I think that Act III scene ii is not pivotal to Hamlet, for three different reasons. Firstly why I think this is, the situation that Hamlet has with Claudius, after Claudius has killed his father. Secondly, the audience’s and Claudius’ reaction to the ‘mousetrap’ play, performed by the actors, in which Claudius kills Hamlet”s father. Finally the third reason is the treatment Hamlet gives towards Ophelia.
Hamlet until this point has been very uncertain about what to do about the situation with Claudius. Hamlet has seen the Ghost of his father who explains that Claudius killed him, but Hamlet is unsure if he should believe what the Ghost has said, Act II Scene ii “I know my course. The spirit that I have seen may be a Devil and the Devil hath power T”assume a pleasing shape”. Once Hamlet has decided to believe the ghost he has two choices. Hamlet”s first choice, of which he is undecided, is if he should carry out the deed of killing Claudius, in revenge for his father, which he has promised that he would do, Act I Scene v “Haste me to know”t that I with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love may sweep to my revenge”. Or Hamlet”s second choice is to get himself out of this situation completely and kill himself, Act III Scene I “To be or not to be”.Order now
Hamlet now needs proof that Claudius did kill his father, Act II Scene ii “I”ll have grounds more relative than this. The plays the thing, where in I”ll cath the conscience of the King.” Hamlet decides on the “Mousetrap”, a guilty reaction from Claudius, will allow Hamlet to kill Claudius. No reaction from Claudius will make Hamlet disbelieve the ghost and question his own sanity.
I think that this reason is not pivotal, because although Hamlet has finally made his first positive action which is to kill Claudius, in revenge for his father Hamlet fails to do so. Hamlet has the perfect chance after the guilty reaction of Claudius during the play, Hamlet has a perfect chance to kill Claudius at the alter, but he fails to do the deed. Act III Scene iii, “Ad might I do it pat now a is a praying and now all do”t and so a goes to heaven.” and “A villain kills my father as for that, I his sole son do this same villain send him to heaven.” This means that if Hamlet kills Claudius now, Claudius will be sent to heaven because he is forgiving his sins at the alter, Hamlet will then go to hell as the consequence if he does kill Claudius.
As I explained before, the reaction of the audience towards the scene in the ‘Mousetrap’, play where Claudius kills Hamlet”s father. This is an opportunity for the audience to get a clear indication of Claudius”s guilt, as we only know what Hamlet knows. When we see Claudius”s reaction this means that we, the audience, know things that other characters do not.
If Claudius makes a big reaction to the play, the audience will feel confident that Claudius is guilty. No reaction from Claudius will mean that the audience will begin to doubt the reliability of Hamlet, and Hamlet will have to prove his own sanity to himself. A small reaction from Claudius, will mean that the audience will still be unsure about what to believe, should they believe Hamlet or not.
Again I feel that this is not pivotal because, although Claudius reacts to the play after the actor playing the King is murdered Claudius arises from his seat and leaves the room, Act III Scene ii “Give me some light. Away.” Also Claudius has now realized that Hamlet has been faking his madness the whole time. Claudius finds this out when Hamlet arrives back home from England, where he has been sent by Claudius to be killed, when Hamlet returns to find out that Ophelia has died. Hamlet makes a speech at the burial of Ophelia. I find this point also non-pivotal because although Claudius reacts to the play Hamlet is still unsure what Claudius is actually reacting to, Claudius could just be reacting to the death of his brother and the play itself, or he is reacting due to guilt that he has murdered his brother.
Finally Hamlet”s treatment of Ophelia throughout the story. Hamlet has always loved Ophelia throughout the play, but when he has to fake his madness because he knows that he is being watched by Polonius, Ophelia returns the gifts to Hamlet that he had given her believing that Hamlet does not love her anymore. Then when it comes to the play where Hamlet finds out whether Claudius is guilty or not. Hamlet subjects Ophelia to a torrent of sexual innuendo Act II Scene ii:
Hamlet: “Lady, shall I lay upon your lap?”
Ophelia: “No, my lord.”
Hamlet: “I mean my head upon your lap?”
Ophelia: “Ay, my lord.”
This is something that she shouldn”t even be listening to, woman, in the Elizabethan era, should be chaste. The next time we see Ophelia she has gone mad.
Again paradox I think that this non-pivotal. I think this because, Yes she may have gone mad due to the fact that herself and Hamlet are together for the last time at the play this may have made her go mad due to that her true love has left her, or that Hamlet may have influenced her to go mad when Hamlet was faking his madness. but on the other hand, No she is not mad and she may have killed herself because of the grief of her father”s death at the hands of her “beloved”.
As I said in the introduction I think that Act III Scene ii is non-pivotal to Hamlet, because although Hamlet has made first and only positive decision he has not done anything about it. Hamlet”s mind and dilemma throughout the play is muddled because he finds out that Claudius has killed his father but has done nothing in revenge for this. Hamlet also has trouble with Ophelia that he needs to sort out but he doesn”t and then it is to late and Ophelia ends up dead.