so is ophelia weak or what? : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

okay guys i got one for you ophelia seems so weak in kenneth branagh's hamlet and i think that she freaks out and goes nuts because ya her dad gets killed but also because there is no longer anyone there to tell her what to do...can anyone else help me out her and give me what you think about it....and i don't want to hear anything about how her madness as to do with Hamlet going mad....if i hear that i swear i will vomit...thanks

-- erin (, December 18, 2001


I'm so glad to hear that somebody else feels nauseated at the thought that after 400 years people are still arguing that Hamlet is m**.

If I had to bound it in a nutshell ( half the critics of the world misquote the text, so why the hell shouldn't I?), I should say that Ophelia goes mad because of a general inability to cope with this carking, catastrophic mess we call life.

But I don't. So I'll add (and you just don't have to read it):

* as far as she can see, the man she loves, Hamlet, has proved "unkind" (that is, unkind in our sense; and also unlike himself as he was before the ghost showed up, ie unnatural) * SHE is convinced that the man she loves, Hamlet, is mad (no, I'm not; and he isn't; but she thinks he is: see III.i.149-160) * in III.ii.107-246, in between playing nuts and villifying her and womankind, Hamlet lets on he still desires her * daddy is murdered * daddy is murdered by the man she loves * up till now daddy has dictated her young life (along with, probably, some advice from brother Laertes: see I.iii) * no one has realized that she loved Hamlet: they all say her madness is caused "all" by daddy's death * she's a loyal, loving little soul, and all the people she loves - and possibly the only one who seemed once to understand her (Hamlet) - are all gone away * she has no one to turn to, not even a female Horatio

How would you feel? A trifle on the edge?

Is she weak? Well sort of: let's face it, any girl with a bit of gumption would have handed Hamlet a note explaining why she couldn't see him, rather than giving back his love tokens. Actually I thought Kate Winslet was the spunkiest Ophelia I've seen (certainly, to get into bed with Kenneth Branagh under the nose of domineering father and king spy Richard Briars was bloody genius!).

Her mad songs mingle a lover figure who has abandoned her and a father figure who is dead (and if anybody says that's because her father was abusing her I swear I will vomit). In her madness she is thinking of both Hamlet and Polonius but doesn't clearly demarcate the two.

We know from OTHELLO that in the period when HAMLET was written a woman's first duty is owed to her husband. If she is not married it is owed absolutely to her father. (OTHELLO I.iii.179-188. No good kicking at the traces girls: that's just the way it was.) Ophelia just obeys the rules.

And everybody in the play suffers through what we in our age of relationship analysis call communication breakdown.

Actually I think she's not so much weak, as honest to a fault. But then, perhaps that's what makes her the perfect love for Hamlet.

Did she commit suicide (by knowingly not trying to save herself when she falls in the water)? Well possibly, but then how can we know what a mad person knows: perhaps she really was "incapable of her own distress" (IV.vii.177).

But should we blame her if she did? There are times in many people's lives when the undiscovered country can seem particularly attractive. Most people don't act on them; a few do; and a few just don't try to avoid the gate if it opens itself in front of them. Suicide is never considered the coward's or weak person's way out in the play. It's a matter of free will, honour and religion. And these really are private questions for the individual conscience.

-- catherine england (, December 19, 2001.

Ok this is going to be short. We are reading this crap for like the 50th time in class and we came up with some good answers. Whether HAMLET has really gone mad or not doesn't really matter as far as I can see. I think what happened is he had showed her all that love. Gone to bed with her and all that good mess and she thought everything was fine. But HAMLET having to pretend like he was MAD and what have you he wasn't capable of showing Ophelia the right affection that she deserved. She was going ape shit because one minute HAMLET is all hott and pationate with her and now he has to be cold to her just so no one will know what is going on. She just didn't know what to do since the love of her life wasn't giving her anymore SEX. Nothing more. ;)

L8ta On PEACE* B-) Guy

-- Guy Seamster (, April 23, 2002.

Don't get me wrong: I love the Kenneth Branagh version. But that presentation aside, are we sure Hamlet and Ophelia were having SEX?

WS usually defines his characters a great deal by what is said about them. As far as I can see, there are numerous references in the text, encoded and obvious, to Ophelia as chaste, honest, virtuous and virgin. At that time, chastity, honesty and virtue mean no sex before marriage or outside of it. Virgin means virgin. See I.iii.29-40; I.iii.110-111; I.iii.121, ‘maiden’; III.i.38-42; III.i.103-118, Hamlet would hardly suggest she were honest and virtuous if he knew she was not; IV.v.157-159; IV.vii.26-29; V.i.234-235, 241-243, 245-248.

There is only her Valentine’s Day song in IV.v to suggest she might have had SEX with Hamlet; and she is mad when she sings that. It is twisted truth, as is the song before it.

That doesn't mean she doesn't love him though. IV.v, and the willow and flower garland references in IV.vii.165-172, I think show us for sure that she does, right up to her death. Compare WS's Sonnet 116: 'Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments. Love is not love/ Which alters when it alteration finds ...'. She keeps right on loving him, even though she thinks him mad, finds him changed - 'unkind' (III.i.101) in the sense of not natural, ie. not as he used to be. She's not a happy girl, but probably as much as anything because the love is never fulfilled.

-- catherine england (, April 23, 2002.

Royal people had nothing to do other than to have sex until gone mad due to VD? All these characters are at the border.

-- eric cameo (nojoda 1, July 15, 2002.

Yet Ophelia most probably hasn't had sex. Actually I don't think Hamlet has either, at least until after III.i.

But on the whole, I do think it would be better for everyone concerned if Claudius went mad.

-- catherine england (, July 18, 2002.

ophelia is firstly presented as a innocent girl not aware of such things as sex etc but if you read the part where she is singing you will realise that she actually talks about losing her virginity.

-- (, December 17, 2002.

That she talks about the losing of virginity doesn't mean that she herself has, only that she understands the workings and even knows some scurrilous songs about them. It is in this respect that she is not innocent. It also means that, since she is mad, that she has lost any sense of inhibition with regard to talking about it, which was previously impressed on her by social convention and propriety.

Of course, she is mad, so what she says has no directly, coherently truthful meaning within the dialogue of the scene. But I don't think anyone will deny that it all has intra-textual meaning in the context of the play as a whole. And it's all much more complicated and sad than simply, 'Hamlet had me and dumped me'.

Her first song is warped from the hauntingly beautiful “As you came from the holy land”, a ballad in the form of a dialogue between two people. The folowing version comes from Norman Ault (ed.), "Elizabethan Lyrics: From the Original Texts", Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1925, pp. 278-279, and is attributed to Raleigh. (The lines probably won't come out right.) The main speaker in the poem is male. The pilgrim figure was sometimes used in poetry as an image for a lover, as in ROMEO AND JULIET when Romeo meets Juliet in I.v.90-107. Note the use of the word 'nymph' - Hamlet addresses Ophelia as 'Nymph' in III.i. ‘Love’ in stanzas 8-9 is personified as the boy-god of love, Cupid, son of Venus.

As you came from the holy land Of Walsingham, Met you not with my true Love By the way you came?

‘How shall I know your true Love, That have met with many one, As I went to the holy land, That have come, that have gone?’

She is neither white, nor brown, But as the heavens fair; There is none hath a form so divine In the earth or the air.

Such a one did I meet, good sir! Such an angelic face, Who, like a queen, like a nymph, did appear, By her gait, by her grace.’

She hath left me here all alone, All alone, as unknown, Who sometimes did me lead with herself, And me loved as her own.

‘What’s the cause that she leaves you alone, And a new way doth take, Who loved you once as her own, And her joy did you make?’

I have loved her all my youth; But now old, as you see, Love likes not the falling fruit From the withered tree.

Know that Love is a careless child, And forgets promise past; He is blind, he is deaf when he list, And in faith never fast

His desire is a dureless content, And a trustless joy; He is won with a world of despair, And is lost with a toy.

Of womenkind such indeed is the love, Or the word love abused, Under which many childish desires And conceits are excused.

But true love is a durable fire, In the mind ever burning, Never sick, never old, never dead, From itself never turning.

The implication, in this poem occurring to Ophelia's mad mind, is that she feels some sort of sense of guilt that SHE abandoned Hamlet. But as she warps it, she also adds reference to her own father's death and burial, and, since the song is insistingly sung to Gertrude, to Old King Hamlet's death and Gertrude's swift turn to Claudius - in effect, an abandonment of her first husband.

There is a wealth of meaning inlines 42-44 which I've had a look at under the question in this forum, "Sexual experience of Ophelia". Basically, it's Ophelia in 'ministering angel' mode, recognizing her own, Gertrude's and Claudius' sins and mistakes, and suggesting a comforting doctrine that forgiveness for wrongs can come from one's own faith and right-doing, without any need for confession to and absolution from priestly intermediaries between the individual and God.

Her 'Valentine's Day' song is apparently no longer extant anywhere else. Perhaps WS has given us an original. It is certainly about somebody losing her purity. I believe, as I explained under "Sexual experience of Ophelia" in this forum, that Ophelia is and dies a virgin, and that a part of her deep grief is that her love for Hamlet is unfulfilled. The "Valentine's Day" song fits into this in that it shows her mad mind working around a tale depicting the act of love-making and the unfulfillment of an undertaking of marriage. But furthermore, the song is sung to Claudius in response to his 'Conceit upon her father': it was Claudius who stripped Gertrude of her purity by bringing her to commit incest. (Incidentally, I think Branagh and Jacobi picked that up well in the film, with Claudius trying to forcibly catch and stop Ophelia from finishing the song.)

-- catherine england (, December 17, 2002.

in the same way that people who have no conscious way or will to express what they authentically are, often develope physical maladies to force their truth to come to the surfice; ophelia only permits herself to speak her own mind in madness. given the circumstances of the times, i mean, they probed her dead body to determine if she could have an honorable funereal service which was dependant upon her chastity. this was a culture who took virginity very seriously. the queen,elizabeth, even had to parade herself as a virgin to maintain her personal power. ophelia goes from having found her true love (and stumbling into a queen's destiny in the process) to becoming the equivillant of a spinster/untouchable with an incredibly limited facility for self expression. what could possibly become of ophelia's life at this point? between sorrow and hopeless despair and guilt? and a need to speak the truth? and she still spends very few of her words on herself. her focus is often on the big picture. what will serve the whole. i don't see that as weak. she is heroic. i see her story as a tragedy. and a reflection of what is ill about the society it was presented to. which is the ultimate function of theater.

-- lisa (, May 16, 2003.

I utterly believe that Hamlet and Ophelia HAD had sex. This is suggested by Hamlet's behaviour toward her in the much- misunderstood "Nunnery Scene".

-- Patrick Walker (, May 18, 2003.

You're gonna have to explain that; or I'm gonna say you misunderstand III.i.

-- catherine england (, May 18, 2003.

Well, I think I explained the scene how I believe Shakespeare intended it to be taken not so long ago in another thread. However, we both obviously have VERY different and strong opinions on the matter of this scene. You take Hamlet's behaviour as stemming from the realisation that he is being watched and Ophelia's "lie". I take it as a disturbing and truthful study of Hamlet's changing attitude toward Ophelia as determined by his feeling toward womankind and from his "sex nausea". So anyway, my opinion on the workings of this scene go with the idea that the two HAD had sex. If you want me to unravel my opinion out in greater length then I will, but I can't be arsed at the moment.

-- Patrick Walker (, May 18, 2003.

Well, yes, I would like you to. You know, all the nitty gritty stuff like quotes and so on that tells you they had. In the whole play. Just because I only find evidence that they hadn't. Actually my understanding of the scene doesn't rest only on Hamlet realizing he's being watched. But it does seem clear that his view of Ophelia changes abruptly, around about the line 'Where's your father?', to one that clearly recognizes she is being deceitful, not being 'honest' with him, where before he had been trying to protect her virtuousness fom him.

Also, I'd draw your attention to the line in his 'To be ... ' soliloquy at the start of the scene, 'A consummation devoutly to be wished: To die ... .' We all know what 'die' means in Elizabethan pun-speak.

There is the danger with this scene of taking particular things that Hamlet says in thirty seconds of anger and frustration as generalizations about his whole philosophy and view of life. I don't think he is 'sex-nauseous', just nauseous at the idea of his mother having sex with his uncle. Equally, things he says to Ophelia towards the end of the scene do not reflect what he really thinks about womankind. He's lost his temper. And note that in III.iv, once he has persuaded his mother that she must give up Claudius, he thereater treats her with all the respect due to his mother and the Queen. Hamlet is no bigot nor misogynist. Neither does he really turn against the whole of mankind because of his experiences with Claudius's, Polonius's, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's deceits, though he does suffer moments of depression and disillusionment that 'man delights not' him.

-- catherine england (, May 18, 2003.

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