Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hamlet Read-Along: Act V, Scene 1 -- Part Two

Okay, yes, I realize I didn't exactly divide this scene in half.  But hey, that means you only had 80 lines left to read for this second post.  Anyway, poor Hamlet, discovering this way that Ophelia has died.  He didn't even know she'd gone crazy, unless Horatio clued him in while they were heading back to Elsinore.  But I think if he had, Hamlet wouldn't have been so cheerful earlier in this scene, and he definitely wouldn't have been so surprised when he figured out who was getting buried here.

You know I like that Hamlet calls Laertes "a very noble youth" (204), so I won't belabor that.  So instead I will point out that it was Claudius who commanded that Ophelia be buried in consecrated ground and with at least some Christian rites.  Good for Claudius.  Maybe he's trying to make up for the secretive way he had Polonius buried?

So then Laertes speechifies a while about how much he hates Hamlet, and how dear Ophelia was to him.  Which makes Hamlet hop out of hiding and make a few declarations himself.  And not just about how he loved Ophelia more than any brother ever could, but did you notice how he calls himself "Hamlet the Dane" (239)?  That's pretty much a direct challenge to Claudius.  "The Dane" means "the #1 Dane," as in "I am by rights the king."  He's pretty much done with subtlety, I'd say.  (Also, that's the line I get the long version of my handle from:  Hamlette the Dame.)

So anyway, Hamlet and Laertes slug it out a while.  I love the stage direction there.  It's very simple and direct:  They fight.  After they fight, both Gertrude and Claudius try to convince Laertes and everyone else that Hamlet's just mad, no big, please ignore him.  And Horatio gets sent to watch over him, just like they told him to watch over Ophelia.  Guess everyone pretty much trusts him, huh?

And we end with Claudius assuring Laertes that their little Plot To Kill Hamlet By Any Treacherous Means Necessary is still totally on.  Nice.  (Insert grumpy face here.)

Favorite Lines:

"Couch we awhile and mark" (204).

"I tell thee, churlish priest,
A ministering angel shall my sister be
When thou liest howling" (221-223).

"Who is he whose grief 
Bears such an emphasis, whose phrase of sorrow
Conjures the wandering stars and makes them stand
Like wonder-wounded hearers?  This is I,
Hamlet the Dane" (235-239).

"Yet have I in me something dangerous" (243).

"What is the reason that you use me thus? 
I loved you ever" (272-73).

"Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day" (274-75).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Hamlet says, "I loved Ophelia" (252).  Do you think he truly did? 

Why do you think Hamlet got so upset over seeing Laertes grieving over Ophelia?

Do you think anyone actually believes Hamlet to be mad by this point?

Quick note:  I will be hosting a giveaway to celebrate our finishing the whole play!  It will last extra long because I know a lot of people are really busy over the holidays and don't have a lot of computer time :-)


  1. Yes, I do think Hamlet loved her, but a mad person can still love someone,and his passions in a crisis may seem to exceed anyone else's. Then,too, Laertes started the ruckus in the grave. Hamlet's behavior is a reaction, not an initial action. It is a macabre situation with both men trampling on her body while they fight about which one loved her more.
    My director's notes (excuse me if this a repeat) I *think* I saw an interesting bit of action but it's a 45 year old
    'memory' so who knows? The fight begins as normally staged, with Hamlet venting his anger against Laertes. The King's men pull Laertes from the grave. Horatio takes charge of Hamlet.And then Hamlet's anger turns against Horatio. We get the 4 line Hamelette cited above: "What is the reason you use me thus? I have loved you ever. But let Hercules do what he may, the cat will mew and dog will have its say." Horatio has been still standing, holding Hamlet's arm. He is obviously hurt, drops Hamlet's arm & falls back a step.
    Hamlet exits and (you know what's coming) Horatio is told to follow him.
    There has been nothing previously that suggests Hamlet 'loves' Laertes as a friend or for that matter as a future in-law, but he has spoken of his affection for Horatio often.

    1. Yes, Laertes did start the scuffle, good point.

      Poor Horatio, if Hamlet says that to him instead of Laertes. I always figure if Hamlet says it to Laertes, he's sort of speaking of the fact that they grew up together, and were probably playmates as children. So by "loved" he might mean "gotten along with" more than anything?

  2. Ugh, this is sad. I'd like to think Hamlet really did love her, just not more than he loved his obsession for getting revenge. ... and maybe now realizes that and is trying to make up for it. And yeah, I don't think anyone could still think Hamlet's mad. But now they're probably very confused!

    "Hamlette the Dame" -- nice! :D

    1. Sarah, it IS sad. "Ugh" indeed.

      Good observation, that Hamlet loved his mission more than Ophelia. Could be onto something there.

      And thanks, I've always felt like "Hamlette the Dame" was a nice melding of Hamlet and film noir, two of my passions :-)

  3. It must be a nasty surprise to return and find your kind of sweetheart dead. I do think he loved her but maybe this declaration is so violent because he at the same time feels guilt over the way he treated her recently. (If he is told the full story of her descent into madness because of the father's death that he caused, there is a whole new level of guilt)

    1. Rose, good point -- some of Hamlet's wildness might be spurred by his guilty feelings. I agree.


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