Wit and Will

Eugène Delacroix (1852)

As in other cases of murder, the issue of premeditation (malice prepens) is an essential ingredient in legally distinguishing between manslaughter and first-degree murder. The crime is considered more hideous if it can be demonstrated to have been planned out in the murderer's mind, rather than occurring as a spur-of-the-moment reaction to some other offense. Mimicking the legal considerations of the court, the gravediggers discuss the roles of wit and will in Ophelia's death. If she can be proved to have committed the act while in her right mind and according to her volition, the act is considered that much more serious. (more)

The deliberate nature of Ophelia's death is expressed by the word "willfully"; the conscious and premeditated aspect of her act by the word "wittingly". In the law's reasoning, those aspects comprised the "internal element of crime, the mens rea" (mental guilt).  - Lee Anne Rappold, Hamlet and the Elizabethan Common Law, Dissertation, Univ. of Calif., Santa Cruz, 1992. p.115.