Nunnery Scene - alternative way of playing/reading. : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

I have seen the nunnery scene played (and this is an accepted opinion - see the New Cambridge Shakespeare edition of Hamlet) with Hamlet never being aware of the eavesdroppers. How would one explain Hamlet's thought processes and behaviour, etc, during the scene if played this way?

-- Patrick Walker (, November 16, 2002


Personally, I don't think one can, unless one just just says that Hamlet is pretending to be mad, possibly with occasional moments where he forgets to do so, through the whole scene with her. But I find that lame.

And, accepted editon or not, I don't think this was WS's intention.

-- catherine england (, November 17, 2002.

I have now come to my own conclusion that Hamlet does NOT know about the eavesdroppers. I was NEVER satisfied with the idea that his lines following "where's your father" were spoken for the intention of, or in the knowledge that, other ears were listening. I believe this theory takes some greater depth and truth from the scene and from Hamlet's behaviour. The line "Where's your father", is there, I like to believe, to remind the audience that everything Hamlet says is being heard by the King. (The King consequently is scared shitless and knows that there is something more to Hamlet's behaviour than "madness" and immediately makes plans to send him to England. I do not believe Hamlet would give the game away so soon before the play before the king, that very evening). Everything Hamlet says to Ophelia following the question regarding the whereabouts of her father follows his original track of thought logically and truthfully. Nothing he says (with the possible exception of "I say there will be no more marriages") indicate that he is aware of listeners. I still am not certain as to why Ophelia returns Hamlet's "remembrances". Maybe Polonius DID tell her to do so - I don't know. But there is far more going on in Hamlet than the text stipulates.

-- Patrick Walker (, December 15, 2002.

Well yes, there is. It's about six months telescoped into four hours. And it is only what people say, not everything they think. There's more going on in our lives than our text, what we say too. But thought can be drawn from text by abduction. I do think that before one states a conclusion one has to have made all the pieces fit logically. See my responses, Dec 7 2001 to "Is Hamlet so obsessed ...", and Jan 23 2002 to "Oedipus Complex" paragraphs 15-19. I can't see with you that 'Everything Hamlet says to Ophelia following the question regarding the whereabouts of her father follows his original track of thought logically and truthfully' unless he has realized that Polonius is listening. Would you like to explain how it works?

-- catherine england (, December 16, 2002.

The character of Hamlet is one of great complexity. He is very intelligent, and I believe he was aware of the eavesdroppers. When he questioned Ophelia as to the whereabouts of her father, he was testing her to see how she would respond. He knew he was being spied on, and that was precisely why he put on such a show. In the soliloquy immediately before Ophelia enters, Hamlet sees her and wishes he did not have to treat her the way he had to in the nunnery scene. And about that Oedipus Complex? That's bullshit, man.

-- Angeline Wourms (, March 05, 2003.

No, That is not true. He was NOT aware of the eavesdroppers. I am certain I know this now! For one thing, until his very final rant at Ophelia (I have heard of your paintings...), and contrary to popular belief, he has said nothing cruel to Ophelia. Not intentionally so, anyhow. However, one could take his little "Where's your father?" jab as cruel and showing Hamlet is in the know, but this is just the way Hamlet's mind works. When talking to Polonius in II:ii he says "Have you a daughter?". Also, I believe that Hamlet's "Where's your father" is used to remind Shakespeare's audience that what Hamlet is saying IS being overheard. Hamlet would not, either, give his game away hours before the play scene. (I say there will be no more marriage!). And as I have said before, nothing he says AFTER the "where's your father" line indicates any change in his attitude to Ophelia. His ranting continues as it would do without this line. There is nothing to suggest that he is aware of the eavesdroppers apart from "where's your father". This scene is simply one of truthful human observation, I think. Just like in the later scene with Gertrude, hamlet is "unpacking his heart with words" but here for different reasons obviously. I can write out my entire interpretation of the scene with notes, etc, but it would take me a while. I can if you would like me to, I guess.

-- Patrick Walker (, March 05, 2003.

Much of Hamlet's cruelty would be explained if he suspects that Claudius has seduced Ophelia as well as Gertrude and that it is for this reason that Ophelia is now returning his gifts and refusing to see him. He certainly implies that Polonius is a panderer (of both Gertrude and Ophelia? if not of them, of whom? )and his remarks about conception and walking in the sun (the king's presence) would also make sense. Gerturude's conduct (and what he imagines to be Ophelia's) also make a mockery out of marriage, which explains the last part of the speech. If he thinks that all women are as "frail" as Gertrude, why wouldn't Ophelia be even more easily seduced, especially if it were with Polonius's blessing. It certainly explains why he would laugh at her reading a prayer book and asking if she is honest. Finally, it would explain Hamlet's utter lack of remorse at his murder of Polonius, if Polonius has convinced his daughter to become the king's mistress.

-- Judith Caesar (, April 06, 2003.

Hamlet is not cruel to Ophelia - certainly not in any personally intended sense. And he cannot be thought to be cruel at all unless you accept that she loves him. Think about it. He ends his conversation with her simply by accusing women of such things as frivolity, vanity, sexual wantonness and caprice. Such remarks could only be utterly false and hurtful to Ophelia if she (still) loved him. And if she still loves him then it's highly unlikely that she's been seduced by Claudius.

Through the course of the play Hamlet implies that Polonius is a great many less than ideal things; but if he thought Polonius had provided Ophelia to the King, he would be a great deal more blatant about it, as he is in his criticisms of Gertrude's relations with Claudius. If he implies that Polonius is a pimp, it is only the most idle, fleeting reference. Nothing Hamlet says to Ophelia, Polonius, or anyone else suggests that he thinks Claudius may have seduced Ophelia. And Claudius loves Gertrude.

He doesn't really think all women are pure 'frailty'. A moment of angry, upset and frustrated sounding off should not be taken as his whole and constant philosophy on womanhood. In III.i he actually seems to imply that he things Ophelia is virtuous ('You should not have believed me: for virtue cannot so innoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not.'), that he himself as a man is the low sinner, and that she should distrust 'such fellows as' himself. That is a plea to what he must see as some degree of moral goodness and strength in Ophelia. In III.iv.173 he calls his mother 'a queen, fair, sober, wise'.

Hamlet doesn't laugh at Ophelia reading a prayerbook; he asks her to pray for him, for forgiveness of his sins ('Nymph, in thy orizons be all my sins remembered.') Again, it is an implication that he thinks she is more virtuous than he - that God will listen to her prayers because she is worthy to be listened to.

He does feel remorse for killing Polonius: 'For this same lord I do repent ...'. And we know Hamlet is serious when it comes to religious concerns and statements such as this. His more callous comments are, I believe, bravado.

-- catherine england (, April 06, 2003.

I don't think it is necessary to presume Hamlet is aware of the eavesdroppers to explain his behaviour. He obviously suspects that Ophelia couldn't do this on her own, she had been forbidden from seeing him, hadn't she? That's why he had to go find her in her room to say "goodbye" to her. How come now he finds her all alone and she also has "remembrances" to give him back? One doesn't have to be too bright to understand that her father has put her there. He may not know he is being watched at this moment but he surely assumes that all he says will be forwarded to Polonius. His question "where's your father?" is rhetorical, this and his following comment serve to let both (Ophelia and Polonius) know that he is no fool and has not been tricked by the set-up. The rest he says I believe to make clear to her that their relationship is over and possibly to send a pun to the King, to whose ears this conversation will apparently get.

-- Joanne (, April 16, 2003.

To Know or Not To Know, that is our question. There are very few people in the play, which Hamlet can trust. Horatio, is truly the only one. In the Nunnery scene with Ophelia, Hamlet loses a love, he loses someone he can trust. He most certainly knows that Someone is listening in. WHY? First of all, the "Where is you father?" line is a test to see how Ophelia reacts. When she disappoints him, Hamlet goes into a rage. His comment about letting Polonius play the fool in his own house, is actually about himself. By diverting the attention, he proclaims that he is being made a fool of in his own house. Hamlet makes several comments during his monologes about how the fools are trying to trick him, and how he knows their every move. Does Hamlet make any further comments indicating that he knows they are in the room? In a word, YES. "All but one shall live", is the climax of his outrage. Skillfully, Hamlet lets the audience and Ophelia know, that he is on to her deciet. He does not tip his hat, so to speak, because the King and Polonius think he is in madness, which by the way, Hamlet masks to escape the possible grave danger from his uncle's hand. Hamlet acts mad, because in that time period, mad people were considered to be sent from god himself. They were considered special, and this cloak protects Hamlet. Furthermore, after Hamlet exits, Claudius remarks how it is not the love or lack there of, from Ophelia, but something more. Claudius does not know what that something else is. Hamlet is playing the players. Just as soon as they think they have figured him out, Hamlet throws the King another curveball. He keeps him guessing, and in turn, keeps himself safe for the time being.

-- Mark Vance (, April 16, 2003.

Hamlet is too fat to do anything, that is why he delays. Plus, Hamlet is gay. Thank you!

-- Allisonn Lammers (, November 25, 2003.

Now there's a thought. So it's Claudius, after all, not his mother.

-- catherine england (, November 26, 2003.

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