.. Three, there are signs there that Ophelia is not unlikely to lose her mind. (Go here for that answer). I will confine myself here to what Ophelia’s songs can tell us about her state of mind and to what Ophelia’s madness adds to our understanding of madness in the play. We are told that Ophelia is mad by the unnamed gentleman at the opening of scene five.
He says she speaks much of her father and then: Her speech is nothing, Yet the unshapd use of it doth move hearers to collection. They yawn at it, And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts.. (IV.v.7-10) This means Ophelia’s speech is meaningless, but this chaotic state makes those who hear it try to make sense of it. They are amazed by her speech and make the words fit their own interpretation. This statement seems to be crucial to understanding how madness is presented in this play.
When Hamlet and Ophelia are thought to be insane, their observers try to interpret the reasons for their insanity. The reasons they come up with always reflect the preoccupations of the observers. In the case of Hamlet, Claudius thinks he has a hidden secret (III.i.158) since he himself has a hidden secret. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern think that Hamlet’s ambition is the cause of his madness since they themselves are ambitious. Similarly with Ophelia, Laertes thinks she is trying to tell him to take revenge for her father (IV.v.168), a course he has already decided on. In Hamlet, madness is a mirror. Our interpretations of Ophelia’s madness are therefore put under question by the play.
Are we seeing what is really there or are we projecting our own expectations onto her? Nonetheless, I set the question, so I ought to attempt to answer it. I am only going to deal with her songs as they are probably the most striking and interpretable aspect of her madness. Ophelia sings three songs to the Queen in IV.v., and two more later in the scene after her brother’s arrival. The first (How should I your true love know..) is about an absent lover. The second (which might be a continuation of the first) begins He is dead and gone lady.
The third Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s Day is the story of how a young girl is duped into sleeping with a man who promises to marry her and doesn’t. Applying the first two songs to Ophelia’s history doesn’t take much ingenuity. She has an absent lover and a dead dad. The third, more bawdy, song is a little trickier. Hamlet has not been unfaithful to Ophelia, in fact the opposite is more true.
Yes, he’s unpleasant to her, but she’s the one who participates in a plot to trick the other. It is possible that Ophelia’s madness transposes the sexes of the characters and that the song is about her infidelity. It is also possible that Ophelia is mourning her own virginity. Or that her delirium releases the sexuality which has till this point been pent up by the demands of propriety and decorum. We don’t know enough to make a definite choice.
The next song, after Ophelia hands out the flowers, is apparently part of a popular series of Bonny Robin songs which were about lovers and unfaithfulness. The final song (And will a not come again) is about the death of an older man. It is not implausible, on the basis of these five songs, to assume that Ophelia’s madness was caused by the death of her father, her loss of Hamlet and her guilt about her infidelity to him. 6. What does the Queen’s speech about Ophelia’s drowning suggest about her madness and the reasons her death? One aspect of this speech may seem a little bizarre.
If the Queen knows all this, how come she was unable to save Ophelia? There are at least three possible explanations. First, the Queen doesn’t know all this. She knows that Ophelia has drowned but wants to make it sound nice in order to break the news gently to Laertes, so she adds all the stuff about flowers and singing. Second, the Queen knows that Ophelia didn’t drown like this, but rather committed suicide, as the gravediggers and the priest are to suggest in Act Five. She doesn’t want to tell Laertes this and also wants Ophelia to receive a Christian burial rather than be treated as a suicide.
Or, third, Shakespeare intended that the Queen to be acting as a storyteller here rather than as herself. She steps out of role for a minute to relate things that couldn’t be shown on the Elizabethan stage. Any of these are acceptable answers to this puzzle. I tend to think the third explanation is best. Ophelia is (sort of) killed by a willow tree, also known as a weeping willow. Therefore, the line suggests that Ophelia died of grief.
Note that the brook is described as a weeping brook. As she floats downstream, Ophelia is described as like a creature native and indued / Unto that element. That is, like a creature that belongs in the water. I would say that this is not only about her passivity in the water, but also because of her excessive grief. When Laertes says that she has had too much of, he probably means that she has had too much grief, rather than that her lungs are full of water. Another thing to note are the plants.
Ophelia is associated with flowers throughout the play. She’s an infant of the spring in I.ii. Laertes calls her a rose of May in IV.v. where she also hands out flowers to the court. At her funeral, Laertes imagines violets springing from her grave. Ophelia may be viewed as flower-like because of her innocence, beauty, youth and fragility.
Here, though, the flowers are weeds: crow-flowers, nettles, long-purples and daisies. Perhaps a symbol of decline or of her corruption by the Danish court. Structure 1. A past exam question reads: ‘The action of the play begins to break down after act three’. Discuss. Why might you agree on the basis of act four? Points one might include in this answer are: Short Scenes: Most of the play is made up of long, set-piece scenes, centred around a particular character.
In Act Four, we get seven brief scenes. is likely to make the audience uneasy and feel that the action is moving around very swiftly. Hamlet’s Absence: Obviously Hamlet is the main character in the play, but for the second half of the Act, he’s gone away. We have lost the main focus of the action. Subplots: Again, most of the action so far has been directly related to Hamlet’s quest. In this act, that quest is postponed and new plot lines centred around Laertes and Ophelia are introduced. Minor Characters: Similarly, six new characters suddenly appear: the Captain and Fortinbras, the gentleman, the messenger, the attendant and the sailor. Characters such as Horatio, Ophelia and Laertes, who have had relatively minor roles until now, are suddenly given scenes in which they are centre stage.
Shakespeare seems to want to increase the pace of the play, to give an indication that the danger to the central characters has increased. He also wants to reintroduce Fortinbras and let us see him in person so that we are not too surprised by his arrival at the end. He also wants to begin to explore revenge more widely through the introduction of Laertes’ mission and to begin preparation for the final catastrophe. Themes and Imagery 1. Where is disease imagery used in this act? Find FOUR examples.
How is the meaning of this imagery made explicit? There are quite a number of disease images in this act. Perhaps this reflects the spread of corruption and the intensification of the action. They include: Diseases desperate grown / By desperate appliance are relieved, / Or not at all. (Claudius, IV.iii) ..like the hectic in my blood he rages, / And thou must me. (Claudius, IV.iii) This is th’impostume of much wealth and peace.
(Hamlet, IV.iv) To my sick soul, as sin’s true nature is.. (Gertrude, IV.v) ..wants not buzzers to infect his ear / With pestilent speeches.. (Claudius, IV.v) It warms the very sickness in my heart.. (Laertes, IV.vii) But to the quick of th’ulcer.. (Claudius, IV.vii) I’ll touch my point / With this contagion.. (Laertes, IV.vii) The Queen’s line, To my sick soul, as sin’s true nature is makes it very clear that the disease imagery in the play is an image of sinfulness. Often, it particularly refers to treachery, and here, Laertes’ line, It warms the very sickness in my heart, is very useful. 2.
What do scenes five and seven suggest about what commitment to taking revenge does to people? Laertes used to be a noble youth (V.i.). On his return from France, he has turned into a maniac. He is willing to dare damnation and he will cast aside all sense of tradition and loyalty to the king. He is happy to kill Claudius in cold blood on the basis of rumours. Lastly, Laertes is very willing to use treacherous means to kill Hamlet. Revenge is presented very ironically in the play.
Prompted by the demands of honour and loyalty, revengers become treacherous and dishonourable. It is Laertes’ single-minded devotion to his task that leads him to abandon all sense of morality and to his destruction. 3. Nonetheless, in what ways might Hamlet appear to be (morally) better than (a) Fortinbras and (b) Laertes? (a) Act Four, scene four reintroduces Fortinbras to the audience. He is on his way to the borders of Poland to fight over a little patch of ground that has no economic worth. This is likely to lead to the deaths of two thousand men. In his soliloquy which follows, Hamlet reflects (rightly) that he has got considerably better reasons to go to war and is only risking his own life.
He envies Fortinbras’ daring, but despises his callous sacrifice of the soldiers for a trick of fame. (b) Hamlet, unlike Laertes, is not willing to daredamnation in the pursuit of his revenge. Hamlet is terrified of damnation and only manages to kill Claudius when he is satisfied that it is perfect conscience (V.ii). He also commits his revenge publicly in full view of the court, rather than trying to arrange an accident for his enemy. Theater Essays.