Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How does Ophelia describe Hamlet's behavior to Polonius in Act 2 of Hamlet by William Shakespeare? What happens in this incident?  

Ophelia describes Hamlet's behavior and appearance to Polonius in act 2of Hamlet in a manner that is synonymous with the early modern stereotype of the man driven mad by unrequited love. Hamlet seems tortured and sorrowful, unwilling even to remove his eyes from her face. It's possible that Hamlet really does feel this way. On the other hand, this could be his attempt to make Polonius connect Hamlet's madness to Ophelia's rejection. It could also be both.

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Ophelia describes how, after she began to avoid Hamlet by rejecting his letters and his attempts to speak with her, he came to her room

[...] with his doublet all unbraced,
No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,
Ungartered, 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 [...]. (2.1.88-94)

His vest is totally unbuttoned, he lacks a hat, and his stockings are all dirty and have slipped down his legs to gather around his ankles (like shackles). His face is as white as a linen shirt, and his knees seem to knock together, indicating an extreme level of upset. He gives her such a terribly sad and tormented look that he seems pitiful. This is hardly the Hamlet to which Ophelia has grown used to seeing.

Later in the play, she refers to him, or at least the way he was before as the "rose of the fair state, / The glass of fashion and the mold of form" (3.1.166-167). Hamlet was...

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