I’m back! After a brief hiatus for NaNoWriMo it’s time to return to Denmark and our old pal Hamlet, who I’m sure is handling things in a mature and reasoned manner. *cough*
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are reporting their findings to Claudius and they’ve managed to figure out…exactly nothing. They have no clue why Hamlet is being so weird and moody because Hamlet won’t tell them why. He’s a tricksy one, that young Hamlet. Claudius asks Gertrude, who is there doing not-a-whole-lot, to go away so he and Polonius can play spies (Polonius has dibs on playing James Bond). Before she goes she tells Ophelia that she hopes that Ophelia being beautiful is the reason he has gone mad, which is a compliment apparently? Ophelia is given a prayer book and effectively told to ‘act natural’, which in any other context always leads to hijinks, but this is Hamlet so it just leads to soliloquising.
We have a brief speech from Claudius where he admits his guilt to the audience in case you hadn’t quite caught on yet, and then Hamlet arrives to give The Speech. You know, that one. It’s been analysed to death so I won’t dwell on it but it essentially boils down to “Ugh, life sucks. I wish I was dead so I wouldn’t have to make decisions and do things. But death might also suck. Ugh, why is my life so hard?” (In my head Hamlet is Napoleon Dynamite.)
When he’s done (it takes a while) Ophelia tries to give him back the love letters and gifts he gave her. Hamlet decides that this is the appropriate time to discuss the connection between beauty and goodness, which is essentially just thinly veiled excuse to call Ophelia a whore. He says that all women act deceivingly by “prancing” and putting on makeup, confirming that Hamlet would absolutely be the type of guy who buys into the “take girls swimming on a first date” mentality. You really have to wonder how much of this is his mad ‘act’ and how much he just genuinely hates women, because he is venomous. He tells Ophelia that she should never get married because she’d just cheat on her husband so she should just become a nun. He finishes by saying that no-one should get married because women are evil before leaving to finish the next chapter on his My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfiction (I imagine).
Ophelia is understandably distraught by this. She thought that Hamlet loved her; he claimed that he never did. Mostly she’s sad because Hamlet used to be intelligent and thoughtful and admired and now he’s a shadow of his former self, ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of a woman.
Polonius, as always, is the perfect father, telling her that they heard that entire incredibly private conversation and offering absolutely no comfort. He and Claudius are only interested in one thing; Hamlet’s definitely not crazy with love for Ophelia, so his madness must be something more dangerous. Their solution? Put this possibly dangerous lunatic in a room with his mother! Oh Polonius, your genius never ceases to amaze me.