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TOPIC: the Nunnery Scene

the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #904

Yes, of course - my bad.
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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #905

Hamlet is taken aback that Ophelia would greet him like that. He responds in a mock-formal way, with a little bow to her. He knows there's some kind of stunt going on. Has to be. But she isn't smiling.

He says.....

I humbly thank you, well.

He noticed she looked at the arras as he approached her. Now, he looks at the arras, as he says "well." In modern terms, he's thinking 'that must be where the tv camera is.' In his own terms, Hamlet is thinking, 'there's somebody there.'

When Hamlet looks at the arras, Ophelia looks at the arras again (with the thought, can he see them?) Then Hamlet looks back directly at Ophelia. And she looks at him.

And Ophelia blushes.

She can't help it. She's a very honest, normal, natural young lady, and upon being 'caught' in this situation, she simply can't help feeling abashed. She'll blush. (This connects to Hamlet's line to Gertrude in the Closet Scene, by the way, about "blurs the blush and grace of modesty." Hamlet is fantastically interwoven.)

That's more than enough - Hamlet knows. There's somebody behind the arras, listening. Probably her father. Hamlet knows how snoopy Polonius is.

And there's some kind of stunt going on. Hamlet knows that, for sure. It's some scheme by Polonius, probably, but what on earth is it all about?

To try to get through this as soon as possible, Ophelia proceeds immediately to what she's supposed to do. She offers the gifts back to Hamlet. She still wants this to work, because it's supposed to get Hamlet to say he loves her. She dearly wants to hear that.

She says.....

My lord, I have remembrances of yours
That I have longed long to re-deliver.
I pray you, now receive them.

"Longed long" is a stumble in Ophelia's speech as she ad libs, not knowing quite what to say. Hamlet doesn't realize it's only a verbal stumble; he takes her at her word, that she's been wanting to return the things for a long time. Not true. She doesn't want to return them at all. It wasn't her idea. (Ophelia's "longed long" is pure bad luck, a 'folly' on the Wheel of Fortune, as the First Player mentioned during the Ilium recital. She didn't even mean to say that.)

Ophelia holds out the gifts, in a very tentative way. The gifts are a few small things tied up in a little paper parcel with a ribbon.

(The gifts are not big gold earrings, or diamond pendants, or any such thing. They're keepsake type items, mostly. One day Hamlet was walking along the shore, let's say, and he noticed a pretty little seashell. He thought Ophelia might like it. He picked it up, and gave it to her later. She kept it. Then, let's say, they got a chance to go for a walk one sunny afternoon. They found a patch of daisies. Hamlet picked one, bumped Ophelia on the nose with it, and gave it to her. She kept it. There may be a little bracelet or necklace, too, but the gifts are mostly keepsakes. They're Ophelia's most treasured possessions, things that no amount of money could ever buy.)

Hamlet replies to her offer to return the gifts.....

No, not I;
I never gave you aught.

He's stalling. He's trying to gain time, as he thinks furiously to figure out what's going on.

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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #914

To continue, Ophelia offered to return Hamlet's small gifts, she accidentally said she'd been wanting to do so for a 'long' time, and Hamlet knows there's somebody behind the arras, listening. Hamlet stalled, and he's thinking, as fast as he can.

My honoured lord, you know right well you did,
And with them words of so sweet breath composed
As made the things more rich. ...

Ophelia calls Hamlet "honored lord" because she knows her father is listening. It further confirms to Hamlet there's somebody behind the arras, eavesdropping. But Hamlet should think about her calling him "my lord," etc., which she would not normally do, except in a formal gathering. She's repeating it intentionally, to try to tell Hamlet something, that she's on his side. He should realize she's doing the "my lord" thing intentionally, for him. Her options are very limited with her father listening, and she's doing quite well to repeat the "my lord" bit, in the hope Hamlet will "get" it.

But Polonius's crazy scheme is impossible for Ophelia to handle in a reasonable way. Nobody could. Polonius stupidly thought there'd be nothing to it.

When Ophelia mentions the 'sweet words' she sincerely means every syllable. She liked the sweet things Hamlet said, even more than the gifts. That's an easy ad lib for her, from the heart.

She continues.....

Their perfume lost,

It occurs to Ophelia that she has no reason to be giving the gifts back. She has no actual reason, since she certainly does not really want to return them, and Polonius failed to provide her with any excuse. Polonius doesn't think Hamlet will take them back, so it didn't occur to him that any excuse was called for. Hamlet is supposed to refuse the gifts, with a vow of love, that Claudius can hear.

But now, Ophelia thinks, why is she giving them back? She thinks she has to say something to Hamlet as an excuse. She remembers what Laertes said, about "perfume," so she tosses that in. It'll do, offhand, as an excuse. Ophelia is smart. She's come up with an ad lib reason. It's pretty impressive, that she could think so well in this dreadfully awkward situation. But Hamlet doesn't realize she's only ad libbing an excuse, for something that isn't even supposed to happen. He takes her remark seriously, that she doesn't care about his gifts anymore.

Ophelia is getting too much 'into' her role for this show, saying too much. Anybody who says too much is bound to say the wrong thing, sooner or later. It's inevitable. (Shakespeare knew that; take it to the bank.)

Ophelia continues.....

Take these again, for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

Uh-oh. Too much.

Ophelia tossed in a saying. She knows her father is listening, and she knows how much her father likes sayings. She happens to think of one that includes the word "gifts," so she tosses it in, as she tries to ad lib her role. She's sure it will sound good to Polonius, that she's doing alright in what she's supposed to do. It will. Polonius is quite pleased to hear her recite a saying. It sounds excellent to him. "Marry, well bethought!" She didn't mean it at all, it's only a saying she recited that includes the word "gifts."

It's a disaster.

Hamlet thinks she means it. He doesn't realize she's only reciting a saying, for her father to hear, as she 'gets into' ad libbing her role in this show.

But from Hamlet's point of view, as he takes the saying seriously, what has she just said?

"Noble." It's a word that can refer to a king. It's the same word Hamlet used in his soliloquy, while he was thinking about killing Claudius. For Hamlet, noble = king = Claudius. "Noble" makes Hamlet think of Claudius, the same as he was doing only a couple minutes earlier.

Hamlet knows Claudius was supposed to be in this room. That's what the message from Claudius to Hamlet said, that Claudius would be here. And Hamlet knows there's somebody behind the arras.

"Rich gifts." Who could give Ophelia expensive gifts? Well, her father could, he's rich. But she wouldn't return Hamlet's gifts because her father gave her a nice birthday present. That makes no sense. This situation couldn't happen just because her father gave Ophelia a nice gift.

Who else is rich? The King is. Claudius is. And Claudius is supposed to be in this room.

Hamlet is thinking, as fast as he can. Is it Claudius behind the arras? Why in the world would Claudius be hiding behind the arras?

Well, Ophelia is standing here. If Claudius is hiding, it must be because he doesn't want Hamlet to see him with Ophelia.

Okay, Claudius was supposed to be here, and he is here - he's hiding behind the arras. But why? And what do "rich gifts" have to do with it?

Why would a lecherous old, rich king give expensive gifts to a pretty young girl, to whom he's unrelated, and whom he can't marry? And try to hide it?


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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #927


Hamlet is too darn smart for his own good. He's come up with an answer to the situation. A stupid person couldn't, but he's done it.

Hamlet thinks the same thing has happened again. First, Gertrude went to Claudius, and married him. Then, his old friends R & G went to Claudius, and are now working for him, against Hamlet.

Now, Ophelia, too. Hamlet thinks. Same old thing.

Hamlet now believes Claudius summoned him here for what's actually happening: for Ophelia to return his gifts. Claudius has told Ophelia to do that, to inform Hamlet that she doesn't need him anymore. The reason why she doesn't need Hamlet any more, is because she's now getting "rich gifts" from the King.

Hamlet thinks Claudius has bought Ophelia away from him. "Frailty, thy name is woman." Hamlet thinks he understands it.

As Hamlet looks into the big, sad eyes of sweet, gentle, innocent, virginal Ophelia, who loves him dearly, and whom he truly loves, he thinks he's seeing the face of Claudius's whore.


Hamlet is very smart. But his intelligence, working with too few facts, has led him into a terrible, tragic mistake. He now believes he knows why this is happening, and what's going on. Hamlet thinks Ophelia has become Claudius's courtesan.

From Hamlet's view, here's what he's seen, and how he understands it.

Claudius summoned him here, saying it was to be a private meeting between the two of them.

When Hamlet arrived, he didn't see Claudius here yet, but saw Ophelia at a distance.

He thought about the situation as he waited for Claudius to arrive, and for Ophelia to leave. He pondered whether it would be "nobler in the mind" to kill Claudius at this opportunity, with no guards or witnesses present.

As time went by, he decided Claudius wasn't going to show up, and also, it appeared Ophelia wasn't going to leave. He scratched off the idea of killing Claudius here. What had seemed "to be" a good opportunity, turned out "not to be."

He decided to talk to Ophelia, and break up with her, to get her out of the 'danger zone' and ensure nobody will think she's involved when he does kill Claudius. To himself, he hoped Ophelia would remember him in her prayers, and forgive him.

As he neared Ophelia he noticed she glanced at the arras.

He started to give her the usual friendly, casual greeting, but before he could do that she greeted him in an absurdly formal way, as if they were in a crowd of people at a formal gathering.

He looked at the arras, suspicious that there must be an 'audience.' When he looked at the arras, she did, too. Then he looked at her, and she looked at him. She blushed.

He knew somebody was behind the arras, listening, probably her father, considering the way Polonius is.

She offered to return the small items he'd given her.

He stalled, to gain time, and try to figure out what was going on.

She persisted in trying to return the items, mentioned "rich," and said she didn't care for the items any more, that they had lost their 'perfume.'

She said, to the "noble mind" rich gifts are better than poor ones, and men who 'prove' they can give only poor gifts are not her kind.

(People sometimes have the idea that perfect communication somehow exists in Hamlet, so that the characters always understand exactly what the other characters mean. That is not true in the least, and it's a notion that will deny proper understanding of the play. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet in a 'normal' way for the use of English, with the same miscommunication that actually occurs in English. Miscommunication and misunderstanding are an intrinsic part of the play, the same as in daily life among ordinary people. Knowing what Ophelia means, by studying her lines carefully, is not the same as knowing what Hamlet concludes from only hearing her in a conversational way. First, Hamlet doesn't know she's only reciting a saying for her 'audience,' her father, then also he doesn't catch exactly what the saying is supposed to mean, when it goes by only once, quickly, and he thus takes it differently, as just above.)

Hamlet decides that Claudius must have summoned him here for what's actually happening, for Ophelia to return his gifts. That's logical. And it's Claudius behind the arras, supervising, from his hiding place, that Ophelia does it.

Hamlet concludes further that Ophelia is dumping him because he didn't become the King, who could give her "rich gifts." Kings, who can give her "rich gifts" are her "kind," not losers who can only give her "poor" gifts. Hamlet sees it as being the same as Gertrude and R & G siding with Claudius, the King, as their "kind."

So, Ophelia has gone to Claudius, and become his courtesan. Noble kings, who can give her "rich gifts" are her "kind." That's the view of this show from Hamlet's angle.

Hamlet doesn't know he's tragically wrong, of course. It's all so logical, based on his earlier experience, and what he's seen and heard here. It makes perfect sense to him. And it hits him like a mountain fell on him.

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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #929


Ophelia persists in offering the gifts to Hamlet, again, because according to plan he's supposed to refuse them with a vow of love to her. Her heart aches to hear him say he loves her, then this painful situation will be over, and Hamlet will marry her. So her father claimed.

There, my lord.

She calls Hamlet her lord, again, still trying to get that across, that she's on his side, and really does see him as her personal "lord." But Hamlet will never 'get' it now. He now thinks she's speaking to him in that formal way as a deliberate distancing, because she has a new sweetie: Claudius.

Ophelia tries to smile, and again holds out the parcel of gifts, in a tentative way, but contrary to plan Hamlet does take them (in his left hand if he's right handed, because he'll need his right hand for his sword as events proceed.) Ophelia's face falls. He wasn't supposed to take them back! Her father said Hamlet would refuse them, and would tell her he loved her. It didn't work!

Hamlet clenches the little parcel in his fist.

Oh, he sees it all now. She's that kind of girl. She sure had him going with her 'sweet and innocent' routine. What a fool he was. She's quite the little actress. Of course the only reason she ever cozied up to him is because she thought he'd become King. He should have guessed that from the beginning. He knew she was Polonius's daughter, and he knows very well how Polonius is. So, alright, now she's gone to Claudius, since he became the King. Well, what else would one expect? Women are like that, frail. He knew it already. He shouldn't be so surprised. But he's wised up now. Now, he sees it all clearly. And he was hoping she might remember him in her prayers. But she's dumped him like yesterday's garbage. Pray on garbage? Ha. What a laugh.

The only trouble is, as he looks at Ophelia, she is still the loveliest thing he ever saw, and every word she says, the sound of it strums a chord on his heartstrings. What he 'knows' doesn't change his feelings, and it hurts like flaming hell.

Why didn't she just throw his junk away? Why did she have to rub it in his face? Claudius told her to, that's it. It was that bastard Claudius's idea. That's why Claudius summoned him here, to rub it in his face.

The more Hamlet thinks about it, the angrier he gets.

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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #930


But what's going to become of Ophelia, being that kind of girl? Hamlet can't help wondering, and caring.

Ham. Ha, ha! are you honest?

Hamlet laughs instead of crying. He has to do one or the other. The tone of his question is sarcastic. He's now sure she's not honest.

Oph. My lord?

Ophelia has no idea why he asks. She looks intently at his face. Now she's the one trying to figure things out. Hamlet has a glaring, stern expression, even mean. She's never seen him look like that. It worries her. She instinctively brings the book up and holds it to her chest with both hands, in a defensive way.

Ham. Are you fair?

She has no idea why he asks that.

Oph. What means your lordship?

She asks in hopes of some explanation.

Ham. That if you be honest and fair, you should admit no discourse to your beauty.

Hamlet basically means she shouldn't allow men to lead her on by complimenting her on her beauty, because men will lead her astray, morally. He's going to try to give her moral advice.

One must keep in mind, Hamlet knows there's an 'audience' behind the arras, which severely restricts what he can say. He's going about it very indirectly.

Oph. Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

More bad luck. Ophelia happened to use the word "commerce." It sounds financial. It goes right along with what Hamlet's thinking, that she's "commercialized" her beauty.

All she's trying to ask is, if she's pretty, why shouldn't people say so? Isn't that honest? She means, shouldn't people 'deal' honestly?

Ham. Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd, than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. ...

Hamlet says "truly" as he prepares to lie like a dog in the sun. And wishes he was dead. For, if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog... Polonius's daughter is such a good kissing body. He can't get it out of his mind.

He says beauty will prostitute honesty, more easily than honesty will make beauty a 'true' virtue, like honesty is a 'true' virtue. I.e. pretty women are 'untrue.' That's what he thinks now. This example, with Ophelia, proves it. She's so pretty, and 'untrue.'

He puts stress on the word "bawd." That's what he thinks about her now.

... I did love you once.

The essential meaning of "once" is 'one time.' For true love, once is enough. It doesn't take three or four times, only once. Hamlet makes it sound different, as if he doesn't care any more, and his love for her is in the past. "Truly" - he's lying, in making it sound like past tense.

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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #931


Oph. Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

And she was right about Hamlet loving her. She could tell. But now it's all getting so confusing, it could drive her crazy. Thinking you can't trust anybody is enough to drive you nuts.

Ophelia has no Horatio, as a dependable reference, to keep her steady. Her brother is gone, her father is worthless, and now without Hamlet she has nobody to calm her whirling thoughts.

Ham. You should not have believed me, ...

Well, if he can't be believed, she shouldn't believe him now. He's just spoken to make it sound like he only loved her in the past, but right away, he says 'don't believe me.' His past tense was a lie. He loved her - once - still and always, but he won't admit it now.

... for virtue cannot so evocutate our old stock, but we shall relish of it. I loved you not.

He tries to warn her against men, that although men will suggest that they're virtuous, they're not. Virtue can't be taken from the old stock of male human beings, like taking a bud from a donor plant, although men may give the appearance of virtue. He says. Hamlet's intent is to warn Ophelia away from men's promises, lest she end up as a common harlot, which is what he fears now that he 'knows' she's that "kind" of girl.

As long as he's lying, might as well throw this in: "I loved you not." He's trying to persuade Ophelia not to trust what men say to her. He also says it for his own reason, to try to talk himself out of being in love with her. For that, he fails.

Oph. I was the more deceived.

Indeed, she is deceived. Hamlet is deceiving her dreadfully as he speaks. She's believing Hamlet while he's lying to her, here. It could drive a person crazy, to be totally confused between lies and truth. Truth, lies, no difference, all the same. It's the penumbra of madness.

But as far as who's "the more deceived," they're both equal on being deceived. Hamlet is deceived by his own experience and his educated male 'logic,' and Ophelia is now deceived by Hamlet. For being deceived, they're even.

Ham. Get thee a nunnery. ...

He means, take your rich gifts from Claudius and buy yourself a nunnery. It's half sincere, and half sarcastic. He wants her in a nunnery of the proper kind, but he's afraid she'll end up in the other kind.

The more Hamlet thinks about it, under his 'logical' conclusion that she's Claudius's courtesan, the angrier he's getting. He's crushed the parcel in his fist. He keeps glancing at the arras, and his right hand keeps twitching toward his sword. Ophelia, seeing this show from him, is becoming afraid of him, as he glares, and sounds harsh, and keeps reaching toward his sword.

From Ophelia's 'viewing angle,' she gave Hamlet's gifts back, which he wasn't even supposed to accept, and now he looks like he wants to kill somebody. And she's the one who gave the things back. And she's the one standing in front of him.

... Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? ...

He means, if she's around men, they'll lie to her and lead her on, for their own reasons. She'll "breed" (cause) sinners, liars, in that way, if she's around men. So, she should go to a nunnery, where there won't be any men, who will lie to her.

The thought of her having Claudius's child has also crossed his mind. The mere idea is so appalling it would be enough to make Hamlet's eyes glow red, like carbuncles, if he could actually do that.

... I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. ...

Hamlet offers himself as the average ("indifferent") example of a man, which he decidedly is not, however. He is not average. But he's casting himself as the average example to try to prove to Ophelia that men in general will mislead her, based on his claim that he, the 'average man,' misled her.

And he's wishing he'd never been born.

He does, sincerely, want Ophelia to go to a nunnery. She'd be away from men who would mislead and misuse her, she'd be away from Claudius, and she'd be safe. Also, he'd know where to find her, after he kills Claudius, if Hamlet can do that and get away with it.

Hamlet is still thinking furiously. Who knows about her being the King's courtesan? Hamlet does, through his brilliant logic. Ahem. Claudius, of course. Polonius would know, certainly. And her. That's all, at this time.

So, if Hamlet kills Claudius - and Polonius - then he and Ophelia would be the only ones who would know about her ever being a courtesan. Between themselves, they could keep it secret. Ah, that's the answer. He'll kill Claudius, when he can find a way to get away with it. Hamlet will become King then, almost certainly. He'll do something about Polonius. Maybe some kind of accident, like an accidental stabbing, or whatever. With a King's wealth, Hamlet will buy back Ophelia's affection, since she's the kind of girl who likes rich gifts, and he'll marry her to be his Queen. When she seems discontented he'll open the treasury and buy her another diamond. That should work. But for it to work, she's got to go to a nunnery now, before anybody else finds out she's been a courtesan.

Hamlet doesn't know that the most precious treasure Ophelia ever owned, or could own, was a little wild daisy he gave her, blessed with a word of love, that he now holds crushed in his angry fist.

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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #932

  • Jim Murphy
  • Jim Murphy's Avatar
Willedever, I want to take issue with a couple of points. First, using the term "evocutate". The term out of Q2 is "euocutat", the Folio has "innocculate" "Innocculate" makes sense. Second, your paraphrase, "Virtue can't be taken from the old stock..." is contrary to the plain meaning of the statement. Virtue can't be grafted on to our nature...etc. Clarify please.
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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #936

Jim wrote:
First, using the term "evocutate". The term out of Q2 is "euocutat", ...

Yes. I modernize it to the form shown. It's a Shakespeare coinage, the antonym of "inoculate." The coinage has gone unrecognized.

"Inoculate" means to engraft into, or generally 'to put into,' or in ultimate simplification, just 'put.' "Evocutate" means the opposite, to excise for such a graft, or in the general sense, 'to take from,' or most generally, just 'take.' (The word is an instance on the Gardening motif in the play.)

As Hamlet attempts to lecture Ophelia, he's trying to tell her that although men will suggest they have virtue, by their words or appearance, it's a property men don't actually possess, so that she can't really 'take' them as virtuous. It generalizes his claim that although he said he loved her, he didn't really, so she shouldn't have 'taken' his expression of love as virtuous, even though it may have seemed so.

There's an undertone to what Hamlet says, that he shouldn't have 'taken' Ophelia as virtuous, he now believes. Shakespeare's word "evocutate" is required for that undertone, also. It's required the word refer to how people "take" the sentiments and appearance of others.

For Hamlet's earlier statement that he loved Ophelia, it isn't a question of how she "put" him, but rather how she "took" him. She was deceived by appearances, he claims, i.e. she shouldn't have "taken" him as she did.

The word "relish" firmly supports "evocutate," in that 'to relish' means to suggest, or to be evocative. "Relish" goes right along with the Q2 word.

Why the Folio shows "inoculate" is a matter of speculation, and there's any number of possibilities. There's a way to get "inoculate" to work for the utterance, but the major problem with "inoculate" is that it gives up the "take" concept which is quite significant in the play.
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the Nunnery Scene 8 years 3 months ago #937

The question arises, when Hamlet realized there was somebody behind the arras, listening, why didn't he just lean close to Ophelia, and whisper to her, "what's going on?" and trust her to tell him?

Partly, it's because he doesn't trust women, after Gertrude's behavior as he (mis)understands it, and after Ophelia refused his letters and refused to see him, with Hamlet not knowing it was under Polonius's orders to her. Hamlet arrived with doubts about women, and he simply didn't think of asking her, to get a trustworthy answer.

Also, he thinks he's so smart he can figure it out, himself. So he did - catastrophically, and tragically wrong.
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