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Discuss and explore the themes and techniques of the Nunnery scene(TM) in Hamlet(TM)

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Discuss and explore the themes and techniques of the 'Nunnery scene' in 'Hamlet' Hamlet's true motives are questionable before he even enters into this fierce confrontation with Ophelia and by the time he storms out of it, we, the reader or audience, are left with very few answers. His manner, in particular his melancholy mood, has been affected by so many factors beforehand that it is almost impossible to source his outburst from any one of them in particular. His mother has remarried too quickly, his father has been recently murdered, he hates his uncle and perhaps most significantly he should be king. His depressing situation has led him to consider suicide - and it would appear that Ophelia, although not completely free of blame herself, is the unfortunate scapegoat upon which Hamlet has decided to vent his fury. This conversation, closely watched by Claudius and Polonius, is, in fact, a test. It's supposed to establish whether Hamlet's madness stems from his lovesickness over Ophelia or from the death of his father - or indeed from one of the many other tragic elements of his predicament. The scene centres around one main dramatic element; does Hamlet know that he is being watched and, if so, at what stage of the scene does he become aware of this? Ophelia's first line - "Good my lord, how does your honour for this many a day?" ...read more.


This poignant moment in the scene reveals a sense of regret on Hamlet's part and leaves Ophelia feeling very vulnerable at this stage. Hamlet continues to emphasise his distrust of women by claiming Ophelia has betrayed him and that she has given in to temptation. In fact, he goes on to say that he himself is a sinner and that all human beings are born into sin; which is a contradiction to what he has just said. It is fair to say, therefore, that Hamlet's depressing stance on human beings has been influenced by the corruption in his own life. Ophelia is sometimes portrayed as slightly more aggressive than is described as in the text; as done in Franco Zefirelli's 1990 version where Helena Bonham Carter stands up for herself when saying the Line "I was the more deceived". On the other hand, this could be seen as another feeble comment that has very little significance in the scene. At this point, however, Hamlet is back on the attack again. This change of dynamics leads him to exploit Ophelia's weaknesses. He tells her to go to a 'Nunnery', which could have been interpreted in two different ways at the time. Hamlet could either be ordering his supposedly deceitful girlfriend to a convent, so she will be protected from the horrible world surrounding them, or to a brothel, because she is corrupt like humanity. ...read more.


In fact, Hamlet goes a step further and begins to break off his relationship with Ophelia. He says that bringing more children into the world would be committing more sins and rules out the possibility of marriage - his public threat then comes, with him that he will leave all others alone, except Claudius, who he intends to kill. A sane Hamlet would perhaps have left things there, and it is clear that one part of him wants to with the fact that he says "Farewell" for a third time. However, he continues his onslaught of abuse on Ophelia by saying that she will not escape malicious lies as it is part of her nature, even if she comes across as innocent and virtuous. He says "Get thee to a nunnery" for the fourth time to emphasise his point further before storming out. Hamlet's 'antic disposition' was questionable at the beginning of the scene and is even more so by the end of it. He is clearly love sick because of the frequent contradictions he makes during his 'break-up' speech to Ophelia, yet he sees his once virtuous girlfriend being tarnished by the corruption he sees around him and his desperation for revenge. That, however, does not make him a madman and although it is impossible to know for certain, it would appear that the 'Nunnery Scene' in Hamlet is where all the depressing elements and themes of his life come to a head and that Ophelia is the unfortunate and convenient scapegoat upon which he releases all of his anger. ?? ?? ?? ?? Alex Aldridge 1 | Page ...read more.

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