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The Nunnery Scene Essay

1051 words - 4 pages

Deception and the impossibility of certainty are two of the most pertinent and important theme of Hamlet, a tragedy written by William Shakespeare at the beginning of the 17th century. In Act 3, Scene 1 Hamlet works himself into a rage while he is speaking with Ophelia. This scene, commonly known as the Nunnery Scene, encapsulates and presents both of these main themes in three points: Hamlet is being spied on by Polonius and Claudius, Ophelia refuses to reply to any questions from Hamlet with an exact answer, and the certainty of Hamlet’s madness is unknown.
Hamlet is being spied on by Polonius and Claudius. Polonius decided, and Claudius agreed with, the plan to set Hamlet up. They set up Ophelia so that she runs into Hamlet. Polonius and Claudius want to eavesdrop on their conversation because both are exceptionally suspicious of Hamlet’s behavior and new found “madness”. Polonius originally assumes that the reason for Hamlet’s unusual comportment is the result of “the affliction of his love” (3.1.36) for Ophelia. Polonius has Ophelia pretend to read a pray book in order to not be construed as suspiciously concealing herself in an abandoned corridor, and Hamlet will not be suspect to her actions. Polonius’ and Claudius’ deception stems from the uncertainty of the cause of Hamlet’s behavior. If Polonius and Claudius knew why Hamlet became irrational then they would have no need to create a scheme for the prince. After Hamlet leaves, Polonius and Claudius come out from hiding and Claudius concludes that the reason for the strange behavior is not caused by Ophelia. However, Polonius still believes that Hamlet has been driven mad with love. The conclusion of the nunnery scene further develops the theme of deception and impossibility of certainty. Polonius wants to create future plots to entrap and spy on Hamlet. Furthermore, uncertainty is enhanced because there are now several different hypotheses as to why Hamlet is “insane”. Claudius also deceives Polonius when he plans to be sending Hamlet to England, supposedly for Hamlet’s own safety. However, the audience is aware that Claudius is becoming more threatened with Hamlet’s behavior and enacts this plan as a safety precaution.
Ophelia successfully carries the theme of deception by lying to Hamlet. Ophelia lies about where her father is when Hamlet asks for his whereabouts. When Hamlet implies that he knows she is lying, it reinforces the point that he is far more intelligent. Whenever Hamlet asks Ophelia a question she responds with vague non-answers. An example of this interaction is when Hamlet asks “Ha, ha are you honest?” to which Ophelia’s response is simple, “My lord?” When Hamlet repeats his question Ophelia answers with another question, “What mean you my lordship?” Ophelia is clearly trying to avoid revealing herself as spy. Ophelia is trying to deceive Hamlet; however, she is not very successful, as Hamlet notices when she is avoiding the question or blatantly lying. The presence...

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