* Gertrude enters with tragic news : Ophelia, mad with grief, has drowned in the nearby stream. * Laertes flees the room in agony, followed by Claudius who is afraid that Laertes’s calmed rage will be renewed with the news of Ophelia’s death. Ophelia:
Willow ≡ traditional symbol of forsaken love.
Garland of willow ≡ lover makes when his/her beloved has left him/her. L.169-171
Daisy ≡ dissembling (disintegrating)
Nettles sting, “long purples” which have a “grosser name” ≡ almost certainly sexual. Seems like a woman who has been driven mad by lost love, rather than by the death of her father. Ophelia drowning amid her garlands of flowers is one of the most enduring images in the play. It has been represented countless times by artists and poets. Ophelia is associated with flower imagery: Act 1 Scene 3 L.7: “A violet in the youth of primy nature” (Laertes) Act 4 Scene 5 L.38: “Larded all with sweet flowers”.
Fragile beauty the flowers resembles Ophelia’s own fragile beauty ≡ her nascent sexuality and doomed innocence. She is represented as a chaste, innocent, obedient, bewildered little girl, seeing the family and Hamlet treat her. In scene 5 we saw
In her mad scene and in her drowning scene she demonstrates the cultural pressure of a young woman of her time. She is forced to the impossible position of simultaneous chastity and sexualization. L.178-179: Evidence of suicide: she acts like someone who doesn’t realize the danger she is in, or like someone completely accustomed to danger. Faced with the reality of premarital sex and a manless future (Hamlet rejecting of her, her father’s death, and her judgmental brother being in France (long-term stay) she recognized no other solution but suicide. The male response to tragedy is to seek revenge. Ophelia, who cannot act, being a woman, opts for suicide. Ophelia’s suicide suggests her being pregnant as in the 16th and 17th century, the conventional suicide method for an unmarried pregnant woman was drowning.
L.163-164: One tragedy after another, the bad news just keeps coming. Her narrative is believed to be an attempt to protect Ophelia. She knows that Ophelia is better off dead and tries to hide the fact that it was a suicide. Shakespeare wrote his piece for a theatrical audience, not a visual conscious realistic audience, therefore a character can become a narrator for an unseen scene: Gertrude becomes the narrator in this scene, not an actual witness to the drowning (else we’d doubt her not saving Ophelia). Anyway, the truth is not forthcoming. Act 4 scene 7 L.184 (repetition) “Drowned, drowned”: shocked, unity between women… Act 4 scene 7 L.182: “The poor wretch”: feels the same pain and worry as she did for Hamlet in Act 2 scene 2 L.166: considers her a daughter.
Tries to make a joke out of Ophelia’s death: L.185-186.
Gives in to nature (cries) – he acts like a woman, fiery words, foolish tears
He only cares about how Ophelia’s death might affect him and his power. It was a real struggle to appease Laertes anger. Claudius doesn’t have time to worry about the victims of tragedy- he has to deal with the threats to his own life. So it seems that the King, even after all of his manipulations of Laertes, is still afraid of him.