Hamlet: Act V-Scene 2 - The Climax


In Act V-Scene 2, as the play begins with Hamlet fill in the detail of what
happened to him since he left Denmark, Hamlet concedes that there was a kind of
fighting in his heart. But clearly his inner struggle has been manifested from
the time of his first appearance in this play. Now it is to hear no more
expression of self-approach or doubts that he will act positively against
Claudius. What is impressive is his decisiveness. He is able to formulate a
plan and to execute it without delay. He has found man\'s wisdom, or reason, to
have its limitation: fortune, accident, chance - call it that what it will and
can determine the course of events, as his own experience aboard the ship proves.
He was able to find in the dark the commission for his own death; by chance, he
had in his possession his father\'s signet for sealing the forged document. No
less by chance, the pirates proved kind and, for sufficient compensation, they
returned him to Denmark.

Throughout the play, after we have itemized Claudius\' major crimes, the
Prince does not receive an answer to his question, one which is basic to his
status as a moral symbol in the play:

- is\'t not perfect conscience,
To quit him with this arm? And is\'t not to be damn\'d,
To let this canker of out nature come
In further evil?

It has been seen here a Hamlet who is still in doubt, still troubled by his
conscience; and his view should not be ignored, if only because it illustrates
once more the difficulties of interpretation. One may argue that there is no
need for Horatio to answer Hamlet\'s question since he has already expressed deep
shock at the latest evidence of Claudius\' villainy. So the Hamlet in this scene
has resolved all doubts; there is no longer a kinda of fighting in his heart.

As the scene progress, Horatio reminds Hamlet that Claudius is sure to
learn soon what has happened to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet\'s reply
shows him to be controlled and confident. Now he expressed regret that he had
so forgot himself as to offend Laertes, stating that he sees the image of his
own cause in that of Ophelia\'s brother. Probably no more is intended that
Hamlet makes reference to the fact that both have endured great losses, for
Hamlet\'s cause transcends the personal or domestic, involving as it does the
welfare of the State. The Prince\'s determination to win back the goodwill of
Laertes make understandable his prompt agreement to participate in the fencing
match.
When Horatio urges him to consider withdrawing from the match (because
Hamlet is heartsick), Hamlet makes reply:

...we defy augury. There\'s a
special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be
now, Œtis not to come; if it be not to come, it will
be now; if it be not now, yet it will come; the
readiness is all.

What he says here is consistent with what he said earlier in this scene when he
declared that "There\'s a divinity that shapes our ends". And if he is still
heartsick, this passage provides additional evidence that no longer is there a
kinda of fighting in his heart - kind that, early in the play, made him lament
the fact that he was called upon to act violently because the time is out of
joint, and later expend his energy in denunciation of his mighty opposite and
accuse himself of inexcusable delay. Hamlet now seems to have resolved all
doubts as to whether he functions as a minister or as scourge.


Now, it is the time for the climax of the play, the fencing match. During
the match, Queen Gertrude is heard from only after the match has begun and
Hamlet has scored the first hit with his blunted foil. The action that follows
is as exciting as any to be found in drama. Laertes is allowed to express
twinges of conscience just before he wounds Hamlet; and, when he himself is
fatally wounded, he has the good grace to acknowledge that his own treachery is
responsible for his death. Moreover, just after the Queen cries out that she
has been poisoned, he survives to place the blame upon Claudius. Demands of the
plot at this point of its resolution, in part, explain Laertes\' free confession
and accusation. But it is not inappropriate that Laertes, who shortly before
had declared that he stood aloof from Hamlet in terms of honor and then faced
the Prince