Flowers In Hamlet

… The Passion and the Madness of Ophelia

I have chosen the painting of Ophelia by Benjamin West. This painting for me depicts most fully both the passion and the pain in Ophelia’s madness. The motion and spirit depicted by the flowing image of Ophelia is captivating. In white, like a ghost, Ophelia’s long, flowing hair is in disarray, like her mind. Her hands carelessly let the flowers fall, and she has abandoned herself to her madness. It is also clear from the painting that there is no violence in her madness. Instead she is merely wandering, indecisive and infinitely sad. Ophelia’s songs themselves, while incoherent, speak of sorrow and suffering. This is the Ophelia portrayed in the painting. Her character and the painting achieve a unity that few other artists have been able to manage. Ophelia in the play is driven to madness first by the ravings of Hamlet, and then by her own sorrow. She falls, like the flowers that she sings of. She falls like the flowers in the painting. And in falling she is probably the most beautiful and tragic character in the play.
In Act III, sc.i Ophelia regrets Hamlet’s descent …

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