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Hamlet Act III, scene i:
But first…some comic relief
As the scene opens…
Claudius and Gertrude question
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern about
Hamlet’s state of mind
Polonius invites the King and Queen to
view a play on Hamlet’s request
The King agrees
King and Polonius hide to observe
Hamlet’s interaction with Ophelia
“Get thee to a nunnery!”
Hamlet verbally abuses Ophelia
Tells her he never loved her; then changes
his tune and says he did love her once
Calls her a “ho fo’ sho’”
To England
Claudius is not convinced that Ophelia is
the reason for Hamlet’s madness
Decides England is the best place for
Hamlet where crazy can blend right in with
more crazy
Polonius wants one more chance to prove
how smart he is
Dramatic Significance
1. Reveal character
 Claudius(guilty conscience)
 Polonius(a fool with foolhardy plans)
 Hamlet(tragic flaw)
2. Advance plot
 Invitation to play
 More schemes hatched
3. Develop Theme
 Appearance versus reality (characters keeping secrets)
Words Worth Remembering:
Significant Quotations from Act III,
scene i
Claudius, lines 50-54
“How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
The harlot’s cheek, beautified with plast’ring art,
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
Than is my deed to my most painted word.
O heavy burden!”
OMG Claudius! Confess much?
Shakespeare’s use of metaphor compares
Claudius’ words disguising his conscience as
make up disguises a harlot
These lines are noteworthy for two reasons:
1. They prepare us for his reaction to the play
within the play
2. We have the first indication that his calm
demeanor hides a tormented conscience
(appearance versus reality)
Hamlet, lines 56-90
“To be or not to be, that is the question…”
“Thus, conscience does make cowards of
us all, and thus the native hue of
resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast
of thought, and enterprises of great pitch
and moment with this regard their currents
turn awry and lose the name of action.”
What does this mean?
 Hamlet is torn: is it better to patiently endure the wrongs
done to his family (but be sure the wrongs WERE done),
or does this inaction make him a coward?
 Hamlet muses that listening to our conscience causes
our resolution to stall, our desire to act to fail, and we
become cowards. His inaction is his targic flaw
 Shakespeare uses strong images of light and dark to
communicate Hamlet’s troubled mind
Ophelia lines 155-58
“And I … That suck’d the honey of his music
Now see that noble and most sovereign
Like sweet bells jangled out of tune and
Poor Ophelia
Ophelia’s speech employs metaphor to
show the audience the change in Hamlet
His words were like music to her ears, but
now she is dejected
She is no longer able to suck “the honey of
his music vows”
Food for Thought:
Discussion Questions for Act III,
scene i
Hamlet considers himself a coward and
villain for his failure to act and his
continued pondering/philosophizing, rather
than acting. As an audience in 2014, do
you agree with Hamlet’s assessment of
himself? Is he in fact a villain and
coward? Explain.
What do you think of Ophelia’s character?
Why might Shakespeare have written such
a weak female character (as compared to
strong female leads like Lady MacBeth
and Gertrude)
How would you rationalize Hamlet’s
behaviour towards Ophelia? What can we
infer is the nature of their relationship?
In Summary, here are the notes of
1. Claudius suspects Hamlet is not
disturbed due to love sickness
2. Hamlet vacillates some more
3. Hamlet abuses Ophelia
4. Polonius comes up with another
5. Claudius will send Hamlet to England
Here’s how it all works out:
Works Cited
Don't hate the player, hate the game meme. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.
Hamlet. Perf. Dave Tennant and Patrick Stewart. N.d.
Hey ho meme. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.
Jerry Seinfeld Does Hamlet. Perf. Gilbert Gottfried. N.d.
One Minute Hamlet. Perf. Famous Last Nerds. N.d.
Shakespeare, William, and Roma Gill. Hamlet. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992. Print.
Thank you I’ll stop talking now meme. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.
To be or not to be meme. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.
We need to go deeper meme. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.