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Here are the main things to take from Hamlet, Act IV:

  • Claudius finds out that Hamlet has killed Polonius and, with the help of Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, tries to find where he hid the body (Scenes I-III).
  • Claudius writes a letter to England with instructions to execute Hamlet when he arrives there and gives it to R & G, who leave for England with Hamlet (Scene III).
  • Hamlet finds out that Fortinbras is sending an army to Poland to reclaim a small patch of land. Inspired by Fortinbras’ determination over something so small, he renews his own determination to kill Claudius (Scene IV).
  • Gertrude is visited by Ophelia, who has lost her mind over the death of her father (Scene V).
  • Laertes returns from France after hearing about the death of his father. He initially blames Claudius and wants to kill him, but Claudius manages to calm him down for the moment (Scene V).
  • Ophelia returns and greets her brother, although she has still clearly lost her mind (Scene V).
  • Horatio receives a letter from Hamlet saying that he stowed on board a pirate ship and is returning to Denmark (Scene VI).
  • After finding out that Hamlet is returning to Denmark, Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet killed Polonius, and the two make a plan for Laertes to take revenge on Hamlet. Laertes will challenge Hamlet to a fencing duel, but Laertes’ rapier will be poisoned. And, just in case that fails, Claudius will have a glass of poisoned wine on hand to give to Hamlet when he gets thirsty from the duel (Scene VII).
  • Gertrude reveals that Ophelia has fallen into a river and drowned, presumably as a suicide (Scene VII).

Be sure to watch Scene V, taken from the Tennant version version, which shows Ophelia’s madness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI3SMQ4iMRE

Ophelia’s madness and death have captured the imaginations of several artists, as you can see on pages 1701-1703 in the BIL. Here are two others, from the 19th century:

Ophelia (1894), John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). Source: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/jww/paintings/7.html

Ophelia (1851-2), John Everett Millais (1829-1896). Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Everett_Millais_-_Ophelia_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

For your blog, I want you to write about why you think Ophelia’s madness and death have been such fascinating subjects for artists. How is she portrayed in these paintings? In the film? How do these visual portrayals compare to your own imagining of Ophelia?

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