Hamlet Act VScene 2

Hamlet: Act V-Scene 2 – The Climax Essay, Research Paper

Hamlet: Act V-Scene 2 – The Climax

In Act V-Scene 2, as the play begins with Hamlet fill in the detail of what

happened to him since he left Denmark, Hamlet concedes that there was a kind of

fighting in his heart. But clearly his inner struggle has been manifested from

the time of his first appearance in this play. Now it is to hear no more

expression of self-approach or doubts that he will act positively against

Claudius. What is impressive is his decisiveness. He is able to formulate a

plan and to execute it without delay. He has found man’s wisdom, or reason, to

have its limitation: fortune, accident, chance – call it that what it will and

can determine the course of events, as his own experience aboard the ship proves.

He was able to find in the dark the commission for his own death; by chance, he

had in his possession his father’s signet for sealing the forged document. No

less by chance, the pirates proved kind and, for sufficient compensation, they

returned him to Denmark.

Throughout the play, after we have itemized Claudius’ major crimes, the

Prince does not receive an answer to his question, one which is basic to his

status as a moral symbol in the play:

– is’t not perfect conscience,

To quit him with this arm? And is’t not to be damn’d,

To let this canker of out nature come

In further evil?

It has been seen here a Hamlet who is still in doubt, still troubled by his

conscience; and his view should not be ignored, if only because it illustrates

once more the difficulties of interpretation. One may argue that there is no

need for Horatio to answer Hamlet’s question since he has already expressed deep

shock at the latest evidence of Claudius’ villainy. So the Hamlet in this scene

has resolved all doubts; there is no longer a kinda of fighting in his heart.

As the scene progress, Horatio reminds Hamlet that Claudius is sure to

learn soon what has happened to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s reply

shows him to be controlled and confident. Now he expressed regret that he had

so forgot himself as to offend Laertes, stating that he sees the image of his

own cause in that of Ophelia’s brother. Probably no more is intended that

Hamlet makes reference to the fact that both have endured great losses, for

Hamlet’s cause transcends the personal or domestic, involving as it does the

welfare of the State. The Prince’s determination to win back the goodwill of

Laertes make understandable his prompt agreement to participate in the fencing


When Horatio urges him to consider withdrawing from the match (because

Hamlet is heartsick), Hamlet makes reply:

…we defy augury. There’s a

special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be

now, ?tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will

be now; if it be not now, yet it will come; the

readiness is all.

What he says here is consistent with what he said earlier in this scene when he

declared that “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends”. And if he is still

heartsick, this passage provides additional evidence that no longer is there a

kinda of fighting in his heart – kind that, early in the play, made him lament

the fact that he was called upon to act violently because the time is out of

joint, and later expend his energy in denunciation of his mighty opposite and

accuse himself of inexcusable delay. Hamlet now seems to have resolved all

doubts as to whether he functions as a minister or as scourge.

Now, it is the time for the climax of the play, the fencing match. During

the match, Queen Gertrude is heard from only after the match has begun and

Hamlet has scored the first hit with his blunted foil. The action that follows

is as exciting as any to be found in drama. Laertes is allowed to express

twinges of conscience just before he wounds Hamlet; and, when he himself is

fatally wounded, he has the good grace to acknowledge that his own treachery is

responsible for his death. Moreover, just after the Queen cries out that she

has been poisoned, he survives to place the blame upon Claudius. Demands of the

plot at this point of its resolution, in part, explain Laertes’ free confession

and accusation. But it is not inappropriate that Laertes, who shortly before

had declared that he stood aloof from Hamlet in terms of honor and then faced

the Prince armed with an unblunted and poisoned rapier, should be allowed to

retrieve himself through full confession. Claudius must, and does, remain the

rascal of the piece.

“The point envenom’d too!” exclaim Hamlet at the moment of complete

discovery, aware that he will soon join his mother and Laertes in death. We

recalls that venom – poison – used by Claudius was the source of the rottenness

in Denmark. It has spread throughout Elsinore and beyond. Polonius, Ophelia,

and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are among its victims.

At long last, Hamlet kill Claudius. The Prince survives not only to

philosophize on “this fell sergeant, Death,” who is so “strict in his arrest”

but also, more important, to implore Horatio to report him and his cause aright

- to clear his wounded name. Certainly he does not subjects of the Crown to

believe that his slaying of Claudius was the latest and most shocking action of

a Hamlet who, in the words of the First Gravedigger, was mad. Even less does he

want to be remembered as king killer. Hamlet’s concept of honor, implicit from

the beginning, is something far above that held by Laertes and Polonius. He

wishes to be remembered as the worthy son of the superior King Hamlet, as

minister called upon to execute public justice, not as scourge. The moving

words of Horatio, who knew him best, provide the best epitaph:

Now cracks a noble heart. Good – night, sweet prince,

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

In conclusion, we noticed that Hamlet has paid the price for his inability

to master passion before it was too late for him to avoid catastrophe and he

failed in that he did not survive to prove himself his father’s son as ruler of

Denmark, insist that the very condition which made inevitable his failure,

especially his unwillingness to act without much thought, is the measure of his

greatness. For most of us, the Prince emerges finally as sacrificial victim,

one whose death is inevitable but which makes possible the purging of great evil

and the restoration of a moral universe.

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