Hamlet: Branagh's Ophelia and Showalter's Representing Ophelia

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Hamlet: Branagh's Ophelia and Showalter's Representing Ophelia

Ophelia falls to the floor, her screams contrasting eerily with the song pieces she uses as her speech. In an instant she is writhing and thrusting her pelvis in such a gross sexual manner that it becomes clear that, in his film interpretation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh wants to imply a strong relationship between female insanity and female sexuality. Such a relationship is exactly what Elaine Showalter discusses in her essay -- "Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism" -- "I will be showing first of all the representational bonds between female insanity and female sexuality" (Showalter 223).
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Such a deliberate choice by Branagh can be most easily seen by his representation of Ophelia in the "mad scene" (Hamlet 4.5) and Branagh's inclusion and representation of Ophelia in scenes where she does not appear in the text. In fact, in contrast to past representations of Ophelia when some of her lines were cut, Branagh actually gives his Ophelia more lines than Shakespeare does to better convey Branagh's own interpretation. One such instance occurs when Branagh gives Ophelia a line that is, in the text, Guildenstern's: "A thing, my lord?" (Hamlet 4.2.28).

In the Branagh film, Ophelia first appears at the wedding of Claudius and Gertrude ( Hamlet 1.2). Dressed in bright red, with make-up on her face and her hair done beautifully -- up off her face and curled -- Ophelia stands next to her father like a coy maiden: joyfully and dutifully applauding in support of her brother, Laertes, when he obtains permission to leave for France, yet also looking worried about the "nighted color" of Hamlet. In fact, at the ending of the wedding scene (1.2.129), Ophelia rushes up to comfort Hamlet; she extends her arm and looks as though she will embrace him when Laertes grabs her and leads her off. There is no mention of such

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