A Hamlet timeline – chronicle of events

      Setting the Timeline – considerations

Claudius – planning my foul murder

King Hamlet's funeral – where was Hamlet?

Gertrude & Claudius – adultery or not?

Horatio – Hamlet's friend?

Horatio – is he passion's slave?

Polonius – the evil that men do

Ophelia's love? – did she love Hamlet?

Ophelia closetted – Polonius on love

      O help xxx ....... – Olivier's version

Ophelia's change – is Hamlet suspicious?

Hamlet feigns madness – protective "cover"

Is Hamlet mad? – Polonius's opinion

The Trial of Claudius – Hamlet's prosecution

Hamlet kills Polonius – stabs the "Voice"

Laertes v Hamlet – poisoned foil

Ophelia's death – a recipe

Hamlet's age – digging up the past

Yorick – something rotting in Denmark

Betting on Hamlet – the fencing match

Hamlet's fencing skill – better than Laertes

Hamlet's revenge – the rest is silence

Is Hamlet suspicious of Ophelia?

Though Hamlet believes King Claudius killed his father he would think that Claudius must have friends or henchmen prepared to do his bidding. For example, after the body of King Hamlet was examined by the coroner it was given out that he had been killed by a serpent bite yet no fang marks were seen, and the real cause of death, hebenon, was not discovered. If Hamlet suspects a cover-up, who are Claudius's hench­men? Perhaps Hamlet thinks Polonius is one.

We need to remind ourselves that during the two months that Ophelia refuses to see Hamlet, he is still trying to gather clues about his father's death. Surely, too, he would be wondering why, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, Ophelia refuses to see him, and gives him no reason. Is he to think she no longer cares for him, or perhaps has joined the enemy camp? How can he find out? Why not go to her in an antic disposition and see what she does? So, is that what he does?

Ophelia: Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbrac'd,
No hat upon his head, his stockings foul'd,
Ungart'red, and down-gyved to his ankle;
Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors - he comes before me.

Ophelia doesn't speak to Hamlet but runs off, absolutely terrified, to inform her father. If Hamlet has the least suspicions about Ophelia they will not be diminished by their meeting. A little later, that same day, Hamlet meets his former school friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He quickly discovers that they have been sent for and he sees them as part of the conspiracy ranged against him.

Hamlet:.................my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,

The next morning, when Hamlet is taking his usual 4-hour stroll in the lobby he is accosted by Ophelia. She displays none of the fears of yesterday but boldly approaches Hamlet and seeks conversation for she begins with a question. Surely the contrast between yesterday, when she was too petrified to utter a word, and today, when she wants to talk, must give Hamlet quite a surprise.

Let's put Ophelia's actions in a nutshell!
  • After some weeks, Hamlet went to Ophelia but she would not talk to him.
    She ran away extremely frightened.
  • The very next day, Ophelia went to Hamlet and she wanted to talk to him.
    She was not in the least frightened.
Would not Hamlet's suspicions be aroused by her change?

The King and Polonius observe their meeting from behind the arras. The substance of their talk is to turn on determining whether Hamlet loves her, or not, but that is only seeing it from Polonius's point of view. But consider it from Hamlet's point of view. Because he has just learned that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are serving the king, Hamlet, on this day, is likely to be far more alert and suspicious than usual, and of everyone, as he doesn't know who are his friends and who are his enemies. He may well have checked quite early where everyone is, so that when he asks Ophelia "Where is your father?" he knows he is in the castle and that she is lying. But whether he knows for sure or not, given his present heightened suspicions, he ought, for his own security, maintain his antic disposition. Not surprisingly, he rants and raves in feigned madness when talking to Ophelia.

Despite the seriousness of Hamlet's concern about those ranged against him, he is seen by many readers as the villain of the piece for suggesting Ophelia get to a nunnery. Is that fair? Who broke off their relationship? Ophelia! For the past two months, she refused any contact with Hamlet and it was her firm intention never again to have anything to do with him. Her complete rejection of Hamlet shows she has not an atom of concern for him, his feelings or his well-being. How sickening, then, when Ophelia asks "How does your honour for this many a day?" That has to be the emptiest, most heartless remark ever uttered, given she never intended speaking to him ever again. And what else of the scene in the lobby, today? Ophelia initiates it, cornering Hamlet in conversation. She has no intention of restarting their relationship. Quite the contrary, she returns Hamlet's love tokens to bring it to a dead end. Also, she answers his question with a barefaced lie. Hamlet is the completely innocent party trapped in this scene, and though he didn't start it he is blamed for bringing it to an end.

O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason.

Whoops! Right idea. Wrong play.