Interpretive Problems on Hamlet

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Steven Dinsmore-George
Period 2
Interpretive Problems in Hamlet
Problem Stated:

When Hamlet says to Ophelia, “Go thy ways to a nunnery. Where’s your father?” does he know that he is being spied on by Claudius and if so, why does he not tell Ophelia?

Problem Explained:

In 2.2 Polonius has a talk with Claudius. In this discussion they plan to spy on Ophelia and Hamlet, the next time that they are together. When they are spying on Hamlet and Ophelia, Hamlet starts to tell Ophelia to get thee to a nunnery and, totally off topic, asks where is your father. Although this would be a likely question for Hamlet to ask Ophelia, the way he asks it shows the reader that he knows that he is being spied on.

Possible interpretations:
1. Hamlet knows that he is being spied on and wants to keep it a secret to himself.

2. Hamlet knows that he is being spied on but does not want to tell Ophelia for fear that she will be mad at her father, Polonius.

3. Hamlet is actually going crazy and just hearing or seeing things that would cause him to go crazy.

4. Hamlet does not know that he is going crazy and just wants to know where Polonius is.

Interoperation Explained

Now Hamlet may be a good actor but the reader is able to tell in 3.1 that Hamlet knows that he is being spied on. Although there is little textual evidence to prove, that he knows that he and Ophelia are being spied on, in 3.1, besides the quote that has already been given. However, there is textual evidence that Hamlet can tell that he is being talked about in another person’s conversation. In 2.2 Hamlet says “Excellent, excellent well: you’re a fishmonger.” Also in 2.2 Polonius says, “Though this be madness, yet there be method in it.” This shows the reader that although Polonius knows that Hamlet’s thought process is one of madness; he sees method and reason in it. This may identify that Polonius may also know that Hamlet knew what he and Polonius were planning. Now this...
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