Frequently Asked Questions
1. Hamlet is angry with his mother's decision to marry Claudius so soon after her husband's death. Hamlet feels his mother has shamelessly betrayed her loyalty to his father. One of the less obvious themes of the play is that Hamlet harbors feelings of misogyny towards the women in his life, including his lover, Ophelia. Tormented, Hamlet's anger over his father's death manifests itself in his ill treatment of Ophelia & his mother. Hamlet's words to Ophelia, "get thee to a nunnery!" are his way of telling her to enter a house of prostitution (which is what a "nunnery", in 17th century slang, really was. It was not a convent, as many assume.)
Hamlet's state of mind is somewhere between sanity and insanity. His language is erratic and wild, but beneath his mad-sounding words often lie acute observations that show the sane mind working bitterly beneath the surface. Hamlet's decision to fake his madness is a sane one, taken to confuse his enemies and hide his intentions. Unfortunately, he mentally tortures those around him, causing chaos in their lives as well as his own.
Sometimes the role of Hamlet is played as if the character were really mad, but more often it is played (as Branagh, Olivier, and Richard Burton do) as if Hamlet were only pretending to be insane, as Shakespeare himself seems to indicate at the end of the Ghost Scene , where Hamlet asks his friend Horatio and the sentries Barnardo and Marcellus not to give him away if he decides to fake insanity.
At Ophelia's funeral, Hamlet informs everyone that he did indeed love her, however, being as tormented as he is throughout the play, he was unable to express his love for her in any normal way.
Another point of view:
"Hamlet, when he was himself, loved Ophelia. But then he erased himself from his own brain and there in the book and volume of his brain he wrote his warllike father's commandment (the voice of Denmark, sent from Hell to speak of horrors, to breathe contagion, unfolding the secrets of his prison-house that he was forbid to tell to mortal ears). Hamlet was from himself taken away.
Hamlet did not want to chain Ophelia to the monster he had become. He did not want to make her, like his mother, imperial jointress to this warlike state and a breeder of sinners - sinners like his warlike father, his murderous uncle, and his own anguished and divided self."
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Yes, he does. Every word. It may seem to casual viewers, though, that some lines are omitted, because Branagh transposes them to a different moment in the play. For instance, Hamlet's first words to the Ghost - "Angels and ministers of grace defend us! Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned, bring with thee airs from Heaven or blasts from Hell, be thy intents wicked or charitable, thou comest in such a questionable shape that I will speak to thee", etc. , meant to be spoken just before the Ghost beckons him to follow, are switched to a few moments after that, during which he is shown running through the forest after the Ghost. As he runs, we hear Hamlet's words in voiceover, then he stops and says "Whither wilt thou lead me? Speak. I'll go no further", and the Ghost speaks for the first time. And at the very beginning of the film's second half, we hear Claudius (Derek Jacobi) in voiceover saying "O Gertrude, Gertrude, when sorrows come they come not single spies but in batallions" -lines that he normally says after we have seen Ophelia insane, not before. Claudius's prayer scene is also transposed to just after Hamlet's soliloquy " 'Tis now the very witching time of night", when in the play it occurs several lines before that.