For you, and you, and you...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
So, we're back to Hamlet! Joy of joys, let's go for it.

Anyone who has read Hamlet before (and probably several of you who haven't) knows that after Polonius is killed, Ophelia goes crazy. Literally crazy. However, sometimes there is method in Shakespeare's madness (as stated by my blog). So, does Ophelia actually make sense in her madness, or is it just a random babble that seemingly happens to touch on some truth?

I think the greatest way to tell is in her flower choices. I know many other people have analyzed her floral arrangements, but here's mine:

First, she gives rosemary...

- symbolizes: remembrance & fidelity
- used greatly in funeral wreaths to remember those who have passed on
- also used greatly in wedding bouquets to remind couples of their vows to each other
- interesting rumor: if you touch a lover with a sprig of rosemary, they will always be faithful
Then Ophelia hands out pansies. 

- symbolizes: thoughts (you occupy my thoughts) & merriment
- one of the main ingredients in Celtic love potions

In "A Midsummer Night's Dream" it is shown as a love potion when "with pansy juice on her eyes, sleeping Titania fell in love with the first creature she saw when she awoke."

Next, Ophelia hands out fennel and columbine.

- symbolizes: foolishness & flattery 
- once fennel is picked, it wilts very quickly 
- quote: "Sow fennel, sow sorrow"

- symbolizes: male adultery & foolishness, ingratitude & thanklessness 
- shape of the flower imitates a Jester's cap and bells, showing the foolishness

Next, Ophelia hands out the rue.

- symbolized: genuine repentance & everlasting suffering
- rue has a very bitter taste
- was the major cause for abortion in its day
-tied with adultery in that it shows repentance of transgressions for women

Then, Ophelia skips over the daisy.

-symbolized: innocence, purity, & forsaken love
- it is also tied to the keeping of a secret; "I'll never tell"

- Celtic legend: 

Daisies come from the spirits of children who died at birth. To cheer up the parents of these children, God sprinkled the flowers over all the Earth. This is why daisies stand for innocence.

Then, Ophelia mentions that all the violets are withered.

- symbolized: modesty, virtue, affection, faithfulness, & fidelity 
- used as a charm against evil because of its purity
- also shows a returning of love

      So, was Ophelia truly mad? Was she simply pretending to have lost her wits just as had Hamlet had? Was she doing this so she could confront the King and Queen without the fear of them killing her for treason? 

Is there method in her madness?


  1. Mason said...: really cool. It is an interesting question if Ophelia was faking madness too. I never thought of that. I also never looked up the meaning for her flowers but always wanted to. This is really cool.

  1. Justin Walter said...:

    Interesting. I do have a question though...How long have these flowers had these associated meanings? Were these meanings the same in Shakespeare's time? How do flowers come to be associated with different traits and behaviors?

  1. Angela Grimes said...:

    I researched the meanings from several different sights to make sure that they correlated and several of them were actually discussing the meanings that Shakespeare was trying to relate. Also, a lot of the flowers are associated with these traits because of different stories or uses. As in rosemary being used in funeral wreaths and wedding bouquets and daisies were thought of as the spirits of children who died young. There are all sorts of stories that originate meanings as well, and not only in western culture (through Christian stories that have to do with flowers) but are also found in a lot of Greek mythology. Sorry it's long, but it was very fascinating.

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