In the brief but powerful exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia in Act 3 scene 1, Hamlet reveals his internal crisis about Truth and his introspective, if not self-involved, nature.
Hamlet’s internal struggle throughout the play is caused by the murder of his father and the betrayal of his mother. What we see expressed in this exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia is the result of this trauma: Hamlet’s loss of belief in Truth. The crimes committed against his father breaks two fundamental laws in Hamlet’s world. In Hamlet’s mental model of reality the fraternal bond between his father and his uncle is sacred and unbreakable, as is the marriage oath made between his father and mother. So when both of these infallible oaths are broken at the same time, with his uncle killing his brother and then marrying his newly widowed mother, Hamlet’s mental model is suddenly proven false. This paradigm shift sends Hamlet into an intense state of crisis, causing him to question what is true and what is false about the world.
In Act 3 scene 1, Hamlet questions Ophelia’s honesty and her chastity, but Ophelia is merely a pretext for his feelings about his mother’s adulterous betrayal. When Gertrude married Claudius not long after he killed her husband, she negated everything her marital contract stood for in Hamlet’s mind. To Hamlet this meant that she never loved her husband, which becomes distorted into meaning that since love didn’t exist in their marriage: love never existed, and so cannot exist at all. So, when he speaks with Ophelia (who only reinforced this idea by pulling away from him) it is with this understanding of love.
The exchange begins with Hamlet asking Ophelia if she is honest and fair, he is speaking to women as a gender and to...
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...ur ignorance. (3.1.142-145)
I believe the significance of including God in this criticism is to further frame his thoughts in the breaking of oaths, such as the oath one would have to God.
By the end of this exchange Hamlet’s anger seems altogether independent of Ophelia. This disregard for the distinctions between all women, Gertrude, and Ophelia reflects his introspective mind because he can no longer differentiate between the people in his life, Ophelia is reduced to a mere body for Hamlet to project his mother onto, and his mother becomes a distorted model for him to base his thoughts about all women.
In Hamlet’s introspective/ self-absorbed mind, those around him are either enemies in their association to the new king, or friends in their lack of association (such as Horatio and the players who are friends of Hamlet’s, uninvolved with Claudius and Polonius).
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