Act III, Scene 1: “A Room in the Castle”
Summary: King Claudius and Polonius intend to ambush Hamlet with Ophelia to see if love is what has made him crazy. Hamlet comes in and makes *the speech* expressing his melancholy. When Ophelia comes to appeal to him, he tells her to go into a nunnery so as not to procreate and cause more terrible people to walk the earth. After all that, the King is determined to send Hamlet away to England, but Polonius still thinks Hamlet is heart sick for his daughter.
Reaction: His speech was pretty cool, as speeches go. Much better than any of the political speeches we’ve had to sit through (or avoid watching) lately. My interpretation is that his melancholy is caused by the struggle between his desire to avenge his father and his fight against the sinful urge to murder. He is afraid of what will await him in the afterlife. He not only thinks King Claudius is terrible and wicked, but also himself. Hamlet is a very vivid character–believable and human. He doesn’t just jump right in to take his revenge, even though he is an able fighter. He’s weighing the consequences of his actions very carefully–he’s agonizingly careful.
Prediction: The “banishment” to England is a ticking clock for Hamlet. He now has limited time to act, so I’m thinking things will move quickly after this play.
Why This Book Is a Classic: The fact that there is a speech here that appears in so many contemporary outlets–even kids’ cartoons–makes it an ultimate classic (even if the kids have no idea what is being referenced when they see/hear it–but someday they will, thanks to our English teachers).
Why a Modern Audience Might Like It: If we have to listen to speeches, can’t they at least be good ones like this one?