In Hamlet, when Ophelia tells his father that Hamlet is mad, how does the dramatic irony affect the plot, mood, theme and character?  Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 1. Heres what I think: Dramatic Irony: We...

In Hamlet, when Ophelia tells his father that Hamlet is mad, how does the dramatic irony affect the plot, mood, theme and character?

 

Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 1.

Heres what I think:

Dramatic Irony: We know Hamlet is only acting mad, but the characters don't.

Theme: The theme of uncertainty: Might Hamlet have acted this way because he is uncertain about his relationship with ophelia?

Mood/Atmosphere (not Tone): I have no idea...?

Character: Hamlet begins to act mad, and we know it will later progress more. We also know that Polonius is only using his daughter to get closer to the king, which evenutally leads to his death. Is this right?

Is there more to add on?

 

Asked on by xosherry

2 Answers | Add Yours

dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act 2.1, when Hamlet accosts Ophelia as he does, the themes of madness and appearance vs. reality are probably most directly revealed.

Ophelia breaks off contact with Hamlet, setting up the sequence of events concerning her relationship with Hamlet.  She is acting, and will continue to do so later when she returns Hamlet's gifts to him, spies on him, etc.  Hamlet is acting--pretending to be mad.  And behind it all is Hamlet's plan to make Claudius become preoccupied with the reason for his madness, and Claudius's attempt (also Polonius's obsession) to find out whether or not Hamlet is mad and why, and, as far as Claudius is concerned, whether or not Hamlet is out to get him.

Basically, everybody in the play is acting, and this scene just features Hamlet and Ophelia doing it.  No one is as they seem.

Concerning the one topic you leave blank, if you're using mood when you mean tone, what we have are Ophelia's words describing what Hamlet did.  Thus, we are looking for Ophelia's tone as she relates Hamlet's behavior.  I suggest her tone is probably a frightened or panicked tone.

susan3smith's profile pic

susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

In terms of characters, this scene clearly shows Ophelia's obedience to her father and further alienates Ophelia and Hamlet.  If Ophelia's first response to Hamlet's actions is to relay them to her father, who in turn, will confide in Claudius, Hamlet can no longer trust Ophelia and must distance himself from her.

Ophelia is most likely distraught that her actions have had such a severe effect on Hamlet.  Polonius, too, is devastated that he underestimated the seriousness of Hamlet's feelings toward Ophelia:

I am sorry that with better heed and judgment

I had not quoted  him.  I fear'd he did but trifle

And meant to wrack thee; but beshrew my jealousy!

Polonius regrets his earlier admonition to Ophelia to end her relationship with Hamlet.  His faulty judgment sets up another theme in the play:  the devastating effects of wrong choices and bad judgment of the elder generation on the younger one.

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