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Explication from Hamlet

Uploaded by essay on Dec 12, 2000

Assignment 1: Explication from Hamlet (1.3.111-137) (“My lord, he hath importuned me with love” … [end of scene].


Ophelia and Polonius have a father-daughter discussion toward the end of Act 1 where Polonius, concerned father that he is, warns his daughter Ophelia of becoming too involved with Hamlet. This warning comes just as Laertes, brother and son, has bid farewell. Laertes has just warned Ophelia himself of getting involved with Hamlet—this is the first time the audience is alerted to the romance.

What have we seen of Hamlet so far? He is deeply grieving his father’s death; he resents the rapid marriage of his uncle and mother bitterly; and he has been told of the ghost of his father. The plot is building faster than Claudius could say, “I do!” in these first few scenes, and I would imagine the first audience of Shakespeare’s play would have been absolutely gripped to see what it all will come to.

Hamlet so far has been portrayed as passionate and earnest, but not necessarily mad. When he says to his mother, “Seems, Madam? I know not seems…” we are given the impression of a man who is who he is, without pretence or acting. We know little of Polonius so far except that he is a well meaning, good-natured, and for all appearances honourable servant of the king.

This scene casts the first shadow of doubt upon Hamlet’s character. It is curious that Shakespeare warns Ophelia twice: once through Laertes, and once through Polonius. Reading Laertes’ speech we can see the perspective of an understanding, though cynical young man. He essentially says, “Be careful of Hamlet because he’s young and his passions are burning. When the passions die down he’ll realise his desire for you can’t be fulfilled by marriage because of political constraints, and you’ll be left behind, scandalised.”

Both Laertes and Polonius recognise that Hamlet, being young and foolish, is also not subject to the same consequences of reckless behaviour as Ophelia: “with a larger tether may he walk.” But there are two main differences in what Polonius says and doesn’t saw: his warning lacks the political slant, and he attacks Hamlet’s integrity.

Ophelia’s first protest to Polonius was that Hamlet had made his affections known to her “with love in honourable fashion,” and it is this statement that evoked Polonius’ response: “Ay, springes to catch woodcocks!” A springe is a type of trap or...

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Uploaded by:   essay

Date:   12/12/2000

Category:   Hamlet

Length:   4 pages (929 words)

Views:   1205

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