Classics · Shakespeare

Hamlet Act IV

Oh, Ophelia. Poor, sweet, broken Ophelia.

I knew what was coming. You don’t read a play like Hamlet without knowing ahead of time that everybody dies. But I didn’t expect this one particular death to tug at my heartstrings so much. The poor girl never had a chance, did she? First the man she loves turns on her, from her point of view inexplicably, and then he goes and kills her father. It’s not hard to understand why she loses her mind. It’s not hard to understand why she kills herself – and I do think that’s what happened. Falling into the river and drowning is too much of a coincidence.

The flowers are fascinating and deserve their own post, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

In other news, Laertes and Hamlet are foil characters. Both young men’s fathers are murdered and both feel it’s their duty to seek revenge, but while Hamlet hesitates, tries to verify what happened, and muses over the nature of life and death before finally taking action, Laertes bursts in full of fury and ready to kill his father’s murderer as soon as he finds him. To do so, he ends up plotting with Claudius, so it’s sort of a vicious cycle, isn’t it? Claudius killed Hamlet’s father, Hamlet killed Laertes’ father, Laertes is plotting with Claudius to kill Hamlet, and if Hamlet had any sons they might start plotting against Laertes. I wonder if the Montagues and Capulets got their start like this.

So much happened in Act IV that I could go on for hours, but I think I’ll try to wrap this up for now. However, I couldn’t possibly leave out this charming bit of dialogue:

Claudius: Where is Polonius?

Hamlet: In Heaven. Send hither to see. If your messenger find him not there, seek him i’ th’ other place yourself.

In other words, “Go to hell, Claudius!”

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