Internet Shakespeare Editions


Madness: Ophelia

Like King Lear, Ophelia finds that in madness she can think and say things that would be impossible in the sanity of a supposedly ordered society. Does she use the language of flowers to attack Gertrude and Claudius?

Ophelia's madness, brought on by her frustrated love and the bizarre way her father was killed by her loved one, seems less ambiguous than Hamlet's for her language and behaviour are clearly irrational. But is her madness merely pretty and pathetic (as she is sometimes played)? Is there any other way she could rebel against a society that prevents her from expressing the sexuality that comes out in her "mad" songs?