Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ophelia's Garland Speech

I don't know about you all, but probably the most pitiful part in all of Hamlet comes when Ophelia enters to pass out the flowers to her family and we get to see what's happened to the poor girl:
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts," said Ophelia to her brother Laertes. "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 withered all when my father died."
Anyway, the San Francisco Chronicle has up a lengthy article detailing what each individual herb meant.    It's quite a detailed article, explaining what each one means, how Shakespeare referenced it, and a guess at why Ophelia speaks of it.  But I'm not sure of all the leaps it makes.  For instance rosemary is for remembrance, repelling witches, and chasing away bad dreams.  But for Ophelia, "distraught and depressed over her father's death and Hamlet's odd behavior, the mention..indicates...her brittle self-image and lack of confidence."  What?  Huh?  I suppose maybe there's some sort of "This is all a bad dream I'm having, and I want the rosemary to protect me from it", but that's a stretch. 

More About Ophelia...

1 comment:

roger martin tudor said...

As I commented earlier, using the Victorian Language of Flowers and other early sources, I hope that this is a close interpretation (given the context) with due regard taken for the intervening period and the fact that Ophelia may or may not be making sense (although Laertes’ previous line suggest she is –
Laer. This nonsense has some meaning.

Oph. [Showing her posy of flowers to LAERTES] There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; your presence revives me, my dear, so think of me. And here are pansies, they mean you occupy my thoughts.

Laer. A message conveyed in flowers? Is that her madness? And yet, thoughts and remembrance do fit together.

Oph. [To the KING] There’s fennel, that means force, for you, and then columbines for unfaithfulness and folly – [To the QUEEN] There’s rue for you, for repentance, and here’s some for me, as it also means sorrow – we can call it herb of grace on Sundays since it then means calming the afflicted – but, you must wear your rue with a difference so that it means disdain. – Here’s a garden daisy which means I share your sentiments. – I would have given you some blue and white violets for faithfulness and modesty but they all withered when my father died – they say he met a good end –