There are three plots in Shakespeare's Hamlet: the main revenge plot and two subplots involving the romance between Hamlet and Ophelia, and the looming war with Norway. The following is a guide to the significant events in the Hamlet and Ophelia subplot.
Characters Involved in the Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot
Key Events in the Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot
1. Laertes warns his sister, Ophelia, that Hamletís love is fleeting. Her father, Polonius, also fears that Hamlet will make false vows, and so he demands she end their relationship. Ophelia agrees and Laertes leaves for Paris. (1.2)
2. Hamlet appears in Opheliaís chamber, pale and disheveled. His condition frightens her and she runs to tell Polonius about the encounter. Polonius assumes Opheliaís rejection of Hamlet has driven him insane. (2.1)
3. Polonius reports Hamletís strange behavior to Claudius, presenting a love letter from Hamlet to Ophelia. (2.2)
4. At the urging of Claudius, Polonius sends Ophelia to learn more about Hamletís condition. She greets him and he verbally assaults her. (3.1)
5. Hamlet, in his motherís chamber, hears someone hiding behind a drape. Thinking it is Claudius, Hamlet stabs through the fabric and mortally wounds Polonius. Hamlet drags Poloniusís body out of the room. (3.4)
6. Hamletís malicious behavior and Poloniusís murder have rendered Ophelia completely insane. Laertes blames Hamlet for his sisterís condition and vows revenge. (4.5)
7. Hamletís mother brings news that Ophelia has drowned. (4.7)
8. Hamlet and Horatio encounter Opheliaís funeral procession. Hamlet is overcome with grief and cries, "I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers/Could not, with all their quantity of love/Make up my sum." (5.1.270-72)
9. Hamlet and Laertes duel and they both receive fatal wounds from Laertesís poisoned-tipped sword. Before they die they exchange words of forgiveness and the subplot of Hamlet and Ophelia comes to a close. (5.2)
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/playanalysis/opheliaplot.html" >.