Act 4 Scene 7 Lines 162-194
* Gertrude enters with tragic news : Ophelia, mad with grief, has drowned in the nearby stream. * Laertes flees the room in agony, followed by Claudius who is afraid that Laertes’s calmed rage will be renewed with the news of Ophelia’s death. Ophelia:
Willow ≡ traditional symbol of forsaken love.
Garland of willow ≡ lover makes when his/her beloved has left him/her. L.169-171
Daisy ≡ dissembling (disintegrating)
Nettles sting, “long purples” which have a “grosser name” ≡ almost certainly sexual. Seems like a woman who has been driven mad by lost love, rather than by the death of her father. Ophelia drowning amid her garlands of flowers is one of the most enduring images in the play. It has been represented countless times by artists and poets. Ophelia is associated with flower imagery: Act 1 Scene 3 L.7: “A violet in the youth of primy nature” (Laertes) Act 4 Scene 5 L.38: “Larded all with sweet flowers”.
Fragile beauty the flowers resembles Ophelia’s own fragile beauty ≡ her nascent sexuality and doomed innocence. She is represented as a chaste, innocent, obedient, bewildered little girl, seeing the family and Hamlet treat her. In scene 5 we saw
In her mad scene and in her drowning scene she demonstrates the cultural pressure of a young woman of her time. She is forced to the impossible position of simultaneous chastity and sexualization. L.178-179: Evidence of suicide: she acts like someone who doesn’t realize the danger she is in, or like someone completely accustomed to danger. Faced with the reality of premarital sex and a manless future (Hamlet rejecting of her, her father’s death, and her judgmental brother being in France (long-term stay) she recognized no other solution but suicide. The male response to tragedy is to seek revenge. Ophelia, who cannot act, being a woman, opts for suicide. Ophelia’s suicide suggests her being pregnant as in the 16th and 17th century, the conventional suicide...
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