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accused Ophelia, as a woman, of sinning by painting a different visage from the one she was given by God. By suggesting to Laertes that he is all show, Claudius stirs up his passions to match their outward appearance. Laertes is bound to agree to a murderous claim ‘[t]o cut his [Hamlet’s] throat i’th’church’ (4.7.124) in order to prove his love for his slain father. He then becomes a pawn in the complex and vengeful plan constructed by Claudius, but before their diabolical plan can be enacted there comes the tragic news of Ophelia’s death. Ophelia, in her dying, encapsulates the phlegmatic female, cold and moist. Gertrude in her description of the river bank where the drowning took place talks of ‘our cold maids’ (4.7.169) and of Ophelia falling ‘in the weeping brook’ (4.7.173). In its full scenic and dialogue context, the lyrical description of Ophelia slipping from a floating wretch to a drowning soul recalls Harington’s description of the phlegmatic ‘[i]n sleepe, of Seas and riuers dreaming oft.’130Laertes and Gertrude echo each other’s utterances of the word ‘drowned’ until Laertes makes his pronouncement: Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, And therefore I forbid my tears. But yet It is our trick – nature her custom holds Let shame say what it will. [Weeps] When these are gone The woman will be out. (4.7.183-6) Laertes notes the feminine association with water and implicitly with whiteness: it was held that ‘[t]he watrie Flegmatique are faire and white.’131Out of consideration for the over-abundance of moisture that has led to this moment, Laertes wishes to stifle his tears. However, in an involuntary outpouring of grief, Laertes weeps. He acknowledges that there is some shame in the feminised act of weeping but also that by doing so he will be purged of the weak woman within. Momentarily his fiery red rage is drowned. After the brief funeral rites, Laertes, distressed that his sister cannot be granted the full ceremonies as a suicide, says ‘lay her I’th’earth,/ And from her fair and unpolluted flesh/ May violets spring’ (5.1.227-9). However, her fair flesh will soon be rotted, and possibly too quickly, due to the superfluity of water. She was fair and phlegmatic, and ‘water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body’ (5.1.162). The idea of purple violets conjures up youthful love, grief, and death – as occasioned by the death of Polonius – and also royalty. Hamlet, becoming cognizant of the unfolding 130Harington, The English Mans Doctor,stanza 61. 131Harington, The English Mans Doctor, stanza 58
155 scene, interjects ‘What is he whose grief/ Bears such an emphasis … This is I,/ Hamlet the Dane’ (5.1.243-4; 246-7). Laertes, blaming Hamlet for the occasion of Ophelia’s death, attacks Hamlet. Hamlet, perhaps grasping the machinations of another in the moment, calmly replies, I prithee take thy fingers from my throat, For, though I am not splenative rash, Yet have I in me something dangerous Which let thy wisdom fear, Hold off thy hand. (5.1.249-252) The ‘something dangerous’ in him is causing a humoral imbalance. He is ready to fight over the question of who loved Ophelia more. The Queen does not believe Hamlet’s