Elaine Showalter's Representing Ophelia

analytical Essay
1240 words
1240 words

Elaine Showalter's Representing Ophelia Elaine Showalter defines Ophelia in many typical ways in her essay "Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism." She discusses her significance in reference to how she reveals Hamlet's characteristics. Showalter touches upon the idea that Ophelia's character is one that is symbolic of the psychiatric theories of Freud. Showalter also attributes the characterization of Ophelia to not only the audience, but also to the actress that plays the part. Never does she suggest that Ophelia could be just that, "Ophelia." Her entire article is devoted to individual interpretation of the play in its entirety, focusing primarily on Ophelia. Showalter presents her own ideas by bringing together the ideas of many others such as Jacques Lacan, Susan Mountfort, Ellen Terry, and more. Showalter provides suffice evidence in addressing each argument, but in doing so, she never takes into account the possibilities of Shakespeare's reasoning. In the discussion of Ophelia's character, her madness is almost always at the center of controversy. Showalter recognizes and explains many interpretations of her madness. Ophelia's madness is, by some, attributed to "a predictable outcome of erotomania" (225). This term "erotomania" was what the Elizabethans referred to as "female love-melancholy." Yet another interpretation is that of the "Romantic Ophelia," in which she is referred to as "a young girl passionately and visibly driven to picturesque madness" (228). Later, it is explained what is meant by this definition when Showalter writes about how people viewed Ophelia as a woman who "felt" too much and somehow allowed these feelings to overcome her. This type of action would drive a person to madness, just as Ophelia is driven into her madness. This conclusion would seem to suggest that her madness stemmed from some sort of erotic passion between herself and Hamlet. This is the type of interpretation that is given to the audience in many movie versioesult of erotomania. Elaine Showalter creates an argument that is predominantly based on the idea that Ophelia's madness is one that comes from her "female love-melancholy." Showalter cites many actresses, critics, doctors, and such that completely support this idea, and have actually expressed this idea to others in many ways. If it is not true that Hamlet and Ophelia had sexual encounters, then this interpretation of the character and its effect on the entire play can be understood on a completely different level.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how ophelia's madness comes from her "female love-melancholy" and her close relationship with her father.
  • Analyzes how ophelia's relationship with hamlet involves fear due to his crazed actions. she evokes his madness while claudius and polonius secretly watch.
  • Analyzes how elaine showalter ignores the fact that shakespeare meant for ophelia to be a young girl who was driven mad at the death of her father.
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