Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Hamlet and Ophelia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0441.  Thursday, 10 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Dale Lyles <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Apr 1997 17:53:08 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0434 Re: Hamlet and Ophelia

[2]     From:   Susan Keegan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Apr 1997 17:35:49 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0434  Re: Hamlet and Ophelia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 9 Apr 1997 17:53:08 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0434 Re: Hamlet and Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0434 Re: Hamlet and Ophelia

I've never thought deeply about motivations in Hamlet, but I had thought
that Hamlet went to Ophelia to begin his madness thing in a way that was
sure to be reported.  Was it more than that?

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan Keegan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 9 Apr 1997 17:35:49 -0800
Subject: 8.0434  Re: Hamlet and Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0434  Re: Hamlet and Ophelia

I think everyone is missing the boat on Ophelia.  Consider the phrase,
"Frailty, they name is woman."  We have already seen Ophelia bow to
pressure from both her brother and father, including handing over her
mail to Polonius.  Perhaps what makes women frail in this context is not
their natures, but their subservient position in life, which meant that
they were literally unable to keep their own confidences.  In this
light, had Hamlet entrusted Ophelia with his secret, it would follow
automatically that Polonius would be told. It is not a measure of her
fickleness, but of her powerlessness, which is also what makes her spurn
Hamlet's words and letters.  She is acting under strict command in a
world where women were given no choice but to obey.

Thus, her frailty is no sin of character.  Neither is the next frailty
with which Hamlet taxes Ophelia-that she may breed more children.  In a
play obsessed with death we obviously would have to deal with women's
role in bringing life into being, and thus setting all humankind on a
path that can only end in death.  Hamlet is so beside himself at this
point in the play that the thought of anyone else being made to suffer
throught life as he has is too much.  Hence, no more breeding.  Hamlet
is not making an accusation against Ophelia, but against life itself.

Neither of these incidents, to my mind, either indicts Ophelia as
corrupt or convicts Hamlet of misogyny.  Ophelia is a captive of her age
and culture.  She is entirely innocent - indeed the imagery of the play
demands this, or her death would not presage the end of all that is good
and natural in Elsinore.  Hamlet can love her, can know she loves him,
and still understand that she is powerless to keep his confidences.  If
he was unsure, his question, "where's your father" makes it perfectly
clear.  He can even sympathize with her plight as an unmarried woman,
knowing that he, too, is powerless to help her.  And he can still look
into her eyes and find absolution.

Susan Keegan
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.