Hey, I've been doing some research but I can't find the answer to how exactly Ophelia betrays Hamlet. Can anybody help?I can not remember reading that she spies on him nor that she works for the...

Hey, I've been doing some research but I can't find the answer to how exactly Ophelia betrays Hamlet. Can anybody help?

I can not remember reading that she spies on him nor that she works for the king as well. But if not spying, then how is she deceiving Hamlet

Asked on by spatz1510

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dstuva's profile pic

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

Posted on

Ophelia does help spy on Hamlet in Shakespeare's Hamlet.  In Act 3.1 Claudius sends for Hamlet so that Ophelia can talk to him while Claudius and Polonius listen. 

At issue is why Hamlet is "mad."  Polonius thinks it is because he is madly in love with Ophelia.  The king arranges the meeting so he can listen in and determine if that is the cause or not.  He says:

For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither,

That he, as 'twere by accident, may here

Affront Ophelia.

Her father and myself (lawful espials)

Will so bestow ouselves that, seeing unseen,

We may of their encounter frankly judge,

And gather by him, as he is behaved,

If't be th'affliction of his love or no

That thus he suffers for.  (Act 3.1.29-37) 

Thus, she betrays Hamlet by attempting to "play" him as so many others do, unsuccessfully, in the play.

lynnebh's profile pic

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

Posted on

Ophelia is in love with Hamlet, but her brother tells her that she should not get her hopes up because royal marriages are marriages of state and arranged marriages, so no doubt she will not be chosen to marry the prince. Both Laertes and Polonius (Ophelia's brother and father) warn here to stay away from Hamlet, so she obeys them. In this, she has sort of betrayed Hamlet, because he did love her (as he claims later) and she loves him.

Later in the play, Ophelia further obeys her male relatives and tries to return gifts that Hamlet has given her. Claudius and Gertrude (Hamlet's stepfather and mother) think that the reason for Hamlet's supposed madness is because Ophelia has not returned his love, which is not true.

After Hamlet sees that Ophelia has been trying to avoid him, he no doubt believes that she has been a fickle woman, and from that point on, he treats her in a cruel manner, finally telling her to go to a nunnery. The king tries to spy on the meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia to see if the breakdown of their relationship is the cause of Hamlet's odd behavior. Hamlet's cruel treatment of Ophelia causes her to drown herself and Hamlet is truly grieved when, at the end of the play, he returns, sees a funeral, and realizes it is Ophelia's. He tells Laertes that he has loved Ophelia more than anyone, even him, her brother.

Read about Ophelia here on enotes.

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