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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A good solid question. First, he would have avoided killing Polonius. This would prevent him understanding as fully that violence spills over.
Second, the nature of the scene with his mother would have been radically different. Less angry, more defensive.
Third, he and we would be less exposed to reflections on death (the hidden body, the Yorick in the graveyard scene).
Fourth, he would fret at his old friends less (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)
Fifth, Ophelia would not be dead, he would not feel responsible, and he would not be aching with the realization of how badly the world is going.
Sixth, the final scene of mass betrayal and the darkening world picture that comes with it would have been avoided.
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