Hamlet's Moral Integrity In Act 3, Scene 3

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Nandini Uppluri Hamlet’s action at the end of Act 3 Scene 3 proves his superior moral integrity to us, thus convincing us of his status as a true tragic hero. How far do you agree with this view of Hamlet and how is this scene dramatically presented? The question above assumes that Hamlet not only “acts” at the end of the scene, but also that he has shown “superior moral integrity”. Hamlet is clearly prepared to kill Claudius in this scene (he is depicted holding a sword above Claudius’ head in Duran’s 2009 version on Hamlet), but he does not. Hamlet assumes that Claudius is repenting for killing King Hamlet, as he is in a praying position. Shakespeare reveals that Hamlet does not kill Claudius in this scene because he wants to send Claudius to hell. Hamlet’s inaction at the end of this scene suggests little moral integrity, as the intent behind his inaction is certainly dark and cruel and overshadows his ‘noble’ characteristics until this point in the play. This makes the audience’s pathos towards his indecisive, tormented character decrease and increase towards the antagonist, Claudius, since he is portrayed to be very regretful, vulnerable in his soliloquy. Shakespeare carefully stages and dictates the entrance and exit of Hamlet in this scene to optimise the dramatic irony of the situation. The dramatic presentation of the scene amplifies Hamlet’s lost ‘perfect’ opportunity to kill Claudius and fulfil his duty, which is the pivotal point in the play. Hamlet’s inaction in this scene has been interpreted in different ways; however, the reason behind his inaction is doubtlessly dark and questions his moral integrity. As Claudius, in this scene, is utterly defenceless and seems to be doing a good deed by trying to “confront the visage of [his] offense,” Hamlet’s decision to not murder him then and there is dignified. But in Hamlet’s soliloquy, the reason
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