Essay about Ophelia's Madness in Shakespeare´s Hamlet

Essay about Ophelia's Madness in Shakespeare´s Hamlet

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Although Ophelia’s madness may not be as “method”-ical as Hamlet’s, Ophelia’s sayings, songs and riddle like remarks confirm Laertes suspicion, “This nothing’s more than matter.” (4.4.183) While Laertes remarks suggest that Ophelia’s words might be significant, it is actually Laertes words which hold the “key” to Ophelia (1.3.90). For this “nothing” or “no-thing” is bawdy wordplay which refers to Ophelia’s vagina and the “matter” is Ophelia’s pregnancy or unborn child (Bate and Rasmussen 70).
With Laertes in Paris and Polonius dead, the faithful guardians of Ophelia’s “chaste treasure” (1.3.33) are unable to protect Ophelia’s virginity (Bate and Rasmussen 20). Singing “Saint Valentine’s day” Ophelia reveals:
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
And dupped the chamber door:
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more (4.4.52-55).
Shakespeare, playing on words, uses “rose” to represent a man with an erection and “dupped the chamber door” is a pun on “tupped” or “to copulate (with a woman)” (OED Online). Finally, a “maid” who “never departed more” signifies Ophelia’s loss of virginity (Bate and Rasmussen 98).
Initially, one might be tempted to lay the crime on Hamlet. However, Ophelia will “make an end on’t,” revealing the culprit through riddle and song (4.4.57-58). With Gertrude and Horatio in attendance, Ophelia sings to the King,
Quoth she, ‘Before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.’
‘So would I ha’ done, by yonder sun,
An thou hadst not come to my bed’ (4.4.62-65).
Reiterating the loss of her virginity, Ophelia’s use of the word “sun” suggests that King Claudius, not Hamlet, is the culprit.
Although the evidence may seem scant, two equally convincing incidents lend credence to the aforementio...


... middle of paper ...


...n other words, the baker, “whose business it is to make bread,” has “something in the oven” (OED Online). Considered in this context, Hamlet’s reference to Polonius as a “fishmonger” or pimp makes sense (2.2.184). Hamlet knew Polonius was “tender[ing]” (1.3.109-113) his daughter to “catch woodcocks” (1.3.119). Likewise, this is why Hamlet warned Polonius against allowing Ophelia to “walk i’th’sun” (2.2.194). After all, “the sun breed[s] maggots” (2.2.191) and “conception is a blessing,/but not as your daughter may conceive” (2.2.194-195).
In the end, Ophelia sings like a bird, revealing that the owl and the woodcock shall give birth to a robin. Is it any wonder she drowns? Might her watery, womb-like, death be a suicide? After all, she does receive a Christian burial because the “crowner hath sat on her” (5.1.4-5). Unfortunately, that evidence shall be left unsung!

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