Performed by Hamlet, and Ophelia
Act III embraces the ultimate question of being with the most famous soliloquy of all ‘To be, or not to be.’ However, it is often forgotten that the subsequent exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia veers from the philosophical tone of the soliloquy to something far more antagonistic. This culminates in the well-known line, ‘Get thee to a nunnery.’ – a ‘nunnery’ was of course also slang for a brothel. This invites more misunderstandings between Hamlet and Ophelia who doggedly follows the rigid, patriarchal instructions that her father has given her (and of course, unknown to Hamlet, Polonius and the King are spying on both of them.). In this sequence, Ophelia’s state of mind is expressed by an English Renaissance melody ‘Walsingham’, the archetypal Elizabethan song of lost love. Her thoughts float in the sadness of the modal tune, and differentiate her from Hamlet’s lines which are represented with a modern energetic melody.