Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is the black humour in Act IV, Scene 3 of Hamlet?  

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The contemporary definition for black humor is given thus, 'In literature and drama, combining the morbid and grotesque with humor and farce to give a disturbing effect and convey the absurdity and cruelty of life.' In simple terms this would mean to make light of a serious or tragic situation by joking about it to illustrate how foolish life can sometimes be.

In Act lV, scene lll, Hamlet is making fun by using a pun—a play on words for humorous effect—when he refers to where Polonius' body might be found. Claudius wants to know what the prince has done with the body and Hamlet says that Polonius is 'at supper.' Obviously, since Polonius is dead, he cannot be the one who is eating. Hamlet therefore means that Polonius is being eaten. His rotting corpse is being devoured by maggots. The 'supper' he speaks of is, therefore, the feast enjoyed by the maggots.

Hamlet calls these maggots a 'convocation of politic worms.' He, once again, uses ambiguity to make a point and jest about Polonius' corpse....

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