Applying Showalter’s Idea’s to Branagh's Film of Hamlet

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Applying Showalter’s Idea’s to Branagh's Film Version of Hamlet Elaine Showalter begins her essay, Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism, by criticizing analyses of Shakespeare's Hamlet that have virtually ignored the character of Ophelia in the past. The feminist critic argues that Ophelia is an important character in her own right, not just a foil to Hamlet. Further, she says that Ophelia's story is important to tell from a feminist perspective because it allows Ophelia to upstage Hamlet, and that this re-telling can be done by tracing the iconography of Ophelia in visual art, theater, movies, and even psychiatric theory. Showalter's essay revolves around three linked themes. She believes that society's iconography of Ophelia demonstrates the cultural bonds between female sexuality and female insanity, and she thinks also that this iconography shows the historical exchange between psychiatric theory and the representation of Ophelia in culture. Finally, Showalter traces the ways in which actresses have portrayed Ophelia on stage throughout the evolution of the feminist movement. By applying Showalter's ideas to Kenneth Branagh's film version of Hamlet, a feminist interpretation can be extracted from the movie. Not all of Showalter's points are relevant to the film, though. It is not possible to trace the historical representation of Ophelia in the movie because there is only one portrayal, but it is entirely possible to use Showalter's references about the association between female insanity and sexuality to interpret the film. If applied to Branagh's movie, this theme, as well as Showalter's ideas about the link between Ophelia's repre... ... middle of paper ... ...sts between the representation of female sexuality and female insanity. So, by using feminist theory to show these bonds in Branagh's Hamlet, Showalter's goal to conclude with "a fuller sense of the responsibilities of feminist criticism, as well a new perspective on Ophelia" is achieved (224). Works Cited Hamlet. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet, Brian Blessed, Richard Briars, Julie Cristie, Billy Crystal, Derek Jacobi, Michael Malony. Castle Rock, 1996. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: St Martin's, 1994. Showalter, Elaine. "Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism." William Shakespeare: Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: St. Martin's, 1994. 220-240.

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