What is the importance of the closet scene in the story?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A pivotal scene in "Hamlet," this scene is one of the times the ghost appears to Hamlet and a scene that underscores the themes of appearance vs. reality, deception vs. honesty, and seeming vs. being.

When Hamlet enters his mother's closet, he speaks frankly:  "Mother, you have my father much offended" (l. 8). Forcing the queen to sit while he holds "a glass/Where you may see the inmost part of you" (l.19), The queen fears he may harm her and calls out; Hamlet stabs Polonius who speaks,ironically causing his own death.

As the queen cries, "O what a rash and bloody deed is this?" (l.28), Hamlet expresses no regret: "Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!(l.33).  He tells her to sit down and "wring your heart"(l.37) that it may provide her some sense. In their dialogue, the reader learns that the queen seems to be unaware of her "crime" in marrying Claudius.  As Hamlet continues to berate her, it is at this point that the queen seems to perceive her guilt for the first time: 

Thou turns't my eyes into my very soul,/And there I see such black and grained spots/As will not leave their tinct (ll.90-92).

Because the queen appears genuinely disturbed in this scene, her drinking the poison intended for Hamlet in Act V seems in character for her recognition of her being and wish to be honest by saving Hamlet and punishing herself for her sin.