If Hamlet had killed Claudius in Act III and the play had ended there, what would be missing in Hamlet's perceptions of himself and the world? How does Hamlet character develop in Acts IV and V? What softens our realization that Hamlet is in various degrees responsible for the deaths of Polonius, Ophelia, Laertes, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Claudius, and Gertrude?

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To some degree, Hamlet's slaying of Claudius in Act V is anti-climactic. As many critics, such as Harold Bloom, have written, Hamlet seems to have abandoned his role of revenge and slays Claudius in a kind of haphazard way that does not give the reader a great sense of revenge. Instead of being about revenge, Acts IV and V are about Hamlet's philosophical development.

For example, in Act IV, Scene 4, Hamlet finds out that a captain is going to fight for a useless piece of land. He reflects:

How all occasions do inform against me,

And spur my dull revenge! What is a man

If his chief good and market of his time

Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. (IV.4.31-35)

Hamlet wonders, as he has before, about the makings of a man. While the situation should encourage Hamlet to take revenge quickly against his uncle for slaying his father, Hamlet instead takes time to consider what makes a person human. He wonders what the use of human life is if it is only used for bestial concerns such as sleeping and...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 554 words.)

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