Act IV, Scene 5: “Elsinore: A Room in the Castle”
Summary: Ophelia’s gone crazy since her father’s death and is wandering around singing songs. Then Polonius’ son, Laertes, returns and blames the King for his father’s death. He wants to overthrow him, but the King tells him to wait, let’s have a trial, and if I can’t convince you then you can be king.
Reaction: I’d actually forgotten about Ophelia there, so small has her impact been, though now she seems Hamlet’s soul mate. The crazies can live together forever–if not for that pesky detail of him being the one who killed her father and made her go crazy. (I still see this as a plus–she’s much more entertaining now). And, really? The Queen is the King’s best defense against random people running in and claiming the throne?–she was the one who ran and grabbed Laertes when he stormed in. The King should really invest in some bodyguards, especially when he’s in the practice of murdering people and stealing wives.
Prediction: Laertes will figure out that Hamlet’s to blame, so he’ll want to kill Hamlet, who wants to kill the King, and someone will probably want to kill either Laertes, or the King will want to kill someone else, and the chain will continue until everyone is dead…I can definitely see Ophelia killing someone while singing, but I tend to give Ophelia more credit than she is due.
Why This Book Is a Classic: Classic songs–Ophelia is like a jukebox that only plays tunes straight out of the age of Shakespeare.
Why a Modern Audience Might Like It: We love the he said, she said rumors that spread and change and if only the character would talk to the right person everything would be straightened out but instead everyone just talks behind everyone else’s back soap opera stuff.