As we’ve seen over the last few weeks, the Folger Shakespeare library offers insightful materials for students and teachers alike. Ophelia’s descent into madness and subsequent suicide prove to be of little exception. In preparation for the first discussion activity, please view the video entitled Ophelia and Madness (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. [Video, 04 min 03 sec].
In the video, Lindsey Wochley (Ophelia) offers some insights into Ophelia’s madness as depicted in Hamlet IV, scene v. The actress states “decisions are made for her [Ophelia] all the way up until when she goes mad. She makes her own decisions, then.” This statement offers an interesting perspective on madness in Hamlet in general and Ophelia’s madness, in particular.
King Claudius offers perspectives on why Ophelia goes mad, but he is hardly a dependable character. Based on the form that her madness takes, in a post of at least 250 words, why do you think that Ophelia has gone mad? Please give evidence for your thoughts from throughout the play, and Act IV, scene v, in particular.
In a post of at least 250 words, analyze Gertrude’s role in the play more carefully through a close analysis of Shakespeare. Based on the first initial of your last name, you have been assigned to analyze one of Gertrude’s speeches.
In your analysis, you might want to examine where Gertrude’s loyalties lie: to her son, husband, former husband, or herself? Your discussion forum entry should cite at least once from your assigned group of lines.
Group B – Last Names Beginning with G through L
Begin with Queen’s “To my sick soul (as sin’s true nature is),” (4.5.22) End with Queen’s “Alas, look here, my lord.” (4.5.42)
amlet seems obsessed with moral justice in Act 1 and Act II. He was so concerned that moral justice be served that he refused to murder Claudius in prayer, afraid that Claudius’ soul would go to heaven. In Acts I and II, Hamlet acts with the apparent understanding that revenge would condemn his own soul. As a result, he tries to ascertain Claudius’ guilt in order to justify killing him.
However, when Hamlet finally decides to murder Claudius in Act III, he does so impulsively, actually killing Polonius instead. It can be argued that the death of Polonius leads to Ophelia’s madness and death, which turns Laertes against Hamlet, setting up the final duel. This final paper asks you to analyze the question of whether moral justice is finally rendered at the close of the play.
The conclusion of Hamlet sees both Hamlet and Laertes seeking to right wrongs committed against them or their families. It is significant that, with Polonius’ death, both figures have lost their fathers. However, Laertes seems unconcerned with moral justice, stating plainly his desire for revenge: “I am satisfied in nature,/ Whose motive in this case should stir me most/ To my revenge” (Act V, scene ii, 3882-3885). Discerning Hamlet’s motives is more difficult.
In examining the question of whether justice is served at the end of the play, you might want to consider why Hamlet decides to fight Laertes. It could be helpful to look at the following speeches, although you certainly should not restrict yourselves to them:
1. Hamlet tells Horatio of King Claudius’ plot to have him killed overseas. Hamlet switches the letters, causing Guildenstern and Rosencrantz to be executed instead. In response, Horatio states: “Why, what a king is this!” (Act V, scene ii, 3716). Hamlet condemns King Claudius (Act V, scene ii, 3716-37).
2. Hamlet regrets his fight with Laertes at Ophelia’s grave and equates their causes: (Act V, scene ii, 3727-3735).
3. Horatio asks Hamlet not to fight Laertes, emphasizing that Hamlet cannot win: “You will loose this wager my lord” (Act V, scene ii, 3845-3847).
Your final paper should be between 500-700 words or 2-3 pages on whether or not moral justice is served in the play.