Act III, Scene 3: “A Room in the Castle” (I wonder if these “rooms” are all the same or if they bounce around to all different rooms in the castle. I guess it depends on who is performing the play.)
Summary: The King tells Hamlet’s friends to get him to England as soon as possible, and Polonius tells the King he will spy on Hamlet as he talks with his mother. Then the King gets some alone time and prays, wishing to be forgiven for his crime, but realizing that isn’t possible so long as he has the rewards from it–crown and queen. Hamlet sees him praying and considers killing him then, but decides against it because he doesn’t want him to be killed praying; he wants to kill him when he’s doing something sinful like drinking, gambling, or “in the incestuous pleasures of his bed.”
Reaction: There was a hint earlier at how bad the King was feeling about the murder, and now we see it spelled out. I love when we get depth in the bad guys and can see them as human–of course I always love a good villain. And I love that Hamlet has no clue that his uncle feels this way.
Prediction: I feel like when it comes time to do the murder, the King will be at the point where he will tell Hamlet that he wants him to kill him, and that will make Hamlet really not want to do it, but he will anyway. I could be wrong–I so often am.
Why This Book Is a Classic: Not many books today get into these heavy religious dilemmas–The King feels his soul is forfeit, while Hamlet doesn’t want to kill him when he’s praying because he doesn’t want his soul to go to heaven; he wants to kill him when he’s sinning so he’ll go to Hell.
Why a Modern Audience Might Like It: Everyone likes complex, believable characters, and Shakespeare is an expert at this–every character has depth and good and bad sides. Heroes have faults and villains have redeemable qualities.