Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0316.  Thursday, 25 April 1996.

From:           Patricia Ann King <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 1996 08:35:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Ophelia's Pregnancy [Retreiving Past Discussions]

In our research we have come across references that indicate that Ophelia was
pregnant, that the father could have been Hamlet or Claudius, that she
committed suicide because of the pregnancy and that Gertrude asked Polonius to
keep his daughter away from Hamlet because she feared pregnancy.  What are the
sources for this information?  Cliff notes simply say this whole idea of
pregnancy is unfounded and erroneous.  Is it or isn't it?

[Editor's Note: In February, there was a very similar question -- did Hamlet
and Ophelia have sexual relations?  This question primed an on-going discussion
regarding "character."  John Drakakis and Terence Hawkes argued that we should
not look at "characters" as if they were real persons:

In SHK 7.0101, John Drakakis wrote,

>I fail to understand the need to treat Ophelia as a real person.  Whether she
>is pregnant or not is about as irrelevant as whether Gertrude and Claudius had
>a clandestine affair before the death of Old Hamlet, or whether Lady Macbeth
>had any children (and how many).

>The assumption is that when Ophelia speaks what is a disturbing series of
>verses, that it is the autonomous consciousness Ophelia who is speaking, and
>that she is referring to her own private history.  I see no reason to believe
>that she is.

In SHK 7.0105, Terence Hawkes concluded,

>The theory shared by a number of MY colleagues is that Hamlet and Ophelia had
>textual relations.

Others in the debate distinguished between textual and performative characters
-- characters in texts and characters in performances.  The issue even became
a Forum at the recent Sixth World Shakespeare Congress in Los Angeles with
Terence Hawkes as convenor and papers by William Dodd and Christy Desmet.

To retreive this most recent round of discussion on character, send the
following commands to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

                                                        -- Hardy M. Cook

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