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The method I adopt is partially paradoxical, for I wish to unearth the "literary" body of Ophelia present in different visual representations at the same time that I want to utilize these same media to suggest the degree to which they have formed our understanding of the dramatic textual character.

Insofar as Ophelia is arguably Shakespeare's most recognizable female character, with a long and significant history of "purloining" in both verbal and visual media, she would seem to be an excellent focus for discussions of this kind.And indeed she is, albeit ironically so, for just as Bronfen's examples of dead women tend to remain distinct—generically categorizable as literary or visual bodies, either/or—so literary analysis rarely seeks to consider the ever-present visual interpretations and popular imaginings of Ophelia's character, and equally in discussing her representations art historians regularly prefer to concentrate on aspects of formal composition rather than explore her origins within the Shakespeare text.They instruct Ophelia to pretend that she is simply reading a book and withdraw behind a tapestry.Hamlet enters and delivers the most famous speech in literature, beginning, “To be or not to be.” After this long meditation on the nature of being and death, Hamlet catches sight of Ophelia.After Polonius's death, Ophelia goes mad and later drowns.

Hamlet, who has returned safely to confront the king, agrees to a fencing match with Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, who secretly poisons his own rapier.Hamlet, now free to act, mistakenly kills Polonius, thinking he is Claudius.Claudius sends Hamlet away as part of a deadly plot.Ophelia by Ernest Hebert "Whereas for Hamlet madness is metaphysical, linked with culture, for Ophelia it is a product of the female body and female nature. Includes a survey of historical and current interpretations of the character of Ophelia. An entourage consisting of the king and queen, Polonius and Ophelia, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enters to begin the Act.