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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: March ::
Re: Ophelia's Contraceptive/Rue
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0283.  Wednesday, 30 March 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Karla Walters <KWALTERS@UNMB.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Mar 1994 07:13 MST
        Subj:   Ophelia's contraceptive
 
(2)     From:   Bernice W. Kliman <KLIMANB%
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 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Mar 1994 11:25 EDT
        Subj:   Ophelia's rue
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karla Walters <KWALTERS@UNMB.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 29 Mar 1994 07:13 MST
Subject:        Ophelia's contraceptive
 
The idea that Ophelia needed/used/lacked rue as a contraceptive is certainly
one that would appeal to some of my students.  Invariably each semester one of
them wonders if Ophelia is pregnant.  They surmise this because Laertes has
told her to protect her "chaste treasure" from Hamlet, and because she does
sing the song about the abandoned maid who is maid no longer.  At  the least,
they suspect Ophelia has slept with Hamlet.  If I tell them the rue Ophelia
keeps for herself has implications of abortive/contraceptive qualities, won't
this clinch the argument in my students' minds?  I have been telling them there
is no clear evidence that Ophelia lost her virginity to Hamlet.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bernice W. Kliman <KLIMANB%
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 29 Mar 1994 11:25 EDT
Subject:        Ophelia's rue
 
Perhaps it's time to correct a common idea?   When I saw the letter Jim
Schaefer quotes from the New York Times, I wanted to respond but missed the
chance.  On SHAKSPER, though, I think it's important to state that there is no
Stage Direction indicating that Ophelia extends the rue to the Queen.
Gertrude's last line in the scene is "But not by him" (TLN 2875). With this
line, Gertrude has wittingly (in some productions) or unwittingly (in others)
exposed her son to Laertes's revenge. Since the scene marks no exit for her,
and since she speaks not at all during Ophelia's flower scene, a production
could have her rush out right after this line as she realizes her mistake. The
offering of rue comes at TLN 2933.  A little later, Claudius is saying "where
th'offence is, let the great Axe fall" (TLN 2970).  To avoid letting Gertrude
hear this line, most editors and productions have her exit with Ophelia, at TLN
2950: F1 has "exeunt Ophelia" at this line, which offers some justification for
Gertrude's exit there, though the use of "exit" and "exeunt" is sufficiently
mixed up so that nothing definite, I think, can be claimed.  Q2 has no exit
direction for Ophelia, while Q1 has "exit Ofelia."  Sorry to go at such length.
 It was, in fact, only after I played Gertrude in this scene that I realized
that her last speech was 30 lines before Ophelia's entrance.
 
Cheers,
Bernice W. Kliman
 

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