The Hamlet and His Mother; The Closet Scene is an oil on canvas painting by Richard Dadd, done in 1846. It is currently held in Yale Center for British Art.
The image represents the conversation Hamlet had with Gertrude in the Queen’s chamber, when Hamlet sees the ghost of his father in Act III, scene iv, lines 2499-2529:
Enter the Ghost in his nightgown.
Hamlet. A king of shreds and patches!
Save me and hover o’er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?
Gertrude. Alas, he’s mad!
Hamlet. Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, laps’d in time and passion, lets go by
Th’ important acting of your dread command?
Father’s Ghost. Do not forget. This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But look, amazement on thy mother sits.
O, step between her and her fighting soul
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.
Speak to her, Hamlet.
Hamlet. How is it with you, lady?
Gertrude. Alas, how is’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy,
And with th’ encorporal air do hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in th’ alarm,
Your bedded hairs, like life in excrements,
Start up and stand an end. O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience! Whereon do you look?
Hamlet. On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoin’d, preaching to stones,
Would make them capable.- Do not look upon me,
Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern effects. Then what I have to do
Will want true colour- tears perchance for blood.
Gertrude’s expression is frightened and confused, and her body language conveys a sense of vulnerability. Hamlet, on the other hand, looks anxious and restless. His black hair and clothing contrasts strongly with his pale skin, which emphasizes his craziness and shock at seeing the ghost. Gertrude dresses in white and red, making her the more innocent and pure figure between the two. Her hands are gripping each other in a praying position. She has a resemblance to Mary, while Hamlet seems to be on the side of the devils. The painting quite accurately portrays the scene through their vivid facial expressions. Hamlet looks like his nerves are as tight as violin strings and he is running purely on madness. The protruding, coal black sword by Hamlet’s side adds a sense of danger to the scene. The atmosphere of the scene foreshadows doom of the two in the near future.
Picture from: Wikimedia Commons