Chapter

Lovers' Lines: Letters to Ophelia

Stewart Alan

in Shakespeare's Letters

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780199549276
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191701504 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549276.003.0007
Lovers' Lines: Letters to Ophelia

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This chapter argues that William Shakespeare's play Hamlet does carry answers to puzzling questions, through signals that one has lost the skills to read, not all of which are clearly ‘in the text’. Instead, the nature of the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is conveyed through a complex interplay of spatial and transactional markers, represented through architecture and gift-giving, that would have been vividly evident to the play's early audiences. These markers are drawn from powerful contemporary ideologies, and bear some relation to legal evidence, but they find their full power only on stage. And those signals coalesce on Hamlet's letter to Ophelia. The chapter suggests that, in important ways, Hamlet and Ophelia were already contracted to be married.

Keywords: William Shakespeare; play; Hamlet; Ophelia; markers; ideologies; letter

Chapter.  9233 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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