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October 24, 2005

Ophelia's End

Shakespeare, Hamlet (continued) -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

Hamlet by Shakespeare

QUEEN GERTRUDE: One woe doth tread upon another's heel, So fast they follow; your sister's drown'd, Laertes.

LAERTES: Drown'd! O, where?

I can understand why some folks believe Gertrude murdered Ophelia. Gertrude does know a lot of details about what happened to her. It does seem suspicious that Gertrude is able to go into so much detail about something that seemed to have happened over a significant amount of time, yet she did nothing to help Ophelia.

However, it is also possible to suspect that Ophelia didnít kill herself. Maybe she was crazy and playing by a stream; it doesn't seem terribly unlikely that she fell in and just didn't save herself because she either couldn't or was just so out of her mind she didn't realize what was happening.

Though there is more evidence to support her suicide. Through the whole play, Ophelia is used by her father to get back at Hamlet, and used by the King to trap Hamlet, and ordered around by just about everyone. She's treated as a child, and probably has been her whole life, and I think that when you take away all the older men she has looked up to for so many years, like her father and Laertes Ė something snaps. She doesnít know how to defend herself, and is so stricken with grief that she goes mad. Its like her little child mind has to grow up so quickly and she can't take it.

I definitely donít think that Gertrude killed her. I imagine she was just unable to help her. She knew the story because Shakespeare couldn't really have someone drown on stage and the scene had to be described somehow. It also gave a dramatic effect. At the graveyard scene that follows, she seems to be the only one decently mourning Ophelia, while everyone else is caught up in some extraneous conflict.

Posted by Kayla Sawyer at October 24, 2005 08:12 PM


Good point, Kayla. It would have looked strange indeed to have Ophelia drown on stage.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at October 25, 2005 09:39 PM

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