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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: February ::
Re: Ophelia and Gertrude
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 146. Wednesday, 23 February 1994.
 
(1)     From:   James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Feb 1994 12:52:23 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
(2)     From:   Michael Dobson <U63495@UICVM>
        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Feb 94 12:10:07 CST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
(3)     From:   Luc Borot <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Feb 1994 19:59:45 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
(4)     From:   William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Feb 1994 20:10:31 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 1994 12:52:23 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
Ms. Lindsey:
 
While it may seem unfair that much has been written about Hamlet as an
"individual" while little has been written about Ophelia or Gertrude
except as they exist in relationship to others, my own view is that
all that Hamlet exegesis is itself misguided:  drama is, at its core, about
relationships.  Attempts to slice a character out of his or her context
within a play and to stand that character up as an independent psychological
entity serves only to create a "counter-character," a separate creation only
distantly related to that of the playwright.  We want to identify with these
characters, but the farther we extrapolate from their text, the more our
pictures of them become merely self-portraits.
 
It is only through the _interactions_ of these individual characters
(not "individuals) that they come alive:  we come to know them _through_
those same interactions.  Gertrude Stein caught it exactly in her
essay, "Plays":
 
        I came to think that since each one is that one and that there
        are a number of them each one being that one, the only way to
        express this thing each one being that one and there being a
        number of them knowing each other was in a play.
 
If we remove them from that nest of interactions, they cease to exist.
Hamlet is no less than "chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son" -- but
also, no more.
 
(Which suggests what I think about attempts to psychoanalyze him or
Lady Macbeth or Lear.)
 
Jim Schaefer

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Dobson <U63495@UICVM>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 94 12:10:07 CST
Subject: 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
Re: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
In response to Marie-Katie Lindsey's query about Gertrude and Ophelia,
reluctant as I am to aid and abet a Jungian reading of anything, there are
interesting portraits of Ophelia -- both visual and literary -- in Mary
Cowden-Clarke's *Girlhoods of Shakespeare's Heroines* (the date of which I have
scandalously forgotten -- c.1870). There is some useful criticism in Marianne
Novy's anthology *Women's Re-Visions of Shakespeare* (c.1990).
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Luc Borot <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 1994 19:59:45 +0100
Subject: 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
Reply to: Desperately Seeking Ophelia and Gertrude
 
Mary Katie,
 
You ask in your first question about other portraits of your two case-studies,
and here are my suggestions:
 
I think there was a discussion some months ago (or about a year ago) on this
list concerning the portraits. If there is a possibility to search the texts of
the logbooks of SHAKSPER (HARDY THIS IS A QUESTION TO YOU FOR US ALL!!) you
might obtain the information. I personally can't remember the answers that were
given then. I know of a literary version, Brecht's "Ertrunkene Maegdchen" (the
drowned maid) is an echo to other German poems on the Ophelia theme, in close
connection with the pictorial versions. I can try to look them up in one of my
old student-days German poetry anthologies if you're interested.
 
As regards your second question, which ends on the problem of male domination
or dependency, there was an interesting scenic treatment of it at the RST in
Stratford last Spring, dir. Adrian Noble, starring K Brannagh, Joanne Pearce as
Ophelia and Jane Lapotaire as Gertrude. In an interview with Brannagh, I
obtained the interesting answer that their interpretation of the Hamlet-
Ophelia relationship for that particular production was that they had got
seriously involved sexually. There is a reciprocal relationship in that case
and no H>O domination. That Gertrude is dominated by Claudius is obvious at the
beginning, but here retreat into devotion after the death of Polonius marks a
strong breach and a kind of independence of spirit, in its own kind of course,
and not very active.
 
As regards your 3rd query, I would like to remind you that the best portrayals
of dramatic characters are their theatrical embodiments on a stage. Nothing can
go beyond this: that's what they were meant for in the first place.
 
I hope this helps. Nb 44 (Oct 93) of *Cahiers Elisabethains* includes several
papers around *Hamlet* performance criticism, started in a Folger seminar of
1993 by Jean-Marie Maguin and Lois Potter. One of the contributors is Ann J.
Cook; I apologize to the others I don't remember just now.
 
Yours,
Luc
 
[To Luc et al.:  LISTSERV does have a Database Function; unfortunately, I have
not as yet figured out how to use it.  Instead, I suggest that you first search
the Discussion Indexes, which are organized by year (DISCUSS INDEX_1, 2, 3, 4,
5).  Then you can either ordered appropriate logs from LISTSERV with the GET
command or read the logs on the University of Toronto's GOPHER server (VM) and
mail desired logs to yourself.  By the way, SHAKSPER's logs are now organized
by weeks of the month.  Thus SHAKSPER LOG9402D, the current log, contains the
discusion of the fourth week of February 1994.  --HMC]
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 1994 20:10:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.01445  Q: Ophelia and Gertrude
 
First, you may wish to look at Julia Dietrich's HAMLET bibliography, too.
Second, check Herbert R. Coursen's THE COMPENSATORY PSYCHE: A JUMGIAN APPROACH
TO SHAKESPEARE.
 
Bill Godshalk
 

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