Hamlet contains a depiction of female madness in Ophelia, which has been frequently appropriated, and feminist critics might explore the character of Ophelia and how they challenge – or fail to challenge – the domination of male characters. In feminist approaches, Ophelia can be seen as “the archetypal mad woman”, whereby this would suggest that our culture makes some intrinsic connection between femininity and insanity, as if to be female is in some way to be insane.
French feminist theorists take this a bit further and suggest that Ophelia’s madness suggest the inability of male language to really represent femininity – so that female characters are inevitably represented as fractured, broken, insane and reduced to nothing, as an “Ophelia as the impossible subject”. These critics are not claiming that Shakespeare failed to represent Ophelia fairly but that because all language is male centred that it is quite literally impossible to represent a whole female character using any existing language past or present. Instead Ophelia can only be represented as silence, madness, incoherence and nothingness. As Ophelia says: „I think nothing, my Lord“. Feminist critics accounting for Ophelia’s madness and death have also suggested that she represents the female side of Hamlet which must be rejected and killed as an “Ophelia as the exiled feminine”. Many feminist critics have suggested that Ophelia’s madness is directly related to her sexual nature and therefore a gendered inscription on the female character itself. (Excerpts from: Elizabeth Woledge, Hamlet Through a Lens: Freudian and Feminist Approaches.)
“I break up with this romantic picture of Shakespearian times, by trying to „perform“ a new metaphor of William Shakespeare’s tragedy „Hamlet“, where Hamlet’s love Ophelia commits suicide. Her suicide is the result of tragic happenings, where the supposed mental illness that Hamlet only feigns and her rejection by him is the accumulation of grief in her and leads her to drown herself in a pond. In the political gender aspect of our time, the Shakespearean „to be or not to be“ has achieved a special and highly explosive value. I am performing as Ophelia on the water surface and wearing a red dress.”
OPHELIA 3 Min. 25 Sec. Photography:T. Offermann, Camera: Anton Solovitschik, Sound: Melati Suryodarmo.