Act IV – Scene.v
Ophelia has become totally deranged and wanders the
castle singing fragments of songs concerning death, chaos and unrequited love.
Gertrude refuses to see the girl until Horatio points out that her strange
behavior may attract undue attention. Both the King and Queen try to help her without success. They conclude that her father’s death has driven her mad.
Horatio is given the task of watching her and he concludes that Elsinore
Castle has been plagued with troubles of late.
Laertes arrives and is concerned that Polonius was buried in secret and
means to incite a riot. He angrily confronts Claudius, but he placates Laertes by saying that he will ensure that there is satisfaction obtained for Polonius’ death.
Laertes is concerned over his sister’s condition. She distributes flowers amongst those that are present and continues singing incoherently.
Yet again Gertrude’s character comes to the fore.
She wishes to have nothing to do with Ophelia until Horatio mentions that she might be a threat to her and Claudius’ power.
The Queen had merely viewed Ophelia as an embarrassment. However, she is not able to help solve Ophelia’s depression and torment.
There is another indication that Hamlet has been intimate with Ophelia, for
she sings ‘before you tumbled me, you promised me to wed’.
Pre-marital sex was a sin, and her punishment is the death of her father who had commanded her not to liaise with Hamlet. The audience might even suppose that Ophelia is pregnant.
Laertes again shows that he is the complete opposite to Hamlet. He too has now lost his father
through a foul deed, but he quickly wishes revenge and does not waste any time in pursuing this, even threatening the King.