Ophelia’s Flowers and Madness

Here is a post by the blog “Summer Shakespeare at New Paltz” discussing Ophelia in Hamlet Act IV Scene V, when she hands flowers out to everyone, matching the symbolism with the respective personality/character. Head over to my Ravelry group thread to take part in the discussion, or leave a comment here to let us know what you think!


Summer Shakespeare at New Paltz

By the end of act four, Ophelia has been shown to be quite mad.  She sings crazy songs, and gives flowers away to various characters.  When I was reading this part, my first feeling was that these flowers were not real, but imagined by Ophelia (such as when a child invites you to a tea party).  But, the reactions of the other characters show these were actual flowers.  This is not the only point in the play where natural growth is mentioned.  Flowers are certainly given as a token of love, but also at funerals.  To me, there are so many unanswered questions about Ophelia’s state of mind.  Was she actually “mad,” or just overcome with grief at the loss of her entire support system?  It is also interesting that madness in Shakespeare’s time was also called “hysteria,” usually referring to a woman.

Earlier in the play, Hamlet compares the…

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