cleaning up so well (jones_casey) wrote,
cleaning up so well
jones_casey

hamlet & ophelia poll followup

so i would ask all of you about this:

at the end of act one, hamlet has learned of claudius' crime and the ghost's command.

the very next of hamlet reported to us, in act 2, scene 1, is a visit to ophelia.

ophelia tells her father of hamlet's unusual appearance and demeanor, and goes on to say:


he took me by the wrist and held me hard,
then goes he to the length of all his arm, 100
and, with his other hand thus o'er his brow,
he falls to such perusal of my face
as he would draw it. long stayed he so.
and thrice his head thus waving up and down, 105
he raised a sigh so piteous and profound
as it did seem to shatter all his bulk
and end his being. that done, he lets me go,
and, with his head over his shoulder turned,
he seemed to find his way without his eyes, 110
for out o' doors he went without their helps
and to the last bended their light on me.


this is my understanding of this encounter:

a) hamlet (his desire for confirmation of claudius' guilt just an aspect of his hesitation) believes the ghost and knows that he is bound to slay claudius despite not being able to prove claudius' guilt to others, leading either to his own death or some other dire punishment (leaving aside that he could've tried to kill him surreptitiously, just as claudius killed hamlet, if he were more cunning).

2) hamlet truly loves ophelia.

c) hamlet, believing himself doomed, knows whatever form his bad end takes, he and ophelia will not be together. of all the losses he faces, this is the most heartbreaking.

4) hamlet goes to make his final farewell to ophelia. but he knows he can't explain to her that he's saying farewell and why because he can't tell anyone about the ghost's story and what he plans to do. moreover, he's already realized he's going to have to falsely repudiate his love for her, in order to dissociate her from him, and spare her grief at his bad end, so he can't express his love for her.

e) so he goes to her, saying nothing, for there's nothing he can say, and he just takes in her being, acknowledging this amazing person he loves so dearly and has horrible foreknowledge he has lost. he loses himself in perusing her face as if he were an artist studying a model, and a great deal of time passes. in anguish at his loss he raises a sigh so piteous and profound that it shatters him, as if his own being was ended, which for all intents and purposes it already has been. even as he turns to go because he must he can't bring himself to look away and to the last bends the light of his eyes on her.


since i imagine my view is unique, how do you read this encounter? what's going on here and collaterally what purpose does it serve in the play?
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