Act 3, Scene 1

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Claudius and Polonius use Ophelia for their own ends.

Summary

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are having no luck discovering the reason for Hamlet’s madness, so Polonius decides to make good on his plan from Act II, Scene 2. He’ll send Ophelia to talk to the prince, while he and Claudius will watch in secret. When they withdraw, Hamlet enters alone on stage and delivers his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy. He ponders the nature of death, realizing that while it might seem easier to leave the world behind, death is a great unknown. It’s probably best to just face the troubles you do know, rather than face the uncertainty of the afterlife. Ophelia enters and the two begin a very strained conversation. Hamlet insults her virtue and tells her that, while he may have loved her once, he certainly doesn’t love her now. After Hamlet departs, Claudius and Polonius reenter, newly suspicious that Hamlet’s madness isn’t lovesickness after all. Polonius hatches a new plan: he’ll make sure Hamlet and his mother have some alone time after the play, and he’ll spy on them to see if Gertrude can figure out what’s bothering Hamlet once and for all. If that doesn’t work, they’ll ship him off to England, where his crazy act can do no harm.

 

Character Interview: Hamlet and Ophelia

MyShakespeare | Hamlet 3.1 Interview with Hamlet and Ophelia