Ophelia, Deranged or a Victim of an Unplanned Pregnancy?
Shakespeare’s plays have been interpreted and argued through the ages.
Everyone has their own opinion and sees his works in many different ways. The
use of his language and imagery has been the subject of many discussions and
debates. As Shakespeare says in Hamlet, “the play’s the thing” and I have my
own interpretation of Ophelia and her madness.
Poor delusional Ophelia. I found her to be an interesting character in
Shakespeare’s Tragedy Play of Hamlet. Was she driven insane being cast aside
by
her beloved Hamlet? Did her mind shatter after the murder of her father
Polonius?
Could she not cope by love lost? After reading and rereading Ophelia’s role
and doing some of my own research, I think there was an actual medical reason
for Ophelia’s madness. I would like you to consider the real possibility
that Ophelia was “with child” or pregnant, which drove her to depression,
despair, and finally to her watery death.
First, I need to prove to you that Ophelia did not die an innocent, and
virgin
maiden. Reading the Hamlet tragedy, I found many references that Shakespeare
inferred that Ophelia had a sexual relationship. In Act 1, Scene 3, Laertes,
her brother, is questioning Ophelia about her relationship with Hamlet. He
is worried she will lose her heart and open herself up to Hamlet’s sexual
longings. Polinious, her overbearing controlling father, questions Ophelia
about her virtue with Hamlet. In line 118, Polonius says, “you’ll tender me a
fool”, which could be interpreted that she will present to him a grandchild.
Also, I think to question Polonious’s attitude towards his own daughter. It
seems both Laertes and Polonious show an unnatural and possible incestuous
fascination with her physical virginity.
Hamlet makes many sexual innuendoes to Ophelia throughout the play. In Act
2, Scene 1, she reports to Polonius about Hamlet’s actions toward her in the
sewing
closet. Ophelia tell Polonious that Hamlet approaches her in the private room
with his clothing all disheveled and undone. She says Hamlet “raised a sigh
so piteous and profound, As it did seem to shatter all his bulk and end his
being. That done he lets me go,” These lines indicate a sexual release after
approaching and holding Ophelia either against her will or under duress.
I find that Hamlet is also very familiar with Ophelia in Act 3, Scene 2. He
lays his
head on her lap and tells her “That is a fair thought to lie between maid’s
legs. “ In
another sexual reference in line 270 Hamlet tells her “I could interpret
between you
and your love, if I could see the puppets dallying.” Hamlet wanted to play
the role of
narrator at a puppet show in which Ophelia and a lover are shown making love.
Then
he tells her “it would cost you a groaning to take off mine edge.” Hamlet is
telling her
that he needs sexual satisfaction. One significant interpretation is when
Hamlet tells Ophelia to “get thee to a nunnery”. Nunnery was a common
euphemism in Elizabethan time for a whorehouse. In Act 2, Scene 2, Hamlet
calls Polonius a “fishmonger”, which is also a slang word for
a pimp. I think Hamlet did love Ophelia but he is accusing her of whoring
herself to him through her father because Polonius is selling his daughter’s
virtue for power since Hamlet should be king.
Also I found interesting in Act 2, Scene 2, Hamlet warns Polonious. “Let her
not
walk i’ th’ sun. Conception is a blessing, but, as your daughter may
conceive, friend, look to ‘it.” Is Hamlet referring once again to his
earlier pun “son” and “sun” and really means himself?
Most revealing was in Act 4, Scene 5, when Ophelia sings her bawdy St.
Valentine’s song. This Valentine’s day song is about a man who deflowers a
maid.
Why would Ophelia sing such a song? I think Ophelia is referring to herself.
It is about how she gave herself to her one true love, Hamlet. She sings
“Before you tumbled me, You promised me to wed.” This indicates to me that
Hamlet promised to wed her and then had a relationship with her. Then she
goes on to sing, “And I a maid at