Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

Ophelia’s Ghost

Marion Wynne-Davies

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2012.25.12

Abstract

This essay takes as its starting point the 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet directed by Greg Doran in order to explore the ways in which Ophelia’s death and burial might be used to disturb dominant cultural codes. As such, it focuses upon the regulatory discourses framing three female subjects: the legal and religious rules governing suicide, in particular the inquest’s record of the death by drowning of Katherine Hamlet in 1579; the account of Ophelia’s death and her “maimed rites” in the Gravedigger’s scene; and the performance of Mariah Gale in the “mad scene.” In each case the female body is perceived to breach expected boundaries: the way in which the real girl’s death presents a series of questions about temporal and spiritual laws; the engagement of the play with those legal and religious discourses by locating the female character as a disturbing absence; and the use of the actress’s body in order to reiterate in performance the sense of threat encountered in the text. In so doing it employs the theories of the abject and the uncanny as discussed by Judith Butler and Julia Kristeva in order to locate where the text’s distorted repetitions uncover the tenuousness of the cultural codes used to regulate the Early Modern understanding of female suicide.

Keywords

Shakespeare, William; Theatre; Royal Shakespeare Company; Hamlet; Ophelia



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2012.25.12

Copyright (c) 2012 Marion Wynne-Davies

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