What may the 3 animals mean or represent in this quote.
HAMLET Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
POLONIUS By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
HAMLET Methinks it is like a weasel.
POLONIUS It is backed like a weasel.
HAMLET Or like a whale?
POLONIUS Very like a whale
Can you give 3 points for each.
It is at this point in the play (3.2.355-64) where the "play-within-the-play" / "the mouse-trap" has convinced Hamlet of his Uncle's guilt and where he has identified his childhood friend Rozencrantz and Guildenstern as nothing more than the new King's cronies. Hamlet declares that they cannot "play upon me" (3.2.351) but proceeds to "play" with Polonius. Polonius, ever the meddling politician, agrees with everything Hamlet says.The animal symbolism is rich:
A camel is a beast of burden and a pack animal. It is a creature that goes for long lengths of time without water. Camels can also be slaughtered for meat or water in times of crisis. Hamlet might have to be the camel that carries a tremendous burden of revenge.
A weasel is traditionally associated with a cunning and sly person. "Weasel words" tend to mislead and confuse. A weasel is a stool pigeon or an informer. Polonius, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are all trying to "weasel" Hamlet's intentions out of him.
A whale, of course is perhaps the largest mammal of the sea. Hamlet may be referring to hunting a great sea beast (Claudius) or he might be alluding to the informal use of the term "whale" which means something big or great. His act of revenge might be seen as a "whale" of a task.