"The closet scene is a key scene in "Hamlet". It incorporates many of the central themes in the play and highlights the weakness of Gertrude and the strength of Hamlet." Discuss with reference to interpretations you have seen and read. .
Act III scene IV, also known as the "Closet scene," is a key scene in "Hamlet" as it is the first time in the play that Hamlet and Gertrude are alone and engage in more than passing conversation. To establish the importance of this scene and how it reflects the personalities of the characters concerned it is important to study and respond to various interpretations.
This scene is often interpreted in two contrasting ways, one where Hamlet's behaviour is due to sexual jealousy and one where he is considered to be a caring son. I personally believe the latter to be a more justifiable presentation of Hamlet's true character. This is because the audience is only too aware of the effect his father's death has had upon him. Subsequently, his resentment of the relationship between Claudius and Gertrude, could be perceived as a natural reaction, "A little month; or e"er those shoes were old with which she followed my poor father's body." Also, Hamlet is more often than not seen as the "hero" of the play with whom the audience most relates and because of this I feel that Hamlet having sexual feelings for his mother distorts the heroic persona established in previous scenes.
A common interpretation of the "Closet scene" often used in modern productions of the play does portray Hamlet as having an oedipal desire for his mother. Zeffirelli (1990) interprets this scene in such a way and strongly shows the manifestation of sexual jealousy visually by the way Hamlet, for example, threatens Gertrude towards her bed with a sword. The most powerful example from this version is the way in which Hamlet lies on top of his mother pretending to have sex with her whilst delivering the line, "Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love," with contempt.