Saturday, August 19, 2006

Art Blogging: The Ophelia Motif

There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

-Queen Gertrude, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 7

Ophelia, sister and possibly lover of Hamlet in Shakespeare's play of the same name has fascinated readers since her inception. In the Nineteenth Century, she became a major motif in art and literature, particularly of British origin. For many readers, Ophelia represents the absolute crushing of femininity by a male-dominated system. She is never able to have her own identity, but is torn between the desires of her father and her own rejected desire for Hamlet. It is only through her own tragic suicide that she achieves power over her fate.

By John William Waterhouse.

By John William Waterhouse.
By George Frederick Watts.
By Antoine Preault.
By Jules Joseph Lefebvre.
By Arthur Hughes.
By Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret.
By Alexandre Cabanel.
By John Everett Millais.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ophelia is Laertes' sister, not Hamlet's.