A Hamlet timeline – chronicle of events
Setting the Timeline – considerations
Claudius – planning my foul murder
King Hamlet's funeral – where was Hamlet?
Gertrude & Claudius – adultery or not?
Horatio – Hamlet's friend?
Horatio – is he passion's slave?
Polonius – the evil that men do
Ophelia's love? – did she love Hamlet?
Ophelia closetted – Polonius on love
O help xxx ....... – Olivier's version
Ophelia's change – is Hamlet suspicious?
Hamlet feigns madness – protective "cover"
Is Hamlet mad? – Polonius's opinion
Hamlet kills Polonius – stabs the "Voice"
Laertes on Ophelia – madness & death
Ophelia's death – a recipe
Hamlet's age – digging up the past
Yorick – something rotting in Denmark
Betting on Hamlet – the fencing match
Hamlet's fencing skill – better than Laertes
Is Hamlet suspicious of Ophelia?
Though Hamlet believes King Claudius killed his father he would think that Claudius must have friends or henchmen prepared to do his bidding. For example, after the body of King Hamlet was examined by the coroner it was given out that he had been killed by a serpent bite yet no fang marks were seen, and the real cause of death, hebenon, was not discovered. If Hamlet suspects a cover-up, who are Claudius's henchmen? Perhaps Hamlet thinks Polonius is one.
We need to remind ourselves that during the two months that Ophelia refuses to see Hamlet, he is still trying to gather clues about his father's death. Surely, too, he would be wondering why, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, Ophelia refuses to see him, and gives him no reason. Is he to think she no longer cares for him, or perhaps has joined the enemy camp? How can he find out? Why not go to her in an antic disposition and see what she does? So, is that what he does?
Ophelia: Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbrac'd,
Ophelia doesn't speak to Hamlet but runs off, absolutely terrified, to inform her father. If Hamlet has the least suspicions about Ophelia they will not be diminished by their meeting. A little later, that same day, Hamlet meets his former school friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He quickly discovers that they have been sent for and he sees them as part of the conspiracy ranged against him.
Hamlet:.................my two schoolfellows,
The next morning, when Hamlet is taking his usual 4-hour stroll in the lobby he is accosted by Ophelia. She displays none of the fears of yesterday but boldly approaches Hamlet and seeks conversation for she begins with a question. Surely the contrast between yesterday, when she was too petrified to utter a word, and today, when she wants to talk, must give Hamlet quite a surprise. Would not his suspicions be aroused by her change?
The King and Polonius observe their meeting from behind the arras. The substance of their talk is to turn on determining whether Hamlet loves her, or not, but that is only seeing it from Polonius's point of view. But consider it from Hamlet's point of view. Because he has just learned that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are serving the king, Hamlet, on this day, is likely to be far more alert and suspicious than usual, and of everyone, as he doesn't know who are his friends and who are his enemies. He may well have checked where everyone was quite early so that when he asks Ophelia "Where is your father?" he already knows he is in the castle and that she is lying. But whether he knows for sure or not, given his present heightened suspicions, he ought, for his own security, maintain his antic disposition. Not surprisingly, he rants and raves in feigned madness when talking to Ophelia.
Despite the seriousness of Hamlet's concern about those ranged against him, he is seen by many readers as the villain of the piece for suggesting Ophelia get to a nunnery. Is that fair? Who broke off their relationship? Ophelia! For the past two months she refused any contact with Hamlet and it was her firm intention never again to have anything to do with him. Her utter rejection of Hamlet shows that she has not an atom of concern for either his feelings or his well-being. How sickening, then, when Ophelia asks "How does your honour for this many a day?" That has to be one of the emptiest, heartless remarks ever said, given that she never intended speaking to him ever again. And what else of the scene in the lobby, today? Ophelia initiated it, trapping Hamlet in conversation. She has no intention of trying to restart their relationship. Quite the contrary, she returns Hamlet's love tokens to bring it to an end. Hamlet is the innocent party caught in this scene, and though he didn't start it he is blamed for bringing it to an end.
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason.
Whoops! Right idea. Wrong play.