That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.

I don’t think I ever fully understood this line. It always sort of washed over me with a sense of Hamlet pulling a GOTCHA on Ophelia – a tricky little punchline to his set up with his previous two questions. Looking closely at it now, I’m seeing that this honest question is not so much about her telling the truth but about her sexuality. That is, honesty as chastity, as the sexual police blocking the doors. Your honesty, that is, your purity, your virtue, your ability to put the brakes on desire – shouldn’t give anyone access to your beauty.

In other words, you’re a slut because you let me talk to you.

Which is really a shitty thing to say, Hamlet.

What his motivation might be for saying this shitty thing is not clear to me. If it’s to make Ophelia herself feel bad, that’s one thing. It’s a kind of lashing out at the one you love when they’ve betrayed you.

If it’s to have some sort of effect on her father – well, perhaps it’s designed to have Polonius leap to his daughter’s defense. Or to have Ophelia leap to her own defense, betray her father’s presence somehow or reveal something about what has passed between these lovers here?

In any case, this line of misogyny is pretty familiar where a girl can’t win for losing.

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