Broadly describe the significance of the closet scene in Hamlet

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The closet scene in Hamlet occurs in Act III Scene 4 and is one of the dramatic climaxes of the play. Firstly it is the only time we see Gertrude and Hamlet together. Their conversation starts as Polonius listens in, with Hamlet unaware of this fact. This explains why Gertrude speaks very formally, refusing to communicate. This echoes his conversation with Ophelia, when she was speaking to him with Polonius and Claudius listening in.

Hamlet's discovery and killing of Polonius heightens the conversation of Hamlet with his mother - he accuses her of involvement with his father's death. Gerturde thus discovers her new husband's involvement in the crime, heralding a scene of real intimacy between mother and son. He urges his mother to confess and repent and the appearance of the ghost allows Gertrude to show real maternal care and concern for her son.

This scene then represents a new intimacy between mother and son that carries them forward to the end of the play.