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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Hamlet/Ophelia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1095.  Thursday, 30 October 1997.

[1]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Oct 1997 08:58:01 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1092  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Oct 1997 12:54:21 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 8.1092  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia

[3]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Oct 1997 19:59:19 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1088 Q: Hamlet/Ophelia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Oct 1997 08:58:01 -0500
Subject: 8.1092  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1092  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia

What makes Laertes jump into Ophelia's grave is not love but guilt.

Ophelia did not die immediately after her father's murder. There was an
interval long enough for all of Hamlet's England adventure. Where was
Laertes? Rushing to his sister's side as soon as the news reached him?
Well no. It takes time to gather an army. And don't forget he didn't
plan to rely on simple force of arms either. He also stopped for a vial
of poison.  While he was turning his father's death into a career
opportunity, Ophelia had no one. She loved her father's killer. If
Laertes had an obligation to avenge his father, as Hamlet did, what was
Ophelia's obligation? To hate where she loved? If you couldn't hate your
father's murderer, and knew you must, wouldn't you rather be dead before
you saw him again? Before you faced your brother?

Laertes abandoned his sister when she needed his forgiveness. Hamlet
abandoned her when she needed his love.

Come to think of it, it was guilt that sent both those fellows over the
edge of the grave.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Oct 1997 12:54:21 -0500
Subject: Re: Hamlet/Ophelia
Comment:        SHK 8.1092  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia

When Hamlet leaps into Ophelia's grave he's emphasising once more a
disconcerting relationship between funerals and marriages that runs
throughout this play. At the level of a connection between death and
sex, it also features in others (e.g. Antony's 'I will be a bridegroom
in my death, and run into't /As to a lover's bed'.).  However, such
conjunctions are by no means limited to Shakespeare.  That a place of
extinction (a grave)  should be capable of metaphorical linkage with a
place of generation (a bed) tells us a lot about a wholesale reinvention
of death that the culture at large had embarked upon. This and much more
is brilliantly explored in Michael Neill's fascinating new book 'Issues
of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy' (OUP).

T. Hawkes

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Oct 1997 19:59:19 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.1088 Q: Hamlet/Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1088 Q: Hamlet/Ophelia

Hope this response isn't too late-it has been my understanding that it's
not so much being threatened by Laertes' love, as being appalled by the
extremity of its expression.

Hamlet comes to the graveyard to be alone with Horatio-it's my strong
impression that, if it weren't for the funeral, he'd remain in hiding
until it was time for him to go to the castle and take his revenge.
What draws him out from his hiding place is the spectacle of Laertes
putting on what he believes to be a ridiculously extreme show of
affection-"what wouldst thou do for her?" and what follows, culminating
in the image of great Mount Ossa reduced to a wart, indicates to me he
thinks Laertes is being insincere.

Andy White
Arlington, VA
 

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