Thee, Thou, You - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Friend of the Blog William McGrath expands on my theory that Ophelia is pregnant.

I talk about the idea that Hamlet has actually come on stage at the beginning of Act III, scene 1, and therefore hears the King set Ophelia to spy on him: "For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, that he, as 'twere by accident, may here affront Ophelia." That would explain why Hamlet is so cruel to her after his soliloquy.

But McGrath points out that Hamlet doesn't need to have overheard the King. He's a clever guy; he's been to University at Wittenburg. He's on a "thee" and "thou" basis with Ophelia. That's how he addresses her in love letters. And that's how he first addresses her: "Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered." ('Be sure to pray for all the sins we've committed together.')

But she addresses him as "you": "How does your Lordship for this many a day?"

Hamlet immediately can tell something's up. The only reason she would speak so formally to him is if someone's watching.

From then on, he addresses her as "you.": "I humbly thank you. Well, well, well."

Any Frenchman would immediately notice if his girlfriend called him "vous" instead of "tu."

McGrath:
It would be the equivalent of my lover calling me Mr McGrath. She goes all proper on him. He answers all proper, with a "you" and a big WTF on his mind which the audience must see. For Hamlet it's an a-ha moment. No doubt he looks around and spots some tell-tale sign of somebody hiding behind the curtain. He had been willing to marry her before, but now he feels betrayed. He asks, "Are you honest?" knowing she's not, and then tells her to go to hell, as who wouldn't?
Wow, yes, that makes sense.

I love Shakespeare. The plays are practically bulletproof, if you just read them carefully enough.

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3 Comments:

I dunno. Hamlet's a prince, so that may skew things. Even in the 20th century, some French women still used vous-vous with their husbands.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 5:50 PM  

Thank you, Alex.
Lisa, I agree that Ofelia's you by itself doesn't prove anything. But, Hamlet's own change, from thee to you does show that right that second he's caught on to something strange going on. It's natural to think that her you alerted him of something, but aside from that, he's caught on to some formality in Ophelia, some stiffness of bearing, perhaps, that does not spell lover but rather please, we're being overhead. So, Hamlet now speaks formally and stiffly to her, and yous her, which he hadn't a few seconds before.

By Blogger WilliamM, at 7:00 PM  

I see your point. It's interesting that Hamlet changes his own speech.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 10:00 AM  

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