Monday, January 2, 2012

For Sunday Scribblings and Three-Word Wednesday

(Also submitted to Magpie 98 and ABC Wednesday)
"Y" is for "Year"

It was on a riverbank just like the one above that there occurred one of the most tragic scenes in Shakespeare:
In the play "Hamlet," it was the year of Ophelia's death.
Not just a tragedy, it was a mystery.
She drowned, but was it an accident or was it suicide?
Surely you’re familiar with Ophelia. She was Hamlet’s true love – not that he really appreciated her.

A daughter of the Lord Chamberlain, she can hardly be said to have lived a normal life; she had been firmly sheltered.
Ophelia clings to the memory of the days when Prince Hamlet had treated her with respect and tenderness, and she defends him and loves him to the very end despite his harsh treatment of her. She is incapable of defending herself, but through her timid responses we see clearly her intense suffering.
Her innocence is not a tactic. She simply cannot cope with the unfolding of one traumatic event after another.
Hamlet causes her emotional pain throughout the play and when she learns he is responsible for her father's death, she has endured all that she is capable of enduring and goes insane.

There follows the scene when she, quite mad, appears before the King and Queen. Ophelia, the very symbol of innocence, sings naughty songs, ditties no one would have expected she would even have been familiar with. They may seem harmless to us, living our dissolute twenty-first century lives, but from Ophelia at that time they’re something of a shock.
For example, she sang:
“Then up he rose and donn’d his clothes,
And op’d the chamber door.
Let in the maid, that out a maid,
Never departed more.”

Her subsequent death by drowning is reported to the court by the Queen, whose announcement of Ophelia's death has been praised as a kind of literary zenith; it’s one of the most poetic reports of death in all literature.[9]

“There is a willow grows across the brook
That shows his hoary leaves in the glassy stream.
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of flowers, nettles, daisies and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name."


"Down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like a while they bore her up, but long it could not be,
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch to muddy death.”

But there’s one thing that has always bothered me about this; it’s the mystery I mentioned earlier. The Queen makes the report as one who had been there, watching.
How could she have watched all this and done nothing to save the girl?
In addition, did Ophelia fall in or was it suicide?
Later, at her funeral, we see a sexton at the graveyard insisting she had killed herself and that the religious ceremony must be curtailed. Her brother Laertes is outraged by what the cleric says, and replies that Ophelia will be an angel in heaven when the cleric "lies howling in hell.”

52 comments:

Christine said...

Shakespeare has always been this romantic untouchable language for me, my heart loves to hear it, my mind can not comprehend it (most of the time), and so I like to listen to the words like a song to music, and just enjoy it. Very interesting post and lesson in this.

Taylor Boomer said...

her death is beautifully portrayed here,

powerful, dark, and scary imagery.

Happy new year.
great magpie tale.

Kim Nelson said...

You'd make a wonderful professor! Reading this piece was like receiving a thoroughly engaging lecture. Nice work!

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Such beauty....such darkness.......

Most excellent, sir!

Berowne said...

Christine: "So I like to listen to the words like a song to music."
Often the best way to understand Shakespeare.

Berowne said...

Mimi F: "Most excellent, sir!"
My thanks, ma'am!

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

from where i grew up i dont have access to books. your reviews always help me understand the great writer's work...

lovin' it!

JJRod'z

Caty said...

nice take on the prompt. I always enjoy my visits here and the stories you tell.

ds said...

Oh, that's an interesting point about Queen Gertrude. I always felt Ophelia committed suicide, however, she being able to do what Hamlet could not. "And Rosemary, that's for thoughts..." You always send me back to the plays, Professor Berowne. Thank you--and a very Happy New Year to you and yours!

Wander said...

Good tie in!

Ginny Brannan said...

A fascinating story, and a mystery to be sure. I really enjoy reading your "takes" on the prompts. Always interesting, and a learning experience for those of us not as familiar with certain stories. Thank you!

Suz said...

ah, yes..professor
I so enjoyed this I read it twice,
and I really enjoyed the art that you choose

Brian Miller said...

nice...interesting the mystery...and her knowledge of what happened does lend one to believe that perhaps there was some help involved....nice berowne

Roger Owen Green said...

The song stuck in my mind - Did She Jump or Was She Pushed by Richard and Linda Thompson. Recommended.
Great piece, BTW
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Berowne said...

Thanks, ROG, and a happy new 2012...

Tina´s PicStory said...

nice reflections in the first pic! :)

Leslie: said...

Happy New Year!

Leslie
abcw team

Helen said...

You ARE a great teacher/professor ... you make learning fun.

Doctor FTSE said...

Always find some new nuggets in your analyses. Thanks.

chiccoreal said...

Considering Hamlet's pall soon to follow and the extreme familial betrayal I would not doubt at all if there were something to "something's rotten in Denmark". It was Queen Gertrude with the heavy garments in the Lake O'Ophelia. I dont have a "Clue" as to whom whodunit!

izzy said...

Happy New Year! and thanks for the info on Ophelia, I don't recall all the mystery around her death- but it has been a while since I read it.

Lyn said...

The Queen herself was the poet's mind ...could not help but know what happened on that shore. Agree about the cleric. Love this entry, very special...

Hildred and Charles said...

Poor Ophelia, - how many women have been driven to despair and madness by their own resident Hamlet's indifference......!

Tumblewords: said...

The Berowne Notes. Wonderful!

Wayne Pitchko said...

nicely done....and thanks again for sharing your words

Nicholas V. said...

Lovely take on this prompt, with a well-thought out and illustrated narrative!

Berowne said...

A great comment from Nicholas V. Thanks. (I well remember your father, Nicholas IV.) :-)

Berowne said...

A fine way to start the new year, with encouraging comments from Leslie, Helen, Doc FTSE, chiccoreal, izzy, Lyn, Hildred and C, Tumblewords and Wayne Pitchko. My sincere thanks to all.

Judy said...

Thanks... and a great way of combining three different memes. I really enjoyed reading your essay; I've always loved Shakespeare and this post really helps bring the characters into better focus. Just curious...which do you think she did?

Berowne said...

Judy: "Just curious...which do you think she did?"
I firmly believe that she -- wait a minute; phone's ringing. I'll get back to you. :-)

MaryA said...

Thanks for keeping Shakespeare alive. I always enjoy your essays.

Sheilagh Lee said...

hmm you make good points did she really kill herself? another mystery

Berowne said...

MaryA: "I always enjoy your essays."
And I always enjoy your comments. :-)

Alice Audrey said...

I always thought Ophelia got the short end of the stick.

moderatorem iuventae said...

Love how th art makes it all pop

Berowne said...

Alice A: "I always thought Ophelia got the short end of the stick."
A refreshingly accurate way of putting it. :-)

jabblog said...

Ah, poor Ophelia - betrayed in her innocence.

Angel said...

Nice way to incorporate the 3WW words into a lesson on Shakespeare.

Chris said...

Nice essay loved it, makes me read Shakespeare play again. Thanks.

oldegg said...

Mad as hatters and megalomaniacs all of them. Mind you Jean Simmons was a dish in the 1948 film.

Francisca said...

Another fascinating essay, Berowne. I do find it interesting that ages after the writing, people still hotly debate the events and motivations in a piece of fiction. Happy New Year!

C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

Love your Shakespearean reviews...almost makes me want to reread his body of work. Here's to the Bard!

susan m hinckley said...

As a lover of Shakespeare, I enjoyed this immensely. So glad the prompt took you to Ophelia. Thank you!

Laurie Kolp said...

It had to be a cover up!

Monica Manning said...

This conspiracy theory never occurred to me. I have to re-read Hamlet now. I sent the link to this post to a friend who is a high school English teacher. I can't wait to hear what he says!

Tess Kincaid said...

Thank you for this lovely dose of Shakespeare...

Kodjo Deynoo. said...

Yes thank you for such analysis in depth and education, much appreciated

Berowne said...

Tess Kincaid: "Thank you for this lovely dose of Shakespeare..."
And thank you, Tess, for the work and dedication you put in each week that makes the Magpie challenge so interesting.

Ms. Geek Goddess said...

Nice! What a mystery indeed! Loved this one! :)

Berowne said...

Ms Geek G.: "Loved this one!"
Just as I loved your comment - thanks.

Other Mary said...

How did I not notice that before?
That queen...hmmm

Granny Smith said...

This is an impressive bit of writing, although I have trouble finding anything "norma" about it.

 
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