Flowers. There are over 10 000 different species of this aesthetic plant. Each flower can have a different meaning. In the play Hamlet, Ophelia, a girl raised by obedience and manipulation, uses these flowers in a fit of madness and their archetypal meanings to express her thoughts, feelings, and hopes towards her once thought as lover, Hamlet. As the play goes on, you can see that more is revealed in her relationship with Hamlet, and that Ophelia isn’t as innocent and virtuous as she portrays.
To begin, in a fit of madness Ophelia begins to give flowers with embedded meanings to recipients who seem most fitting. She states, There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, Remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts. There's fennel for you, and columbines. There's rue for you, and here's some for me. We may call it herb of grace o' Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference! There's a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they wither'd all when my father died.
They say he made a good end. (Hamlet IV, v, 199-209) I believe that she gave the rosemary to Hamlet. Rosemary is associated with remembrance between two lovers, (Stabler, 2000) which was once the relationship she believed that they had. She may use this in hope that he has not forgotten about her. Whether or not Hamlet was deceiving her, he definitely once made Ophelia believe that he loved her, and he even states. “I did love you once. ”(Hamlet III,i. 126) What made Hamlet lose his feelings for Ophelia? Of perhaps they were never there.
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Ophelia spends a life time of obeying her male-counterparts. They constantly manipulated her into doing or thinking things that were not of character. For example, she never once thought twice about spying on Hamlet for her father, or doing every single small task he asked her to do, or answering each personal question he asked. Who is to say that Hamlet was not manipulating her and taking advantage of her for her body? After going mad, Ophelia can confirm this accusation when she sings. By Gis and by Saint Charity, Alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do't if they come to't By Cock, they are to blame. Quoth she, 'Before you tumbled me, You promis'd me to wed. ' He answers: 'So would I 'a' done, by yonder sun, An thou hadst not come to my bed. ' (Hamlet IV, v. 63-71) This song reveals a lot about Ophelia and Hamlet’s relationship. Firstly, “Before you tumbled me,/ You promis'd me to wed” (Hamlet IV, v. 67-68) reveals that she asked that before he got her into bed, he would promise to marry her. This not only reveals that they have engaged in sexual relations, but it also means that he promised to marry her.
He answered, however, “'So would I 'a' done, by yonder sun,/ An thou hadst not come to my bed. '” (Hamlet IV, v. 70-71) This means that he would have married her, but only if she hadn’t slept with him. (Epstein, 2005) By manipulating Ophelia, Hamlet gets what he wants. Afterwards, Ophelia is left a broken woman with nowhere to go. Hamlet unfairly treats the mislead Ophelia after his promises of love by calling her a whore, when he says, “That’s a fair thought to lie between a maids’ legs” (Hamlet III, ii. 125) he also demands that she should “Get thee to a nunnery” (Hamlet.III, I, 131) which is referring her to a common day whorehouse.
His mistreatment of Ophelia may have led to her suicide or her accidental death by drowning. It is almost ironic that Ophelia would have her life ended by water, for water is the source of life and sustenance. Unless Shakespeare was trying to represent that Ophelia was now purified by said water, and in death she could finally be happy. It would also be seen that Ophelia would give the violets to Hamlet as well. “I would give you some violets, but they wither'd all when my father/ died.
They say he made a good end. ” (Hamlet IV, v, 207-209) Violets represent faithfulness in relationships; (Stabler, 2000) it is likely that she is saying that when her father died, her faithfulness towards Hamlet was now non-existent. This kind of behaviour can be justified because Ophelia is put in a horrible situation. Her conflicting loyalties to her father, and her belief of love with the unapproved Hamlet tore her apart undoubtedly. Now, what kind of position could you put yourself in if your boyfriend killed your father?
Respectively, Ophelia begins to sing of death because her world is shattered due to her loss, and her conflicting ideas would more than likely influence her losing her sanity. In conclusion, it can be seen that the archetypal meanings of Ophelia’s flowers can lead to the true meaning of hers and Hamlet’s relationship. Assuming that she wanted Hamlet to have the rosemary and violets, she presented the idea of remembrance of their love, but also the fact that she no longer wanted to be a part of it. This is a huge step for Ophelia because for once, she made her own decision and this would be the peak of her character development.
Of course, this triumph over her personal issues is short lived, because soon after she commits suicide in a stream. This could symbolize her purification and release of any words of harm put against her. ?
- Epstein, Alex. "By The Way, Ophelia Is Pregnant. " Craftyscreenwriting. com. Crafty Screenwriting, 2005. Web. 14 Jan. 2012.
- Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York: Washington Square, 2002.
- Print. Stabler, Sarah. "Hamlet; The Symbolism in Flowers. " Homewood City Schools Board of Education. HCSBE, 12 Dec. 2000. Web. 17 Jan. 2012.
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