What is the dramatic purpose of announcng Opheilia's death at this piont in the play?
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Ophelia’s death by drowning is one of the famously impossible-to-settle questions of Hamlet. Did she die accidentally or did she commit suicide? If one looks forward to Act Five, it seems as though she was indeed a suicide. Given the immediate evidence of Gertrude’s testimony, however, there is no reason at all to believe that she killed herself. Gertrude describes her as dying almost in slow motion: “Her clothes spread wide, / And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up, / Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds, / As one incapable of her own distress, / Or like a creature native and indued / Unto that element.” Indeed, the question to ask given this description is not, “Did Ophelia kill herself?” but rather, “If she had time to sing songs while dying, why on earth didn’t Gertrude try to save her?” Perhaps, though (as suggested in the television series, Slings & Arrows, among other places), Gertrude's narrative is an attempt to protect Ophelia. She knows that Ophelia is better off dead and tries to hide the fact of her suicide with her narrative. As with so many aspects of this play, the truth is not forthcoming.