Essay on Gertrude and Ophelia’s Death in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Gertrude and Ophelia’s Death in Hamlet

The Queen gives a remarkably detailed account of Ophelia’s death leaving one to believe that she may have witnessed the event. We know that she emphasized with Ophelia’s suffering to such an extent that perhaps she realized that the kindest action to take would be to let Ophelia decide her own fate, although she clearly was not in a fit state of mind to do this and was barely aware of her surroundings “incapable of her own distress.” Ophelia’s death is “beautified” as she dies in a romantic and beautiful scene befitting her character where she was surrounded by her garland of flowers. (Ophelia herself was “beautified” in a letter from Hamlet which Polonius found to be a “vile phrase.”) There
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In this particular collection, Ophelia has included “crow-flowers” which symbolize a virgin, presumably collected to represent herself; “nettles” which sting people, perhaps these are for Claudius and refer to “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown;” “daisies” which symbolize deception in love affairs, perhaps these are intended for Hamlet (although Ophelia in her madness has already mistaken Laertes for her “love;” “long purples” which are given a “grosser name” by “liberal shepherds” as the roots look like male genitalia. “Cold maids” chaste, innocent virgins, refer to them as “dead men’s fingers” which has a phallic connection, suggesting that Ophelia has never been touched, and is indeed a “cold maid.” “Cold” because she has apparently died a virgin.

The impression of Ophelia one has is that she is an innocent young girl, but she understands the ways of the world, and is capable of wit which is seen in her response to her brother’s advice over Hamlet: “I shall th’effect of this good lesson keep/As watchman to my heart.” Tragically, the hints of her independence are never

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