Teen Queens of Tragedy: Romeo and Juliet’s Leading Lady, Hamlet’s Ophelia and the Men
It’s not easy being a girl, especially a young girl in love. First, you have to worry about what your รูปสาวเน็ตไอดอล parents will think about your new boy. Secondly, you have to figure out how far intimately you want to go with said boy. Then, of course, there’s the whole boyfriend-killed-a-relative-and-has-been-exiled thing. Well, that’s how William Shakespeare writes about young tragic love: forever fraught between the boy and family loyalties. What’s a young girl to do?
Well, given Shakespeare’s literary record in Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, young girls kill themselves when divided between lovers and families. Of course, those incidents are for tragic effect, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. In fact, Romeo’s Juliet and Hamlet’s Ophelia have become sort of teen female idols-for better or for worse. Juliet, probably the most famous 13-year-old wife for the past 400 years, is often high schoolers’ first introduction to Shakespearean female characters. Ophelia is also another relatable character, often used as a symbol for disenfranchised adolescent girls in countless psychological and feminist works, including books from Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia to Sara Shandler’s Ophelia Speaks.
Yet, what makes these two female characters such figures of interest, beyond their emotional passion and tragic ends, is their relationship to the men in their lives and how they manage. Ophelia is often seen as a victim of good ole patriarchy, thanks in part to Shakespeare’s sympathetic portrayal. She’s entirely obedient to her father and brother, who both are constantly using her as pawns to entrap Hamlet or instructing her how to protect her euphemized “button”-or flower bud-because a “deflowered” woman is the worst thing ever.
In fact, a quick study of some select Hamlet quotes shows that the play is consistently concerned with her sexuality, as well as Queen Gertrude’s, hence why many literary scholars are keen to point out some incestuous inklings in the Danish prince. Most of prominent quotes-such as the famous “get thee to a nunnery” tirade against Ophelia- are accusatory or condemning spouts from Hamlet, whose misogyny runs rampant in the story about the murder of his father and his uncle’s fratricide. In fact, the whole murdered dad thing occasionally takes a back seat to Hamlet’s concerns with Ophelia’s and his mom’s sexual purity or lack thereof, which is emphasized as a woman’s only value in the play.
Back to Ophelia. After Hamlet unintentionally but not regretfully kills her dad, she goes bonkers, handing with symbolic flowers and herbs from the garden-there’s a whole botanical theme going on here-and then sort of falls into the river and drowns. It is left uncertain if it was intentional or accidental, but many critics are in the suicide camp, quick to argue that her death came about because the loss of her dad destabilized her life so drastically she couldn’t cope and muster any personal agency for herself. A victim of oppressive patriarchal society.