Get thee to a nunnery!? How does this show that Hamlet thinks Ophelia is pregnant?

Get thee to a nunnery!? How does this show that Hamlet thinks Ophelia is pregnant?
I’m writing a paper on why I think that Ophelia is pregnant. My teacher told me to be sure to include, “get thee to a nunnery,” and,”why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners,”

How does this show that he knows she is pregnant?

Best answer:

Answer by Ray Eston Smith Jr
If Ophelia is pregnant, when did Hamlet do the deed? While he was mourning his father? I don’t think so. Hamlet’s love letters to Ophelia were presumably sent from Wittenberg in Germany, a country from which no man returned for weekend trysts. If he had knocked her up before going away to Wittenberg, she would have been far along by the time he returned. Then her brother wouldn’t have bothered to warn her to protect her “chaste treasure.”

Please see – The Honey of His Music Vows (which explains “breeder of sinners,” among other things) – A Document in Madness (with flowers) – An Envious Sliver – The Rebirth of Hamlet

As for “get thee to a nunnery,” I believe Shakespeare’s version of Hamlet was heavily influenced by the personal and family history of James VI of Scotland. James’ line of Stewart kings began with a baby born from the corpse of a king’s daughter, Margaret, who had been confined to a nunnery. The father of her baby was the High Steward.
“breed maggots…good kissing carrion…as your daughter may conceive…the womb of earth…get thee to a nunnery. . .It is the false steward, that stole his master’s daughter.”


On the second of March in the year 1316, the very pregnant 19-year-old Lady Marjorie fell off her horse and broke her neck. The baby that was ripped from her dead womb was the son of Walter Stewart, the 6th High Steward of Scotland. Lady Marjorie was the daughter of King Robert I of Scotland. That baby would grow up to be King Robert II of Scotland. Thus began the line of Scottish Stewart kings. And thus began the deadly curse on the Stewart line, a curse that would not end until King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England.

It is the false steward, that stole his master’s daughter.

Who would dare risk offending the soon-to-be Stewart King of England with such a line? Who else but the Stewart King himself? The motif of a cursed birth from a daughter’s dead womb is strongly reflected in Hamlet.

For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god kissing carrion – Have you a daughter?
Lord Polonius
I have, my lord.
Let her not walk i’ the sun: conception is a blessing, but not as your daughter may conceive.

When Lady Marjorie was 11 years old she had been captured by the English. Edward II of England had her confined to a nunnery for about 7 years. When she was 17, Scotland won the Battle of Bannockburn and she was returned to Scotland where she was given in marriage to Walter Stewart as a reward for his valor in the battle. Two years later she died, then gave birth, posthumously, to the first of the Stewart line of Scottish kings.

Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?

Lord Polonius
Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
Into my grave.
Lord Polonius
Indeed, that is out o’ the air.
Aside: How pregnant sometimes his replies are!

Horatio (to the ghost)
Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,

A dead horsewoman bequeathed the Scottish throne to the Stewart line. That inheritance doomed four successive Stewart kings named James to a series of violent deaths, mostly in battle with English kings. Similarly in the play, a horseman named Death (“LeMord”) praised Laertes’ skill as a swordsman, which led to his mutually fatal duel with Hamlet.

See – It Began With a Lass

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One Response to “Get thee to a nunnery!? How does this show that Hamlet thinks Ophelia is pregnant?”

  • FreddyM says:

    “Breeder” suggests pregnancy.
    “nunnery” suggests she has committed a sin and needs to spend time with God.

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