Hamlet- What is the dramatic significance of the nunnery scene?

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Hamlet- What is the dramatic significance of the nunnery scene?

In the play of Hamlet the nunnery scene (Act 3 scene1) is a very important part of the plot. It develops both characters and themes, it brings new bits of information and it connects the start and end of the play together.

In this scene we see Hamlet express the emotions he has and we see him acting on his anger. When Hamlet says to Ophelia near the start of the scene, “….. I never gave you aught,” he is denying ever giving Ophelia any gifts and at this point in the play I think Hamlet is taunting Ophelia as a way to get attention rather than acting angry. However, some readers may think he is just taking out his anger on Ophelia by mocking her as he does at many other points in the play, such as Act 3 scene 2, where Hamlet is confusing and embarrassing Ophelia by making sexual comments:“ Lady, shall I lie in your lap….”, but I think the way Hamlet addresses Ophelia shows that he is not angry with her but is demanding her attention. The quote, “I never gave you aught,” suggests that he is talking to Ophelia and to show this Shakespeare uses the word ‘you’ in this speech, whereas in the rest of the scene he talks to her as if he is talking about all women.

        Ophelia is portrayed as a delicate and caring character and when she says, “And with them words of so sweet breath composed as made these things more rich. Their perfume now lost,” she is saying that when she received the gifts Hamlet had been very sweet and kind with her but now the novelty has worn off as Hamlet now mocks and taunts her. The fact that she says this suggests she is feeling disappointed with Hamlet. Throughout the play we see a ‘past’ between Hamlet and Ophelia and the above quote gives us a firm reason to believe this. I believe that Ophelia’s madness is caused not only by the death of Polonius but also by Hamlet and the tension that is between them. The fact that Ophelia knows they are being watched means she may also be feeling guilt ridden for betraying her friend and I think because of this, this scene is a trigger to Ophelia’s madness. Other people may think that Hamlet is not the reason of Ophelia’s madness and that her madness just builds on the tension in the play.

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        The question this scene poses is whether there is any love between Hamlet and Ophelia, or whether the pair are nothing more than friends. When Hamlet says to Ophelia, “ Get thee to a nunnery, why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners,” he is telling her to go to a nunnery where she can get away from sins such as ‘incestuous marriages’. Here some readers may think he is just being dramatic and truly does not think of Ophelia as more than a friend however I personally think that this quote shows that Hamlet does have feelings for Ophelia ...

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