How do you explain Hamlet's behavior toward Ophelia in act 2, scene 1?

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Christopher Jerde eNotes educator | Certified Educator


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Hamlet made it clear at the end of act 1 that he was intending to pretend to be mad, so this is the first stage in his plan.

Hamlet approaches Ophelia, the one person who would be most shocked by his behavior, being innocent and a bit shy. He comes into her room in a state of disheveled dress and he grabs her "hard" (2.1.88). He then stares at her before making a departure.

To Ophelia, this behavior would be unnerving. She reports it to her father right away, and her father reports it to the king and queen. His state of undress also plays into the image of the "melancholy youth." Melancholy was often associated with lovesickness, which...

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