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In Act 3 Scene 2 before the play begins, there are 2 puns between Hamlet and Ophelia...

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kelvin1218 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 16, 2010 at 10:31 AM via web

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In Act 3 Scene 2 before the play begins, there are 2 puns between Hamlet and Ophelia (about "lie""sables"). What are the significances of that?

HAMLET:
Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

OPHELIA:
No, my lord.


HAMLET:
I mean, lay my head on your lap?

OPHELIA:
Yes, my lord.

HAMLET:
Do you think I meant sexual matters?

OPHELIA:
I think nothing, my lord.

HAMLET:
That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.


OPHELIA:
What is, my lord?

HAMLET:
Nothing.

OPHELIA:
You are merry, my lord.

HAMLET:
Who, me?

OPHELIA:
Yes, my lord.

HAMLET:
O, your only dancer! What should a man do but be
merry? Because look how cheerfully my mother looks,
and my father died within these two hours.

OPHELIA:
No, it is four months, my lord.

HAMLET:
So long? No then, let the devil wear black, for I’ll have a
suit of black fur. O heavens! Died two months ago and
not forgotten yet? Then there's hope that a great man's
memory may outlive his life at least six months, but, by
our Lady, then he must build churches or else he won’t
be remembered with the prostitute, whose epitaph is
“For, O, for, O, the prostitute is forgotten!”

2 Answers | Add Yours

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 24, 2010 at 6:02 AM (Answer #1)

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The pun on lie is its two definitions.  To lie can mean to tell an untruth and it can mean to recline.  Here Hamlet could be using both meanings.  He is in fact telling lies in this scene.  He is pretending to be crazy and using Ophelia as a kind of sounding board for the act; he is speaking and acting in a very sexually suggestive manor and making sure that the King, Queen and Polonius all see it.  This will help him maintain the illusion that he is crazy for love of Ophelia.  As for the other definition he does seem to be asking if he can literally place his head upon her lap (lie in her lap) as he watches the play take place.  This is a rather forward suggestion, especially when you consider the implication of some of the lines that immediately follow that one.

As for the word "sable" your text as you typed it in the question doesn't have the word sable.  Whatever version you took that from changed sable (meaning the color black) with the words "black fur."  The problem with this change is that you lose the pun -- sables are black furred animals and sable is a fur for the very wealthy, like kings and princes.  The color and the animal were also symbols used in heraldry to represent royalty.  He is literally saying he will wear black clothes in mourning, but also is suggesting the death of his father.

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dragonsong94 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 2, 2011 at 4:49 AM (Answer #2)

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To lie with in shakespears time meant to sleep with. he was asking both if he should sit there and sleep with her. Then he says I meant my head on your lap. This too is a vulgar inuendo

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