Lowly Language

Hamlet is a scholar. Hamlet is a prince. Hamlet is supposed to be king. Hamlet is a bitter young man with a superiority complex and therefore switches over to speaking in free verse when addressing those he believes to be inferior to him.  I notice he tends to adopt this type of speech when talking to Ophelia or addressing the players.  I find this habit condescending of him, as though these characters aren’t worth the eloquent speech directed towards other characters, or the elaborate soliloquies only the audience has the privilege of experiencing. Ophelia is addressed as such because she is a woman of a slightly lower class, and the players are also of lower standing. Although they are addressed in a similar style of speech, Hamlet still speaks in a more respectful tone to the players than he does to Ophelia. Hamlet’s rudeness to Ophelia stems partially from his bitterness towards his mother.  He mistrusts women because of how quickly his mother accepted the love of his uncle.  When discussing the prologue of the Mousetrap play, Ophelia comments, “‘Tis brief, my lord,” to which Hamlet replies, “As woman’s love,” (3.2.137-138).

He reserves this language for giving the players commands and making obscene remarks at Ophelia; “Do you think I meant country matters?” (3.2.105). (Though I appreciate a good pun, I still think Hamlet deserves a slap in the face.)  I feel that this manner of speaking is Hamlet’s way of exerting the power he does have, compensating for the fact that he doesn’t have all the power that is rightfully his.  However, I also recognize that he is pretending to be slightly mad and that he must appear a certain way in front of different people.  Only the audience is privy to his true feelings and intentions. 

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One thought on “Lowly Language

  1. Marcella

    I feel the same way about Hamlet! He’s got a major superiority complex, and a serious case of “Good Boy Syndrome.” But whatever. He is supposed to be behaving as the fool does, but his behavior toward the innocent people (Ophelia and the Players) in his life is still completely inexcusable. Speaking in prose, I feel, to Claudius and his mother, would have so much more of an effect on them. So why does he save the free verse for the people he actually doesn’t want to murder? As you said, maybe it is because he’s playing the fool and wants everyone around him to sincerely believe him. Maybe he’s also, overwhelmingly distrustful of women, like you said as well. In this case, I think he’s taking his plot and himself way to seriously. It’s probably just a character flaw; he is in fact, a condescending jerk.

    Reply

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