparent disinterestedness and circumlocution; he is the "wily trickster" as he manipulates Osric who is sycophantic in his responses. 

 

OSRIC:  I thank your lordship, it is very hot.(100)

  

HAMLET: No, believe me, 'tis very cold; the wind is northerly.

 

OSRIC: It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed.

 

HAMLET: But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my
complexion.

 

OSRIC: Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry, as 'twere—I can-(105)
not tell how. 

Yet, while Hamlet is so forward in his agreement to fence with Laertes, he feels a misgiving  about dueling Laertes:

It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of gain-giving
as would perhaps trouble a woman. (5.2.207-208)

Nevertheless, he proceeds with his intention to engage in the swordfight, contending that there is a "special providence" in some actions.  

Once engaged in the duel with Laertes, there is still a "dance of contraries" as Hamlet's mother's actions are somewhat contradictory as well.  For instance, he offers Hamlet the cup which Claudius has poisoned, but when the king tells her not to she says that she will.  This action could be a defiance of the king, demonstrating to her son that she is not under his control, or it could be that she tries to prevent Hamlet's drinking from the cup because she knows it is poisoned.  Yet, she does offer the cup to Hamlet who tells her, "I dare not drink madam; by and by."

Clearly, Act V of Hamlet leaves the readers as bewildered as they have been throughout the play by the Princes's behavior. 

 

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