Act 3, scene 2
The color-coded boxes under "Analysis & Themes" below (which look like this: ) make it easy to track the themes throughout the work. Each color corresponds to one of the themes explained in the Themes section of this LitChart.
Analysis & Themes
Hamlet lectures three of the players on how to act. His lecture focuses on how to avoid overacting, suiting action to word and word to action. They exit.
Hamlet has already told Horatio what the Ghost said, and now reveals his plan: the play to be put on will mirror the Ghosts' description of Claudius's murder of Old Hamlet. If Claudius looks guilty while watching it, then he is.
Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, and others arrive to watch the play. Hamlet tells Horatio he's now going to act insane.
Claudius asks how Hamlet is faring. Hamlet responds as if Claudius were using the word "fare" to mean food, and says he's eating the air. Hamlet mocks Polonius's attempts to act at university, harasses Ophelia with sexual puns, then makes bitter remarks about Gertrude for marrying Claudius.
The players enter and first act out a dumbshow (a short silent play that shows what the longer play is about). The players then begin to act the full play. As the plot becomes clear, Gertrude and Claudius become uncomfortable. Hamlet mocks them, while continuing to launch sexual puns at Ophelia. Claudius asks the name of the play. Hamlet says, "The Mouse-trap."
When the villain in the play pours poison into the king's ear, Claudius jumps from his seat, calls for light, and rushes from the room.
Hamlet is triumphant. He tells Horatio that this proves the Ghost was telling the truth.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter and say that his mother wants to see him. Hamlet agrees to go, but furiously tells them they cannot "pluck out the heart of his mystery" or play him like a flute (3.2.336).
Polonius enters, repeating Gertrude's request to see him. Hamlet pretends to see odd shapes in a non-existent cloud. Polonius also pretends to see the shapes.
More help on this section...
• See quotes from Act 3, scene 2