What's so tragic about Ophelia in our humble opinion is that she hasn't done anything wrong, and she gets destroyed by the patriarchal court culture anyway. In the end, it kills her. The prevailing view of Ophelia paints her as an sweet virgin, childlike in her innocence, which allows audiences to infantilize and ignore her. Will Fortinbras' reign change that? In fact, he tells Ophelia three times that she should "fear" intimacy with Hamlet. Essentially, Ophelia has no control over her body, her relationships, or her choices.
Of course, if she were to marry, she'd then have to live by her husband's rules. Why do we so often take that sentence at such face value? She inflicts her judgment in a uniquely feminine yet scathing way through her nursery songs and metaphor-laden flowers. He has a tongue that can wound, just as a soldier can. Hamlet seems to know that Ophelia is helping her dad spy on him, and he accuses her and all women of being a "breeder of sinners" and orders Ophelia to a "nunnery" 3. But the possibility's there. Copyright by Jillian Keenan. This aesthetic portrait of Ophelia, which limns her death an instance of beauty without substance, is the reigning portrayal of her death. Ophelia and Madness Whether they've had sex or not, that's a lot of pressure to put on a young woman. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers. Although Ophelia gains limited agency in this reading, it is awarded to her only to further condemn her; she is dismissed as a sinner and the gravity of her actions is eclipsed. Hamlet bends over the table. The jibe prompts a round of cruel guffaws and high-fives from his entourage of bros. A man walked in and ordered four shots of espresso. The crow-flowers symbolize childishness, while daisies symbolize both unhappy love and innocence or purity; together, these flowers represent the maiden side of Ophelia, viewed as little more than a child unwise to the ways of the world and ultimately driven mad by lovesickness. Her last flower, the nettle, represents cruelty — all of the manipulation and abuse Ophelia suffers as well as the injustice and harm done to her in judging and ignoring her. Rather than straight-up committing suicide, as Gertrude tells us, she accidentally falls in the water and then simply neglects to save herself from sinking. Laertes takes a typically Elizabethan stance toward female sexuality —a "deflowered" woman was damaged goods that no man would want to marry. And there's something pretty suggestive about the fact that she's literally being deflowered—giving flowers away. Ophelia shifts uncomfortably in her seat. This simple change in staging carries tremendous weight in changing the meaning of the play and the role of Ophelia. Some of the flowers Ophelia gives away during her mad scene like rue and wormwood were used for centuries in abortion potions. Mar 7, The Most Beautified Ophelia: When down her weedy trophies and herself Fell in the weeping brook. 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 endued Unto that element. Left alone, Ophelia says: Maybe, but his speech is also full of vivid innuendo, as when he compares intercourse to a "canker" worm invading and injuring a delicate flower before its buds, or "buttons" have had time to open 1.
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