(Hamlet doesn't know for sure.)When Polonius's body falls out from behind the curtain,Hamlet remarks he thought it was the king(who he was just with, someplace else), and talks abouthow being a busybody is dangerous.
Perhaps someof the original text of the play has been lost from the folio version.)Hamlet'sspeech to his mother has less to do with the murderand how it is wrong than with her sexual misbehavior andher not mourning her loving first husband.
Throughout the course of the drama, Hamlet endures many trials of his will and conscious, forcing him to strengthen his convictions and the methods by which he will execute them....
The story unfolds with the late King Hamlet appearing to his son, asking for vengeance on his brother, the King Claudius, which is an event likely to perturb the Crown Prince.
This was rehearsed, and Claudiusis taking advantage of the opportunity to look reasonable,especially because he is about to deal with Hamlet, who wants to returnto college.Claudius calls Hamlet "cousin" (i.e., close relative) and "son"(stepson), and asks why he is still sad.
It is no coincidence that both the Player King and Fortinbras are pursuing stupid, vaingoals.What is Shakespeare trying to tell us?Hamlet's "revenge" isn't so much simply the killingof the king, as it is the purging of all the rottenness in the Danish court.
But the truth is that Hamlet has no opportunity to kill the king andthen justify his action, until the final disaster, when Laertes reveals "The king's to blame".
Bradley points out thatHamlet seems depressed ("melancholy") and that this will slow a persondown; early 20th century writers influenced by psychoanalysistalked about a mother-fixation causing the depression.
The nonsense about Hamlet being "unable to make up his mind"begins with his own speeches after hearing the Player King'sspeech on Hecuba (he berates himself for hesitating), and especially after talking to Fortinbras's soldier("thinking too precisely on the event" -- i.e., people whoobsess a lot are the ones who do the least).
After the play-within-the-play, the king knows Hamlet isn't crazy,but tells the rest of the court that he must be sent away to Englandbecause of his mental illness.
The principal scene in which Hamlet pretends to be crazy ("puts [his] antic disposition on")is the one in which he teases Polonius, calling him a fishmonger (compare"fleshmoner", or pimp...
(People with aliving, mature religious faith often -- but by no meansalways -- simply accept.)At the end, Hamlet is no longer depressed, but acceptsthe human condition.
Now, when Hamlet expresses regrets that he's not completed his revenge, he compares himself unfavorably to the PlayerKing (who has just recited a ridiculous, bombastic speech)and to Fortinbras (who is getting thousands of people killed forno good reason at all -- I first became interested in Shakespeareduring the Vietnam war).
Claudius,who Hamlet considers a very bad man, shows us his true mindtwice, and we see a struggle between his hunger for divine grace and his need to keep his wife's love.The morality plays that preceded Shakespeare showed examplesof good and bad people, and heroes that had a clear choice andmade it.
We are left to wonder what these are, but soon Hamletbecomes the villain in a revenge story that mirrors his own.Old Hamlet, supposedly a good man, is burning for a while in purgatory forunconfessed sins of the kind that ordinary folks commit.