In Hamlet, act 3, why is Hamlet so brutal to Ophelia?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Act 3, scene 1 is the first time in Shakespeare's Hamlet that the audience sees Hamlet and Ophelia together. There's very little frame of reference for what happens in this scene, except for Polonius and Laertes advising Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet in act 1, scene 3 and Ophelia's story to Polonius, in act 2, scene 1, when Hamlet puts on his "antic disposition" and frightens Ophelia while she's sewing quietly in her room.

When Hamlet enters in act 3, scene 1, he seems thoughtful, rational, and notably calm throughout his "To be, or not to be" soliloquy, particularly compared to his evident state of mind in his three previous soliloquies.

In his "O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt" soliloquy in act 1, scene 2, Hamlet is grieved by his father's death and appalled by his mother's marriage to a "satyr," his uncle Claudius.

In the second soliloquy, "O all you host of heaven!" after he's seen the ghost of his father, Hamlet is understandably agitated and animated. He vows to avenge his father's...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1352 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on