Summary and Detailed Notes for Hamlet Act III
Brief Summary of Act 3
The Invitation to Participate in a Play
The King and Queen invite Hamlet to participate in a play, while Polonius and Ophelia spy on him to determine the cause of his anguish.
The Famous Soliloquy
The text contains a famous soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet pondering the nature of life, death, and the fear of the unknown.
Hamlet Tells Ophelia to Go to a Nunnery
Hamlet tells Ophelia to go to a nunnery and insults her, claiming he never loved her. He also speaks on the corrupt nature of humanity.
Plans to Send Hamlet to England
Hamlet’s behavior is causing concern, with the King suspecting it to be related to neglected love. Plans are made to send him to England.
Advice to Actors
Hamlet advises actors to perform realistically without exaggerating or underperforming. Overacting may amuse some, but the discerning audience will disapprove.
Enlisting Horatio’s Help
Hamlet enlists Horatio’s help to observe his uncle’s reaction during a play that echoes his father’s death, hoping to uncover his guilt.
Playful Banter with Ophelia
Hamlet is being playful with Ophelia, discussing his father’s death and the need to build churches.
The Play Begins
The play is about to begin. Hamlet watches a play that has a similar plot to his father’s murder. He and Ophelia discuss the play’s meaning.
The Player King and Queen
The Player King and Queen perform a scene about love and loyalty, but the Queen suggests she may kill her next husband. The players perform a scene about the pitfalls of second marriages, and Hamlet reflects on the uncontrollable nature of fate.
The Mousetrap Play
Hamlet discusses a play called “The Mousetrap,” which depicts a murder. The King and Queen become uncomfortable and the play ends abruptly.
Hamlet discusses theater with Horatio
Hamlet discusses obtaining a share in a theater company with Horatio.
News of the queen’s distress
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern inform Hamlet of his mother’s distress.
Hamlet’s grievances and lack of advancement
Hamlet speaks with Rosencrantz about his griefs and lack of advancement, then mocks Guildenstern’s inability to play the recorder as a metaphor for being played.
Hamlet plans to see his mother
Hamlet talks with Polonius before planning to see his mother, while the king and his advisors plan to send him to England.
Hamlet’s guilt and Polonius’ plan
Hamlet questions if he can be forgiven for his murder, while Polonius plans to eavesdrop on Hamlet’s conversation with his mother.
Hamlet contemplates revenge
Hamlet contemplates revenge and decides to wait for a better opportunity. Polonius advises the Queen on how to handle Hamlet.
Hamlet confronts and kills Polonius
Hamlet confronts his mother. Hamlet kills Polonius by mistake, then lectures his mother on her marriage to his uncle and the corruption of society. Hamlet accuses his mother of marrying her former husband’s murderer and insults him before the queen stops him.
Hamlet sees his father’s ghost
Hamlet sees his father’s ghost and speaks with it while the queen dismisses his behavior as madness.
Hamlet advises his mother and plans to go to England
Hamlet advises his mother to confess to God. Hamlet advises the Queen to not sleep with the King, and to reveal his madness to him instead of hiding it. Hamlet plots to have his school-fellows escort him to England while he plans to blow up his enemies. He accidentally kills Polonius.
Detailed Notes on Act 3
Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1 Notes
•The scene opens with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern informing King Claudius about the arrival of the players.
•Ophelia enters and shares her concern about Hamlet’s strange behavior with the Queen and Polonius.
•Polonius suggests that Ophelia should talk to Hamlet while he reads a book, so they could observe Hamlet’s reactions.
•King Claudius expresses guilt over his wrongdoing, and the Queen suggests that Ophelia’s beauty may bring Hamlet back to his senses.
•Polonius and King Claudius exit, and Hamlet enters, contemplating life and death and the choice to live or not.
•Polonius and the King return, and Hamlet leaves.
An Analysis of Hamlet’s Monologue and Dialogue with Ophelia
•Hamlet’s soliloquy reveals his contemplation of death and the fear of the unknown afterlife.
•The fear of death makes the continuation of life difficult and causes people to bear their sufferings.
•Hamlet’s conscience makes him a coward and sickly, unable to take action despite his desire for it.
•Ophelia’s approach to Hamlet with his gifts and their dialog highlights the theme of betrayal as Hamlet denies giving them to her.
•The communication gap between Hamlet and Ophelia causes confusion and misunderstandings.
Analysis of Hamlet’s dialogue with Ophelia in Act 3, Scene 1
•Hamlet questions Ophelia’s honesty and beauty
•Ophelia argues that beauty and honesty should go hand in hand
•Hamlet claims that beauty has the power to corrupt honesty
•Hamlet admits that he once loved Ophelia but now denies it
•Hamlet advises Ophelia to become a nun
•Hamlet insults Ophelia and accuses all men of being knaves
•Ophelia begs for divine help for Hamlet
•Hamlet criticizes society’s obsession with appearance
•Hamlet declares his opposition to marriage
•Hamlet leaves Ophelia alone, and she expresses concern for him
Analysis of Hamlet’s Monologue and Dialogue
•Hamlet laments the fall of a once-noble mind and the impact it has on the state and himself, revealing his melancholic nature.
•The King seeks Polonius’ advice about Hamlet, suspecting that his strange behavior may pose a threat.
•Polonius believes Hamlet’s grief may stem from unrequited love for Ophelia.
•Hamlet instructs the players on how to perform his play and criticizes overacting, emphasizing the importance of moderation.
•The King agrees to Hamlet’s plan to send him to England, marking the growing concern about his madness.
Hamlet’s Instructions to Horatio
•Hamlet asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to hurry the players while addressing Horatio.
•Horatio arrives and offers his service to Hamlet, who praises his justness.
•Hamlet instructs Horatio to watch the king’s reaction during a play, which he thinks will reveal his guilt in killing his father.
•Horatio agrees to observe the king and steal anything he may try to remove during the play.
•As the king arrives, Hamlet makes sarcastic remarks about his mood.
•Hamlet warns Polonius to not interfere with him and to let him play insane.
Hamlet Act 3 Scene 2
•Polonius tells Hamlet that he played Julius Caesar and was a good actor, to which Hamlet mocks him.
•Rosencrantz confirms that the players are ready.
•Queen asks Hamlet to sit by her, but he prefers to stay where he is.
•Hamlet asks if he can lie in Ophelia’s lap, to which she agrees.
•Hamlet talks about his father’s death and how his mother looks cheerful despite his recent passing.
•Hamlet says he wants to wear black in mourning and mentions his father’s memory should live on.
•Enter the King and Queen, embracing each other.
•The Queen kneels and protests her love to the King, who lies down on a bank of flowers and falls asleep while she leaves him.
Summary of Hamlet Act 3 Scene 2
•An anonymous person enters and pours poison in the sleeping King’s ears after which the Queen returns and finds the King dead.
•The poisoner and some others enter, and the Queen accepts the poisoner’s love and gifts.
•The players enter, and Hamlet explains the meaning of the dumb show.
•The Player King and Queen perform a play, and the Player Queen expresses sadness at the King’s illness, suspecting him.
•The Player King leaves the stage, and the Player Queen expresses a desire to be cursed if she remarries after him.
Analyzing the Theme of Love and Fate in Hamlet Act 3 Scene 2
•In the play, the character Player Queen expresses the idea that second marriages are for mercenary reasons and lack true love.
•Player King responds, acknowledging that people often make promises but do not always keep them, and that purpose is subservient to memory.
•The characters then discuss the fact that emotions like joy and grief can cancel each other out, and that fortunes and loves are fickle and subject to change.
•They also discuss the idea of enemies becoming friends and the importance of having friends.
•Finally, the characters note that despite our best efforts, events and circumstances often don’t go our way and our thoughts and desires may ultimately be futile.
Analysis of Act 3, Scene 2 of Hamlet
•The Player Queen agrees to let Hamlet sleep while she leaves.
•The Queen comments that the Player Queen is overly dramatic.
•The King asks if the play is offensive; he falls asleep soon after.
•Hamlet assures the others that the play is mere entertainment.
•Hamlet describes the play as a metaphor for a murder in Vienna.
•Ophelia teases Hamlet, calling him a good chorus.
•Hamlet encourages the audience to pay attention to the murderer’s actions.
•The murderer poisons his victim, Gonzago, in the play.
•Claudius rises, and the audience members are frightened.
•Polonius and the King interrupt the play and turn on the lights.
•Hamlet reflects on the fleeting nature of life before the scene concludes.
Analysis of Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2
•Hamlet expresses his desire to be part of a troupe of actors, asking Horatio if he thinks his equipment would be sufficient for such a role.
•Horatio agrees to support Hamlet and confirms that he noticed the reactions of King Claudius during the play.
•Hamlet asks for music and entertainment to be brought in, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter to speak with him.
•Guildenstern says that the Queen is distressed and has sent him to speak with Hamlet.
•Hamlet remarks that he is not capable of stringing together a response and that he is in a negative state of mind.
•Rosencrantz conveys the Queen’s message that Hamlet’s behavior has astonished her.
A conversation between Hamlet and his acquaintances
•Rosencrantz informs Hamlet that his mother wants to speak to him before bedtime.
•Hamlet agrees to speak with his mother and asks if Rosencrantz has any other business with him.
•Rosencrantz inquires about the reason for Hamlet’s distress and advises him to share his problems with a friend.
•Hamlet reveals that he feels stagnant in his rank.
•Rosencrantz reminds Hamlet that he is the intended successor to the Danish throne.
•The Players, carrying recorders, enter the scene.
•Hamlet takes a recorder from them and asks Guildenstern to play it, although he declines.
•Finally, Polonius enters the scene, and Hamlet greets him politely.
Hamlet’s Madness and His Plan to Confront His Mother
•Polonius informs Hamlet that the Queen wants to speak with him.
•Hamlet’s strange behavior continues as he asks Polonius if he sees the cloud resembling a camel.
•Polonius agrees and sees a weasel in the cloud, to which Hamlet responds by seeing a whale.
•Hamlet plans to confront his mother and speaks his inner thoughts out loud, contemplating whether to be cruel or not.
•He vows to be hypocritical in his words and not harm his mother physically.
•The King and his followers plot to send Hamlet to England due to his madness posing a threat to their power.
•Guildenstern and Rosencrantz promise to ensure the safety of the King and his court.
•The King fears that Hamlet’s madness could harm the kingdom and orders his followers to take swift action.
Hamlet’s soliloquy on repentance and guilt
•Polonius plans to eavesdrop on Hamlet’s conversation with his mother’s arras.
•Hamlet laments his guilt, feeling that his offense is unforgivable and that it smells to heaven.
•He cannot sincerely pray, and his guilt is defeating his intent to repent and seek forgiveness.
•Hamlet wonders if having his hands thicker with his brother’s blood would wash away his sin.
•He questions the purpose of mercy and prayer and wonders how he can seek forgiveness without giving up his crown, ambition, and queen.
•Hamlet considers the corrupt nature of the world and how often the wicked can buy their way out of the law.
•He feels compelled to face the true nature of his offense and see through his faults.
•Hamlet questions the effectiveness of repentance, given his inability to fully repent, leaving him in a wretched state.
Analysis of Hamlet’s revenge
•Hamlet laments his inability to avenge his father’s murder by his uncle and feels frustrated by his emotional turmoil.
•He decides to kill his uncle while he is praying, but changes his mind when he realizes it would not be proper revenge.
•Hamlet plans to kill his uncle when he is engaged in wrongdoing and his soul is not ready for passage into heaven.
•Polonius, advisor to the king, tries to spy on Hamlet and report back to the king, but Hamlet discovers him.
•Hamlet confronts his mother about her role in his father’s murder and they exchange harsh words.
Analysis of Hamlet’s conversation with the Queen in Act 3, Scene 4.
•Hamlet accuses the Queen of forgetting him but later acknowledges her as his mother.
•The Queen asks others for help, suspecting danger from Hamlet who insists she sit and see herself in the glass he sets up.
•He then kills Polonius, mistaking him for the King.
•The Queen reacts with shock and Hamlet chastises her for marrying her husband’s brother.
•He accuses her of committing a deed that takes off the rose of modesty, and makes marriage vows false.
•He asks her to look upon two pictures that present two brothers in stark contrast.
Analysis of Hamlet’s speech and the Queen’s reaction in Act 3, Scene 4
•Hamlet compares his uncle to a mildewed ear and accuses him of killing his father.
•He questions his mother’s loyalty to her dead husband, asking if she could leave a fair mountain to feed on a moor.
•He argues that his mother’s passion is not love but the result of a lack of judgment.
•Hamlet accuses his mother of being deceived by the devil.
•He expresses his disgust at his uncle’s lustful behavior with his mother.
•The Queen reacts strongly, feeling the weight of Hamlet’s accusations.
•She begs Hamlet to stop speaking and declares that his words are hurting her deeply.
Hamlet’s Advice to Ophelia
•Hamlet advises Ophelia to avoid past mistakes and not worsen the future.
•He asks Ophelia to forgive him for his righteous advice in these corrupt times.
•The Queen is hurt by Hamlet’s behavior.
•Hamlet advises Ophelia to get rid of her bad habits and assume good virtues if she does not have them.
•He asks Ophelia to control herself from following customs and gives her an easy way out.
•Hamlet apologizes for his behavior towards Polonius and prepares to face punishment.
•He says that he must be cruel to be kind and bad things have only begun.
•Ophelia asks what she should do, and Hamlet advises her not to hide the truth and let everyone know.
Hamlet’s conversation with the Queen and the death of Polonius
•Hamlet confronts the Queen and assures her of his lack of life to breathe her words
•Hamlet reveals his plan to go to England to thwart the King’s plan and mentions the letters
•Hamlet plans to use his schoolfellows to execute his plan and speaks of blowing the mines
•Hamlet leaves after bidding his mother goodnight and calls Polonius a foolish prating knave
•Hamlet exits dragging Polonius’s body to the neighbor’s room.
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