Act III – Scene.iii
It is now clear to Claudius that Hamlet is a real
threat, and he must regain control over his court and his people. He cannot have Hamlet harmed here in Denmark, so he asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet to England.
Polonius arrives saying that Hamlet is on his way to Gertrude’s quarters and
that he will spy on them.
Claudius goes to his private chapel and admits his guilt, but is unable to
request forgiveness because he still wishes to keep his position. He asks help from God to give him a softened heart in order that he can ask forgiveness.
Hamlet enters and considers killing Claudius, but holds back. His
father languishes in purgatory. If he were to kill Claudius now, he would go straight to heaven, having confessed his sins, with a clean soul.
Claudius now needs to have Hamlet dispatched, but not
in Denmark, England would be more appropriate. The fact that he cannot confess his sins means that he expects to spend eternity in hell. He hopes that God will help him to make a confession.
Hamlet thinks the King is confessing, and therefore draws back from killing
him. He wishes Claudius to go straight to hell and expects him to commit more sins, so he must choose the time of Claudius’ death carefully.
This is a critical stage in the development of the play. If Hamlet
had killed Claudius at this time, then the next six deaths that occur in the play would not have happened.
The play would have been cut short and there would be no tragedy. Hamlet would have been made out as a villain, just as bad as Claudius. Shakespeare realizes that the preservation of Claudius at this stage is needed in order to enhance Hamlet’s character.