Presentation Title

"Her Mood Will Needs Be Pitied": Agency, Madness, The Pathetic, And Ophelia

Presenter Information

Emily Cackowski

Mentor

Brinda Charry

Location

David F. Putnam Science Center - 126

Abstract

Of all the female characters in William Shakespeare’s plays, Ophelia from The Tragedy of Hamlet is arguably one of the most interesting. With very few scenes or lines of dialogue, her character has still managed to leave impressions of shocking insanity and deep sadness on generations of artists, actors, and play-going audiences. However, although her character is fascinating and the ending she comes to is notoriously sad, Ophelia cannot truly be considered a tragic heroine. I argue in my paper that because her narrative is so rigidly controlled by the actions, words, and patriarchal influences of those around her—except in her one scene of madness, when she quite literally takes center stage—Ophelia has no agency to act or choose for herself. This makes her character purely pathetic: a victim of circumstance rather than a tragic heroine.

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Apr 11th, 10:20 AM Apr 11th, 11:20 AM

"Her Mood Will Needs Be Pitied": Agency, Madness, The Pathetic, And Ophelia

David F. Putnam Science Center - 126

Of all the female characters in William Shakespeare’s plays, Ophelia from The Tragedy of Hamlet is arguably one of the most interesting. With very few scenes or lines of dialogue, her character has still managed to leave impressions of shocking insanity and deep sadness on generations of artists, actors, and play-going audiences. However, although her character is fascinating and the ending she comes to is notoriously sad, Ophelia cannot truly be considered a tragic heroine. I argue in my paper that because her narrative is so rigidly controlled by the actions, words, and patriarchal influences of those around her—except in her one scene of madness, when she quite literally takes center stage—Ophelia has no agency to act or choose for herself. This makes her character purely pathetic: a victim of circumstance rather than a tragic heroine.