Hamlet - Nunnery Scene

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Date Submitted: 09/28/2012 04:07 PM

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3) The "Nunnery" Scene--3.1.88-143. The performance history of the "nunnery scene" is notable for the many different ways that actors play it. Sometimes the setting is private, perhaps even in Ophelia's private chambers. Sometimes Hamlet is tender; sometimes he is violent. In the version of the filmed play you saw, which was it? And in your reading of the play, how does the passage show Hamlet and Ophelia truly feel about each other? And does Hamlet know that Claudius and Polonius are watching him? At what point does he know? And why? And what ramifications does that have for the rest of the story? . Ultimately, in this scene he is trying to end the relationship. I believe that he does love her, and that makes pushing her away all the more difficult.

Polonius commands Ophelia to repel Hamlet’s advances. When Hamlet tries to visit her, her servants do not allow him in. When they come face to face again Hamlet confronts Ophelia in her chambers. Hamlet gives her a couple of very meaningful looks as if to say goodbye. Polonius has more or less convinced Ophelia that her rejection is what has driven Hamlet mad. Polonius convinces the King of this and sets up the notorious scene in which Hamlet delivers the “to be or not to be” soliloquy.

It has been many days since they last spoke, and the scene refers to all that has passed between them. At this point, both of them are caught up in the moment of talking to the person they love, and they’ve each temporarily forgotten all the plots and politics of the court. Their happiness to be together builds as he moves towards her, but at the last second she remembers her father and the King. As he reaches for her, she holds his letters and gifts up towards him, warding him off, keeping him at arms’ length, and says “My lord, I have remembrances of yours that I have longed long to redeliver.” She has not longed to return his gifts, nor does she want to now. Returning the gifts is a ploy devised by Polonius to get a reaction out...