Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are the major themes in act 2 of Hamlet?

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Ophelia's description of Hamlet's behavior conveys just how horribly painful break-ups can be, even for princes. Ophelia, at her father's instruction, has broken off her relationship with Prince Hamlet because, as Polonius apparently wrongly insisted, Hamlet could not really love her, and, even if he did, he is not free to marry her. Hamlet's response to Ophelia's sudden and unexplained refusal to see or correspond with—his odd and sad appearance in her bedroom—certainly shows just how deeply her rejection has affected him. He shows up, the perfect image of the unrequited lover (at the time), and "sigh[s]... piteous[ly] and profound[ly]" while maintaining awkwardly long eye contact with her (2.1.106). Despite all those who doubted him—namely, Ophelia's brother and father—his feelings were, evidently, quite real and sincere. As a result, we see that princes, too, can suffer a broken heart.

We also see, in this act, that parents are fallible . Polonius believes that Ophelia's rejection of...

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Act 2 is all about appearance vs. reality. When Hamlet appears to Ophelia in sc. 1, he desperately wants to connect with her, but he cannot. This is the closest he gets to reality matching appearance. As Polonius goes on to describe how his "madness" is caused by his love for Ophelia, as Rosencrantz and Guilderstern cover up the reasons for visiting Hamlet, and most importantly how the play within a play unfolds, Hamlet discovers how the layers of his reality are unraveling. He realizes that others only appear to be helping him or looking out for him, but most are deceiving him.