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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: July ::
Ophelia and the Nunnery (Again)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1410  Monday, 12 July 2004

From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Friday, 09 Jul 2004 14:06:24 -0400
Subject:        Ophelia and the Nunnery (Again)

I know that we have (many times) discussed Ophelia's possible pregnancy
and Hamlet's command: "Get thee to a nunnery" (Jenkins, Arden3,
3.1.121), and I have searched the Shaksper archive looking for an answer
to my question. I have also skimmed Jenkins's notes.

Is there any evidence from the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries that
pregnant, upper-class women were sent to convents to have their
children? I, of course, know Boccaccio's humorous stories of pregnant
nuns and convents filled with children. But I'm wondering if there is
any solid historical evidence of this hypothetical practice. I seem to
recall that there is.

Of course, if Hamlet is commanding Ophelia to go to a nunnery to have
her child, we would have to reinterpret his following lines.

Bill Godshalk

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