A4s5 line 150 to end.
The "noise" is wolf whistles. The men in the hallway are whistling at
something. Somebody, that is. A strange, gorgeous woman is at the
151 Let . . . in
Laertes expressly told his followers: "keep the door." Laertes's
followers control the door now. The line has to be primarily Laertes's
line, as Q2 shows. It flatly cannot be a solo line for Claudius.
However, having said that, it is correctly played as a double-character
line, once again.
The first time Ophelia appeared, madly, both Gertrude and Horatio said,
simultaneously, "Let her come in." Here, for Ophelia's second mad
appearance, Laertes and Claudius say the same thing, simultaneously.
Seeing the beautful woman at the door, Claudius and Laertes both say,
together, "Let her come in." They don't know who it is, yet.
Both times Ophelia enters when she's "mad," it's as though it "madly"
takes two people speaking in unison to admit her.
Essentially means the word, itself. Laertes means that vision is good,
normally, but here it is not good. He's exaggerating that he'd rather
not see at all, than see this, because he doubts the virtue in it. He
has recognized the strange, beautiful woman, as she got closer.
Earlier in the play, Ophelia was primly dressed, very conservatively,
as we'd now call it, and she had a simple, natural appearance. But
here, Ophelia is wearing obvious makeup (on the Painted Face motif.)
Hamlet earlier exclaimed to Ophelia, in the Nunnery Scene, "God hath
given you one face, and you make yourselves another" - and here's
Ophelia, like that. She's wearing bright lipstick, rouge, eyeshadow,
That isn't all. In addition, Ophelia is wearing a fancy gown, and lots
of bright jewelry. How so, and why?
When the Castle was in turmoil, because of Laertes's mob, Ophelia took
the opportunity to raid Gertrude's room. Ophelia has "borrowed"
Gertrude's makeup, jewelry, and Gertrude's fancy ball gown. (The dress
is violet, because of the use of the word "violet" in assocation with
When Hamlet sat beside Ophelia at the 'Mousetrap Play' he made many
suggestive remarks to Ophelia, as he tried to shame her about what he
thought she was doing with Claudius. Since there is actually no such
relationship between Ophelia and Claudius, Ophelia didn't fathom that
as Hamlet's intent. As Ophelia heard it, Hamlet was, himself,
expressing a keen sexual interest in her. Hamlet told her, in the
Nunnery Scene, that he didn't love her, but as she heard him at the
'Mousetrap', he was still very interested in sex with her.
Hamlet, while trying to shame Ophelia about her being Claudius's
courtesan (which she wasn't,) gave Ophelia the idea that Hamlet wanted
her as HIS courtesan, Hamlet's courtesan. Since Ophelia loves Hamlet,
that is alright with her, now, if it's the closest to him she can be.
So, what's happening here, is that Ophelia is "rehearsing" to be
Hamlet's courtesan, when he gets back. She is trying it out, to be the
courtesan of the Prince of the nation. Taking advantage of the
disorder in the Castle, she has raided the Queen's Room to get things
to fix herself up for Prince Hamlet. She has used Gertrude's makeup,
and is wearing much of Gertrude's best jewelry, and has put on one of
Gertrude's showy ball gowns. She has also done her hair up, and is
wearing Gertrude's tiara (the later "crownet weeds" of flowers indicate
this last point.) Costumed like that, Ophelia strides into the Throne
Room in this scene, for her grand finale in the play.
This really ought to be done right on stage, someday. As the author
intended it, we are supposed to get to see - or to imagine - more or
less how Ophelia would have looked as the beautiful, young Queen of the
nation, if things had worked out for her, married to her young King
Hamlet. (Although Ophelia will be wearing excessive makeup here.) In
her last appearance in Hamlet, we're treated to a glimpse of the Queen
Ophelia who might have been.
The immediate impression Ophelia conveys is: Courtesan Princess. She
sparkles and shines. She is very, very showy, and she struts into the
Throne Room like she owns it. Laertes is shocked, bewildered, and
amazed. As are they all. Laertes is certain that the Devil, himself,
has personally leaped up from Hell, and directly into his sister's
soul. It leaves Laertes at a total loss.
159 a poor man's life
Q2 is correct to the author's hand. Hamlet has described himself as a
"beggar," so "poor" gives allusion to Hamlet's life (unintentional by
Laertes.) The Folio probably missed that allusion, and changed it to
make it more overt for Polonius, and it perhaps was more overt, for
Polonius, in the stage version, as Q1 shows. Re Edwards's idea, Q2 was
not written as a playhouse script.
Perhaps it's from some lament, but more likely it's a take-off on
laments. There's not much reason to look beyond Hamlet here.
Ophelia says this in making the point that she could see her father's
face at the funeral, which confirmed that he was really dead. She had
trouble believing it, until she saw it for herself. Also, an instance
on the Painted Face/Natural face motif.
The "nonny" line in the Folio is perhaps authorial, but only for
simpler stage performance in those days. It's excessive for the Q2
dialogue, and it intrudes on the "dove" line.
162 Fare . . . dove
This line is not sung. It's spoken by Ophelia as she makes the symbolic
gesture of releasing a dove. A dove in flight is a good omen. Ophelia
is symbolizing that she thinks the death of her father is a good omen
for her. She's "showing" Laertes that. As we immediately see in
Laertes's next line, he doesn't get it. The birdbrain knows pelicans,
but he doesn't know doves.
165-6 You . . . 'a-down-a'
The lines are spoken to Laertes. We know this because the dialogue is
exclusively between Ophelia and Laertes. The others are only watching,
bewildered: an "audience" for the "performance." The "actors" in the
"show" are only Ophelia and Laertes, while Claudius and Gertrude are
the "audience." Observation of this fact, that the dialogue is limited
to Ophelia and Laertes, is extremely important for correct
interpretation of this passage.
In the phrase "a-down" the "a" means "he." The phrase means "he dead,"
that is, "he's dead." To be "down" is to be dead, and with further
reference to being down in the ground, buried. Ophelia wants Laertes to
sing, "he's dead," meaning Polonius. Ophelia is telling Laertes that he
must sing "he's dead" as the refrain to her song about her father being
In the phrase "a down a" the first "a" means 'a' and the second "a"
means "he." The phrase means "a down he," that is, "a dead man." A "he"
is a man. And again, to be down, is to be dead, with reference to
burial, down in the ground. Ophelia says Laertes must call Polonius "a
dead man," or "a down (and buried) man."
Double meaning. Both things mentioned by Arden are right,
simultaneously. Ophelia is saying both that the refrain suits the song,
and also that she thinks the Wheel of Fortune has done her a good turn.
166-7 It . . . daughter
The "false Steward" is "lying Hamlet." Hamlet told Ophelia he lied to
her when he said he loved her, so she calls him "lying," by using the
word "false." (But she doesn't know the full story.) Hamlet is a
"Steward" of God, or Jesus, as are all Christian men, who serve God, or
Jesus. "Steward" is capitalized in Q2 because it refers to a named
Then, the "Master's daughter" is Ophelia, herself. The "Master" is
Jesus. (Thus, "Master" must be capitalized, as in Q2; Arden missed
that.) After Hamlet insisted Ophelia go to a nunnery, she started
planning to do so. She was taking his advice. At the nunnery, she would
be "Jesus's daughter." But when she heard that Hamlet had killed
Polonius, she decided to stay at Elsinore to await Hamlet's return. So
Hamlet, by killing Polonius, "stole" Ophelia from the nunnery. The
false Steward (lying Hamlet) "stole" Jesus's daughter (Ophelia) from
the nunnery, by killing Polonius.
Also, the word "it," used twice in L166, refers to Hamlet both times,
in a complicated way. Hamlet has become her Wheel of Fortune, Ophelia
thinks. There's considerable further meaning in Ophelia's "false
Steward" sentence, too much to go into here.
Arden's comment is oblivious. It's perfectly clear what sense Laertes
detects in what Ophelia says: none. He hasn't the slightest.
The flower recipient is express in the playtext. Laertes gets all the
flowers. There is no factual question of this, because the dialogue is
exclusive to Ophelia and Laertes. The scene is typically played on
stage to involve Gertrude and Claudius, for more action, but that is
not authentic to the true Hamlet text. The Q2 dialogue clearly shows
that Ophelia gives all of the flowers to Laertes.
Ophelia gives all her rosemary and pansies to Laertes to symbolize that
he can have all the remembrance and thoughts of Polonius. She wants
none of those.
The fennel means: "open your eyes," "see clearly," brother, that these
flowers are messages to you.
The columbine means: "you're a fool," brother.
The rue 'with a difference' means: have no regret (that Polonius is
dead.) The "difference" is the negative.
The daisy means: you're just like Polonius, as I see you.
The "withered" violets mean: I don't love you.
170 Pray . . . remember
Ophelia turns aside from Laertes to speak this. It's to Hamlet.
A "fit" in Hamlet is a fit of madness. The primary meaning of "fitted"
is: "tangled in a fit of madness." Laertes just spoke the word
"madness." Arden is adequate, however, to the secondary meaning.
175 You may
Is correct. The Folio has the error. Ophelia, the Rose of May, says
"may" when she's handling flowers.
The word is most certainly not from heraldry in this instance. That is
impossible. With Polonius dead, Laertes is the senior male, and Laertes
therefore does not use a "difference." Any heraldic difference for
Laertes vanished instantly when Polonius died. The author would have
known that. The "difference" here is the negative: no regret. It hints
of heraldry, but that's wordplay, to give duality to "wear."
178 They . . . end
Ophelia means that she approves of people saying the end of her father
was "good." Claudius and Gertrude have both called Polonius "good" -
after he's dead. It has some further meaning.
179 For . . . joy
It's doubtful this is the actual line from a popular song. Most likely,
it's adapted by the author from Greensleeves. Observe the last line:
Greensleeves, now farewell! adieu!
God I pray to prosper thee!
For I am still thy lover true,
Come once again and love me.
Greensleeves was all my joy...
Sendal is mentioned in the old lyrics of Greensleeves, by the way.
Refers to reason, the capacity to reason. Laertes presumes incapacity
in this case. Laertes is swearing here. He says, "Thought and
afflictions! Passion!" Then, the word "Hell" begins a new utterance. It
needs an exclamation point after "passion" in modern printing.
"Thought and afflictions" means "thought with afflictions," or
"afflicted thought." It's a hendiadys that Arden has missed. The
plural, "afflictions," is correct, and the Folio is wrong.
"Turns" is the important word in L180-1, and the word order needs
rearrangement for prose.
Means "transforms." Laertes is saying that, as he sees it, Ophelia has
transformed Hell, itself, into favor and prettiness. He means Ophelia
is acting as though Hell were a favor, and something pretty. Then
there's double meaning in the lines, as usual.
The source is "Shakespeare."
188 Flaxen . . . poll
Ophelia's phrase means Polonius's head was yellow. It is not a
reference to hair color. The skin of Polonius's head and face had a
distinctly yellow tone. Ophelia mentions this because it confirmed to
her that Polonius was really dead. His skin looked yellowish, she saw
it, herself. Secondarily, the phrase refers to the linen burial cloth,
the pall. Linen is made from flax. The Arden note is flatly wrong, and
obviously wrong. Flax is absolutely not white, it is straw color, pale
yellow, (which Arden ought to have known,) and Ophelia's phrase is not
any reference to hair. And further, Arden should have known that Q1
does not "support" the Folio if the Folio is only repeating a Q1 error.
That is not "support," it is propagation of error.
190 we . . . moan
Arden does not understand the play. Ophelia means two things. She is
throwing away the moans of sadness she uttered under the oppression of
Polonius. With him dead, she no longer needs those moans of sadness.
Also, she is casting moans of longing toward Hamlet.
Q2 has no exit here. An exeunt for both Ophelia and Gertrude, following
Ophelia, is proper - especially since Ophelia is wearing some of
Gertrude's jewelry and clothing, that Ophelia "borrowed," and Gertrude
will want the things back. It's after Gertrude takes the fancy,
expensive things back, that Ophelia will begin gathering flowers to
decorate herself for Hamlet (since she has no jewelry or fancy dresses
of her own) which will lead to her tragic, accidental fall from the
Q2 is correct, and Arden blunders in not following it. Laertes is
asking God whether he has done that to Ophelia, (as opposed to the
Devil having done it.) From Laertes's religious education, he does not
ask questions of the Devil, he only talks to God. A good Christian does
not talk to the Devil. So, Laertes asks God the question, although he
suspects the Devil. His line means "Do you (do) this, O God?" spoken
with the stress on "you."
Then, the exact way the Q2 line is written, it's open whether "do" or
"see" is meant, which gives, guess what, double meaning. Both "do" and
"see" are understood there, simultaneously. The Folio is wrong to
specify "see" (and Arden is wrong to follow the Folio.) Apparently the
Folio editor(s) thought a word was missing, and added "see," spoiling
the author's intended ambiguity. It means both "do" and "see" at the
194-5 I . . . right
Double meaning. Again, Claudius has to be careful about his own
propaganda against Hamlet. Claudius doesn't want people to think he's
"mad" because he says he's grieving, so he asserts that his own alleged
grief is "rightful." He isn't really grieving for Polonius, or he
wouldn't be so carefully rational about it. The word "commune"
primarily means "join," and then with a secondary reference to speech,
196 wisest friends
Irony. Based on what he's seen from Laertes, Claudius is sure that
Laertes's friends are not going to be very wise. Claudius is confident
that he can manipulate Laertes, and his friends, too, as necessary.
It's essentially the same as the earlier phrase, where Claudius used
"wisest" to mean "not too wise."
198-9 direct . . . touched
Has a wicked, very subtle undertone of allusion to the Ghost, and the
205 (obscure) funeral
"Obscure" has double meaning, both that Polonius was buried before
Laertes returned to attend, so he did not 'see' his father's funeral,
and also that Polonius's funeral ceremony was hidden from public view,
which Claudius did to try to minimize the political problem. The
funeral was 'obscure' for both Laertes, and the public. The word
further conveys Laertes's lack of understanding.
There is great irony, that first Claudius demanded to know where Hamlet
had hidden Polonius's body, and then Claudius tried to hide it,
himself. Claudius should have left Polonius in the storage room where
Hamlet put him, and he was "at home."