Hamlet's rage (?) against Laertes when Ophelia is buried

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When Ophelia is buried, Hamlet is angry with Laertes. Does he think his grief isn't real? Why does he need to show he loved Ophelia more than laertes, and thus his grief is bigger? I don't really understand this part. Also, he doesn't seem to think much about her after she is buried and gone. Can anyone help me out?..

-- Anat (dayag@hotmail.com), January 19, 2000


Hamlet appears to be disgusted by Laertes' over-acted grief. We know that Hamlet disdained all forms of disingenuous behavior, even the over-exaggeration of actors. Hamlet sees Laertes' 'mouthing' as excessive and surely leaping into someone's grave, though it is his beloved sister, is somewhat excessive. This 'show' is especially offensive to Hamlet precisely because it is Ophelia. Did he once have hopes of marriage? But the emphasis here would seem to be that Hamlet abhors appearances of all kinds.

-- gkandia (gkandia@prodigy.net), January 22, 2000.

Alright, so Hamlet doesn't like exaggerations, but he himself exaggerate - "show me what thou'lt do: Woo't weep? woo't fight? woo't fast? woo't tear thyself? Woo't drink up eisel? eat a crocodile? I'll do't." And then, for some reason, he feels the need to say that he is also grieving: "Nay, an thou'lt mouth, I'll rant as well as thou." Why does he do that?

-- Anat (dayag@hotmail.com), January 22, 2000.

Excellent observation! The "Woo't" is in fact an insult to Laertes, being a common form of expression used by illiterates. The "Mouth" is again an insult to him suggesting that Laertes is giving a false verbal overture to the circumstance. Hamlet hates that "mouthing" thing. He sees only himself as sincere in his exclamations. These points are further emphasized by his declaring "This is I, Hamlet the Dane", thus taking on the proper title for the head of state so as to put Laertes in his place. His extraordinary emphasis on this theme may also be his way of saving face in front of all, since he was known to have loved her. Also, it makes for a really good show of his (newly found?) conviction. But, when all is said and done, we can only take him at face value regarding his grief at the loss of Ophelia; it does seem great. He probably didn't know of her madness (no indication in the text) and so he may have held out hope of marriage once the antic disposition could be dropped and all was resolved.

-- gkandia (gkandia@prodigy.net), January 22, 2000.

Take a look at V.ii.76ff: I am very sorry, good Horatio,/ That to Laertes I forgot myself [at the graveside];/ ... But sure, the bavery [ostentatious bragging nature] of his grief did put me/ into a tow'ring passion." And bear in mind that Hamlet has only just learnt Ophelia is dead and (I believe and Branagh makes you believe) he "loved Ophe

-- catherine england (catherineamer@hotmail.com), October 01, 2001.

Let me try that again. So. Hamlet loved Ophelia. He is probably in shock before grief sets in: "What, the fair Ophelia!" With "O, treble woe/ Fall ten times treble on that cursed head/ Whose wicked deed ..." Laertes now blames Hamlet for her death, believing what Claudius told him in IV.vii.1-24. Then Laertes goes on with a rhetorically pretentious display of grief in public.

Note that except for III.ii all Hamlet's rants are done in private: he waits till he is "alone" before he allows himself to express his feelings. This is proper noble behaviour which Laertes, who always thinks with his gut rather than his head, does not follow.

(In III.ii, yes, Hamlet loses his cool, but then not only Claudius but also Hamlet has just watched a reenactment of his own father's murder, and also let his adversary know that he is out to kill him.)

So Laertes "mouths" off and it disgusts Hamlet. His grief is real, but he shouldn't make such a show of it. ""Swounds, show me what thou'lt do ... I'll rant as well as thou" is directed at Laertes and has nothing really to do with Ophelia, nor with his own grief. The speech is mocking and sarcastic. I feel he always tries to fight with words rather than violence. His own grief, I think, sets in at "Hear you sir ... But it is no matter ..." and he walks away to grieve in private, alone. In V.ii he recovers his public demeanour, possibly even as he says "So much for this, sir", and gets on with what he has to do. Certainly he now deals with grief better than he did at the start of the play. Then it brought him to total desolation and despair.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), December 06, 2001.

Not an answer, but an insightful question. Demonstrate how the stages in the healing process of grief are present in both Hamlet and America's response to 9/11.

-- Kaye Spratt (kspratt@sangamo.com), December 02, 2002.

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