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The tragedy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a play of deceit and revenge. “The Murder of Gonzago,” which is a play-within-the-play, is a tool used by the character of Hamlet to reveal the deceit of his uncle Claudius and seek out revenge. During the play-within-the-play, through his words and actions, Hamlet opposes his philosophical views, goal of revenge and today’s moral standards. The practicality of the scene and justification of Hamlet’s actions are questionable.


Throughout much of the play, different characters spy on Hamlet. He is aware of most of these times and seems to be morally opposed to it. However, by using the play to get his uncle to confess, he is, in a sense, spying on him. Hamlet tells his friend Horatio to watch Claudius’s actions during the play. He says to him, “Observe my uncle.”(I.ii.85). Hamlet is telling Horatio to spy on Claudius although he was angry when Claudius and others spied on him.


Hamlet seems to have a respect for women. Throughout the whole play, despite his anger, he never disrespected his mother. The only time he was less than respectful towards Ophelia was in the nunnery scene, however, he was putting on his antic disposition. In this scene, Hamlet is particularly rude to Ophelia and his mother. He makes the comment to Ophelia, “What a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.” (III.ii.15-16.). He also makes a sexual comment to Ophelia, telling her, “It would cost you a groaning to take off mine edge.” (III.ii.7-74.). When Ophelia comments on the prologue of the play being brief, Hamlet remarks that it is “As a woman’s love.” (III.ii.174-175.). This remark could be directed on Ophelia’s feelings towards him or Gertrude’s feelings towards old Hamlet. He also notices and remarks to Ophelia how is mother is acting. He says, “For look how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within’s two hours.” (III.ii.1-15.). Hamlet is extremely disrespectful towards both his mother and Ophelia, despite actions in the beginning of the play that show he has a deep respect for women.


Hamlet also seems opposed to deceiving other people. He is angry with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for acting deceitful towards him. Nevertheless, he is angry with Claudius for acting as if nothing happened and is using the play and the players to trick him into revealing his guilt. Hamlet is also deceiving everyone into thinking he is insane. Although he is opposed to deceit, he is using it as a weapon himself.


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Hamlet’s actions are practical in this case because he is pretending to be crazy so he could use that as an excuse for putting aside any views he might have about proper conduct. While they are practical, his actions are not justifiable. No person should throw aside his values and philosophies under any circumstances.


Hamlet’s behavior also opposes his goal of revenge. His goal is to observe Claudius’s actions during the play; instead he is loud and disruptive. After the player Queen talks about marrying the man who killed her husband, Hamlet screams out, “That’s wormwood.” (III.ii.04.). Also during the play, Hamlet emphasizes parts of the play he wants Claudius to take notice to. For example, “You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.” (III.ii.8-0.). Hamlet wants to see how Claudius reacts to the play itself, yet he stirs him up by yelling out parts of the plot. Claudius may suspect what Hamlet is trying to do.


Hamlet’s orders by the ghost of his father were to not involve his mother in his revenge. He however makes the comment about how cheerfully she looks and when Polonius tells him that the Queen wants to speak with him, Hamlet ignores him and changes the subject. (III.ii.404-407.). Hamlet seems to have a hard time keeping his mother in his revenge despite his father’s request.


Hamlet’s actions in terms of his goal of revenge were not very practical. He wanted to see Claudius’s reaction to the play, however by interfering and emphasizing certain parts of the play, he may have lead Claudius to believe that he was suspicious of him. This may have given Claudius reason to not react in a way that would reveal his guilt. Hamlet’s behavior is, however, justified in this case. He is angry with his mother and Claudius and is excited to reveal the truth. He may want to make Claudius’s reaction more drastic by letting him know that he is aware of his crime. His actions towards his mother are justified because he is probably most hurt and angered by her.


Hamlet’s words and actions would go against moral standards set today. His remarks to Ophelia could be considered harassment. Also, today, young people are expected to have a respect for their elders. Hamlet does not exert this in his actions towards Polonius. He ignores him while he is trying to talk to him and he makes fun of him. When Hamlet asks if he acted in plays, Polonius says, “I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed I’ th’ Capitol. Brutus killed me.” Hamlet replies, “It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there.” (III.ii.10-11.). While Polonius thinks Hamlet is complimenting him he is actually mocking him. Also, kids generally have a respect for their parents. Hamlet, however, is rude to both his mother and Claudius.


If Hamlet lived today, his actions would not be practical. They could potentially get him in a great deal of trouble. Ophelia could file a harassment suit against him. Also, since Polonius was so close to Claudius, he would probably report Hamlet’s disrespect to him. Claudius would probably punish Hamlet for this. His actions are justified because all he would have to do is accuse Claudius of murder and his misconduct would quickly be forgotten.


Hamlet’s behavior during the play-within-the-play is his way of putting on an antic disposition and attempting to reveal Claudius’s guilt. It may go against his goal of revenge and today’s moral standards, yet it can be justified. His anger and resentment cause his abnormal behavior. There is no justification, however, for going against his philosophical beliefs. Hamlet should not have compromised this for anything. Nevertheless, the actions of his uncle and his mother may have spoiled any sane thoughts he had. Most people probably would have reacted the same way Hamlet did during this scene.


Works Cited


Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York Pocket Books, 1.





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