For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday
It was a few years ago that I published my Ophelia post; I’m glad to have this chance to run it again.
In the play “Hamlet,” Ophelia sings:
“Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime…
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.”
Now, why would Ophelia sing such a song? It wasn’t Valentine season – what she sang made no sense.
The sequence of Ophelia’s madness is one of the most powerfully dramatic scenes Shakespeare ever wrote.
Demure Ophelia, now totally disheveled, comes before the King and Queen, who are horrified at what they see. She’s babbling, speaking nonsense:
“They say the owl was a baker’s daughter.”
Interesting point. Shakespeare projects a sense of unity here because in his plays when jesters, fools, clowns, and as far as that goes genuinely crazy people, come up with bizarre, nonsensical speech, there are often good reasons for what they’re saying.
For example, Ophelia, making her transition from sanity to madness, is probably remembering a legend she had been taught as a girl about the importance of generosity.
It seems that, years earlier, when Jesus Christ was visiting Britain – which, by the way, is a bit of a stretch because you can be pretty sure he never did – he was wandering about, as he was wont to do, and he got hungry. Short on cash, he stopped by a bakery and asked the daughter of the baker if he could have just a crust of bread.
The daughter reasoned that she and her dad were operating a business, not a charity for vagrants, so she turned him down.
Well, because of her stinginess (and also perhaps because the person in question was, after all, the Messiah), she was turned into an owl. A lesson for everyone. Who would want to be turned into an owl? (As the owl itself might say: Who?)
In addition Ophelia, in her lunacy, sings some, for her, indecent ditties:
“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."
“Lay her in the earth
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring!”
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)
1 year ago