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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: March ::
Gertrude done her in?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0220  Tuesday, 27 March 2007

[1] 	From: 	J. Richard Forbing <
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	Date: 	Friday, 23 Mar 2007 13:21:14 -0700
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?

[2] 	From: 	S. L Kasten <
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	Date: 	Sunday, 25 Mar 2007 22:33:12 +0200
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?

[3] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Monday, 26 Mar 2007 13:27:25 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		J. Richard Forbing <
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Date: 		Friday, 23 Mar 2007 13:21:14 -0700
Subject: 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?

I believe the implication here is that Gertrude lies and says it was a 
suicide, to hide the fact that she was complicit in Ophelia's death. It 
has always struck me as suspicious that Gertrude has such a precise 
series of images describing Ophelia's death, a process that seemed to 
take some time, yet neither she nor anyone else took action to stop her. 
If you could see the whole thing that well, why wouldn't you do something?

--Jeremy Forbing

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[Editor's Note: _Hamlet_'s a play; not life. Nobody saw Ophelia die 
because Ophelia did not die. Gertrude's character reported the death of 
Ophelia. Readers of texts might imply that Gertrude lied to cover-up a 
suicide in some imagined backstory. But Ophelia still did not die, let 
alone commit suicide. An actor preparing the part of Gertrude might find 
it useful to imagine that Gertrude watched Ophelia drown, that Gertrude 
watched Ophelia commit suicide, that Gertrude did Ophelia in to keep her 
quiet about Hamlet's getting her pregnant, that Gertrude and Ophelia 
were representatives from an advanced civilization originating from 
beyond Ursa Minor. But only the last conjecture seems of any use to me. 
To paraphrase Dr. Freud, sometimes a speech is just a speech, sometimes 
a well-educated son of the mayor from the midlands who attended Latin 
Grammar School there did indeed write plays and poems attributed to him. 
-Hardy]

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		S. L Kasten <
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Date: 		Sunday, 25 Mar 2007 22:33:12 +0200
Subject: 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?

From: Louis Swilley

 >>But it's all there in the archives, and in thetext as well. You could
 >look it up!
 >>
 >I did look it up, and thanks. But if Ophelia's hands are tied in this
 >production, this was murder; how can she be declared a suicide?

Actually, she was not declared a suicide. The coroner found it not to be 
so, for his finding allowed a Christian burial. One presumes he declared 
it death by misadventure or some such.

It was the grave-diggers who concluded that the death was a suicide. 
"If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out of 
a Christian burial."  Nowadays one might say figuratively about the rich 
that they can get away with murder.  The clowns in their innocence could 
not imagine such a metaphor, let alone suspect murder as being thinkable 
in nobility.

Best wishes,
Syd Kasten

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Monday, 26 Mar 2007 13:27:25 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0214 Gertrude done her in?

May I offer Anti-thesis to Syd Kasten's provocative Thesis implicating 
Gertrude in Ophelia's watery exit?

Earlier (SHK 17.0038), I noted the demonic miasma permeating this 
tragedy, thwarting any fruitful intimacy between Hamlet and Ophelia ( 
http:www.shaksper.net/archives/2006/0037.html ).

How exceptional does Gertrude appear, yearning for wedded union between 
her beloved Hamlet and artless Ophelia! ("I hope thou shouldst have been 
my Hamlet's wife"). Unlike the others who sow only suspicion and 
distrust, the Queen, like Yahweh, clearly believes in companionship of 
man and maid, as succor and helpmate on life's journey. ("And for your 
part, Ophelia, I do wish/ That your good beauties be the happy cause/ Of 
Hamlet's wildness. So shall I hope your virtues/ Will bring him to his 
wonted way again,/ To both your honors.")

Indeed, many believe the Greek "opheleia" (meaning "aid, help, succour") 
or the Greek "ophelos" (meaning "advantage, profit") the primary source 
behind the name. Guilfoyle (1980) hears an echo of the Digby Magdalen 
play and its theme of mistaken innocence, with Ophelia now representing 
"ower swete sokor" Mary's purer half. She links the name to the Greek 
"ophelian megistan" ("greatest succour"), from a fragment of a lost play 
by Euripides on Alcmaeon, an Orestes figure, bent on avenging his dead 
father Amphiaraus (yet another fully armoured revenant from the grave).

   Others hear in Ophelia's name:
   --- the innocent white-clad "Apheleia" ("Simplicity") from Jonson's 
CYNTHIA'S REVELS;
   ---"Delia" from Paterno's LE NUOVE FIAMME;
   ---"Ofelia" from Sannazaro's ARCADIA (its origin perhaps from 
Horace's "Ofellus"); ----"Offaly/Ofelia", an Irish place name, per our 
member Lisa Hopkins;
   ---"OfHeL'Ya", Hebrew for "anyhow she is to God" according to 
Florence Amit;
   ---a Greek variant of the old Danish serpent "Ormilda";
   ---or finally "op-helion", variant of the astral "aphelion", meaning 
away from or opposite the Sun (did Ophelia walk too much in the Sun?).

I wonder though if Shakespeare also has I CORINTHIANS VII.36-40 in mind. 
The issues therein are strikingly germane to Ophelia's (and Gertrude's) 
situation:

   v.36: "But if any man think that it's uncomely for his virgin, if she 
pass the flower of her age, & [g] need [Gk: opheilei] so require, let 
him do what he will, he sinneth not; let them be married."
   v.37: "Nevertheless, he that standeth firm in his heart, that he hath 
no need, but hath [i] power over his will, & hath so decreed in his 
heart, that he will keep his virgin, he doeth well."
   v.38: "So then he that giveth her to marriage, doeth well, but he 
that giveth her not to marriage, doeth better.
   v.39: "The wife is bound by the [l] law, as long as her husband 
liveth: but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to marry with whom 
she will, only in the Lord."
   v.40: "But she is more blessed, if she abide in my judgement: and I 
think that I have also the Spirit of God."

   Selected superscript notes:
   [g]-"That is, that she shall marry to avoid fornication."
   [i]-"For the father's will depends on his children in this point: in 
so much as he is bound to have respect to their infirmity, neither can 
he require of them singleness, if they have not the gift of God so to live."
   [l]-"Of matrimony."
   [Modernized quotes from 1560 Geneva Bible]

The Greek "opheili" can also suggest debt or obligation. Does gentle 
Ophelia's death pay the debt of a sinful world? Is she both its innocent 
victim and redemptive sacrifice? Does Gertrude overpay for her 
"o'erhasty" marriage? Must we also fall prey to the atmosphere of 
suspicion--the Spirit of the Night-- rotting Denmark? Can't the slain 
Gertrude and her virtuous Ophelia escape even our added calumny?

Syd Kasten et al, let them rest in peace.

Joe Egert

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