The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0895 Monday, 24 April 2000.
Date: Saturday, 22 Apr 2000 22:02:45 +0900
As one most of whose grandchildren refuse to address in a language other
than Hebrew I feel qualified to comment on Florence Amit's glosses on
names in Shakespeare. I feel that her method of dissection does
violence both to English and to Hebrew. My own feeling is that her
prospecting has yielded pyrites of iron rather than true gold. Her
method, as I understand it could apply to any language : Ophelia = op +
helia which in Greek would imply "eye" and the "sun" and would therefore
related to the idea of the sun breeding maggots in a dead dog or however
it goes. My own pet example of this method: Mao Tse Tung =MoShe Cohen.
In all seriousness, if someone out there is doing a thesis on the
derivation of Ophelia's name he might consider the following for the
sake of completion.
The word "ophel" exists in Hebrew in to separate spellings. In one the
opening letter is the "aleph" while the other begins with an "ayin".
Among Jews whose wondering has brought them through Europe the
distinction has been lost, whereas among North African and Jews of the
Middle and Near East the the pronunciation of the words is distinct.
Each of these words could be seen as relevant to Ophelia
Ophel beginning with an ayin refers to a high defended place, The
implication in the Scriptures is to "Jerusalem". Your tourist map of
Jerusalem may indicate the road along the south wall of the Temple Mount
as the Ophell Road or Way, leading as it does to the ridge on which sat
Ophel beginning with an aleph implies darkness and the dismal.
The reader can make of this what he will in terms of congruence with the
situation and personality of our heroine.
And one more thought about a play on these words: The ridge called the
Ophel is defined by the upper reaches of the Kidron Valley on the east
and by the Tyropoean Valley on the west. On far side of the Kidron
looms the Mount of Olives, while to the west we have Mount Zion. These
two mountains keep the Ophel (with an ayin) in the shade -"aphela"
(with an aleph) for much of the morning on the one hand and in the late
afternoon on the other.
I apologize for not giving references: I am away from my sources as I
write this. If anyone is interested he/she may drop me a note.
Oh yes! I believe it reasonable to think that Shakespeare the wordsmith
knew Hebrew, living in Protestant times as he did (whether he
collaborated on KJV or not)