Sunday, July 1, 2012

Berowne’s 124

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.
Beautiful Ophelia is portrayed in the early scenes as a demure and dutiful daughter, but she suffers one traumatic event after another. Prince Hamlet, the man she loves, brutally rejects her, and she later learns that her beloved father has been killed by that very man. It is all too much for her – she goes insane. The loss of her sanity perhaps serves as a buffer against her life’s misfortunes.
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."

Later, Ophelia dies by drowning. When the body is made ready for burial, her loving brother says:
“Lay her in the earth
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring!”


(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

42 comments:

ecogrrl said...

this is quite nice and i love the stories behind it. btw on magpie your link began with '.www.' instead of 'http://' which is why it's not working

Berowne said...

But the "http://" is there.

Other Mary said...

Ophelia - always fascinating. Thank you B.

Helen said...

You aced this one ~~~ I knew you would.

Roy Schulze said...

Very interesting post, but difficult to get to.

The problem with your link is not the "http://" it's that stray period before the "www"

Berowne said...

Roy S: I followed your advice and it seems to work. Thanks so much.

brenda w said...

I love the owl story. Thank you so much. Think I may repeat that one. :)

Wander said...

As far as bed bugs go...the bat won't work, neither will the sticky gloves and country music. That leaves only lighter fluid ...and like duct tape it fixes everything;-)

Nice piece by the way...your "lessons " are always good and appreciated by me.

Kay said...

this is so good....I have learnt so much about hamlet... Ophelia... Shakespeare from Tess's prompt this week!!

Gail said...

A very good tale behind the tale.

When I read the title, my mind went to Hamlet. I always thought the whole bunch was crazy. Today I got to say it.

Thanks for the visit.

izzy said...

Madness and violets...(I do not get the owl really ) -sigh- anyway the last picture looks as if she has evening primrose in her hair. Thanks.

Karen said...

She doesn't look so fair in that last pic.

Leslie: said...

I wish you had been my teacher when I was studying Shakespeare. Always a pleasure.

Stafford Ray said...

Wonderful! And yes, Old Will also sometimes needed to hide his more revolutionary thoughts within the ravings of fools.
No trouble with the link for me.

gsb said...

I'm still trying to figure out the "tea parties" involvement with Ophelia but I guess as in the "travels of Jesus" they could be inserted anywhere. Maybe 150 years from now they will be responsible for crucifying him.

Roger Owen Green said...

You always make the Bard interesting.

Kay said...

interesting.

kaykuala said...

Most fascinating,Berowne! An anecdote is always forthcoming in your response. Great prose!

Hank

Doctor FTSE said...

Another interesting comment on Shakespeare's complex play. Thanks, Mr.B.

Rinkly Rimes said...

These days it would be easy to say 'Get over it. More fish in the sea' but things were very different way back then. A girl's whole life depended on being wanted by a man! How awful!

Berowne said...

Dr FTSE: "...interesting comment on Shakespeare's complex play."
Complex is right. As someone once wrote, you can find just about anything you want in "Hamlet."

ccchampagne.com said...

I never even reflected on Ophelia for this one, though I suppose I should have... Find myself lacking in Shakespearian knowledge! *blushing* Thank you for helping me along the way on that one! *smiles*

Sue said...

Great job here. You have done one of my favorites justice.

=)

Berowne said...

Glad to hear it, Sue; thanks.

Dana Dampier said...

I loved reading the story of Ophelia! Thanks

manicddaily said...

Who would want to be turned into an owl? (As the owl itself might say: Who?)

This so very clever. Thanks for the interesting post. k.

ninotaziz said...

It is so lovely to walk away from your blog knowing, Ahhh, I have learnt something here. I must come back again - Thank you, Berowne. It is always a pleasure to be here.Always.

Berowne said...

ninotaziz: You have come up with a perfect comment - thanks.

Donna B. said...

As always, exceptional creativity and expression....always a treat.

zongrik said...

i liked your collection of pictures of Ophelia. actually, i like the ones you put up more than the magpie prompt!!

yoga teacher limerick

De said...

Beautiful. A fascinating portrayal of an intriguing character. Thank you for this.

Reader Wil said...

Hamlet is fascinating! It is a play that can be performed in many ways set in different times.Thanks for your thoughtful comment on Yad Vashem.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Ophelia is one of the most compelling of Shakespeare's characters. You have even made sense of what I took to be nonsensical speech. And if Jesus went to Britain, how come there's no mention of Scrumming in the Bible? I'm just wondering...! Amy

Ellecee said...

Fascination stuff, I love the owl story, I always enjoy whatever you write.

Berowne said...

And I always enjoy whatever comments you write. :-)

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Fascinating and informative post Berowne. Thank you.

Anna :o]

Berowne said...

hyperCRYPTICal: I don't feel sad, I don't feel hollow. I found myself in your Blogs I Follow. :-)

Black Jack's Carol said...

Your post resurrected a thought that has floated around in my head over the years that we should heed comedians and "mad" people. I always know it will take a little time to reflect on your posts, but it is always worth it.

Berowne said...

Thanks, Carol, and my best to Black Jack.

Belva Rae Staples said...

I have enjoyed this informative write, especially the part about the stingy baker's daughter being turned into an owl. There's a great lesson wrapped up in that little story.
We both seem to like Waterhouse, too.

Little Nell said...

I couldn’t find you last week, but I’m glad that’s been rectified. Thank you for putting flesh on poor old Ophelia’s bones. I’m always eager to extend my knowledge of the bard and his works. There’s a brilliant series of his plays being screened on UK TV currently, called ‘The Hollow Crown’ and starting with Richard II last week. I’m sure it’ll come your way, do look out for it.

Sheilagh Lee said...

I love how you explain these plays in detail. Thank you

 
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