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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: June ::
Bowdlers on Death of Ophelia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0611  Friday, 30 June 2006

From: 		Cris Smith <
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Date: 		Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 14:52:48 -0300
Subject: 	Bowdlers on Death of Ophelia

Dear All,

I have been working on bowdlerized versions of Hamlet to find out how 
different texts describe Ophelia's death in the nineteenth century and 
am rather puzzled.

I have compared The Family Shakespeare to the Arden edition and can't 
find the many infamous expurgations commonly attributed to the Bowdlers. 
A part from a couple of lines cut from Gertrude's description of the 
accident, everything else remains pretty much the same.

Why, then, do many claim that the Bowdlers only euphemistically refer to 
Ophelia's death as an accidental drowning rather than the suicide 
implied by Shakespeare?  The grave diggers' words have not been modified 
and neither have Laertes' to the "churlish priest", hence the 
insinuation is clear.

Could it be that the 1st editions, probably written by Henrietta, were 
more radical in relation to Ophelia than the later ones? (I should add 
that the Family Shakespeare edition I have was published in 1861).

I would be very grateful indeed if a good soul could help me - no 
libraries here in Brazil have The Family Shakespeare, therefore I cannot 
compare mine to earlier editions.

Many thanks and best wishes,
Cris Smith.

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