Dan Mumford 11-15-04
Ophelia compared between
William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and
“Sweet Prince, The Passion of Hamlet”
By Douglas Brode
Please give me credit if using my work for a research paper of your own. Plagiarizing is Wrong!
One way in which the character Ophelia is mainly similar between both the play, “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare and the novel “Sweet Prince” by Doug Brode is that she is portrayed as loving her family in both works. In Act I scene 3, while Ophelia is saying goodbye to her brother Laertes, he gives her advice about staying pure while he is away and she answers: “I shall the effect of this good lesson keep…But, good my brother, do not as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles… himself the primrose path of dalliance treads.” Ophelia, being the caring sister makes sure he listens to his own advice. In a similar scene in the novel “Sweet Prince,” Laertes wishes his sister goodbye with a warm hug and she calls for a swift journey. (page 56) This kind of interaction between siblings let’s us see that they have a close bond and that Ophelia genuinely cares for her brother Laertes. When asked about her love for Horatio, she replies, “As a brother, loved even as I do dear Laertes.” Ophelia also loves her father Polonius. In the play, she loves and respects her father by obeying all that he asks of her, even if it is the exact opposite of what she would normally do. In Act II scene 1, she says, “No, my good lord; but as you did command, I did repel his letters and denied his access to me.” Even though she is in love with Hamlet, Ophelia proves she loves her father more, by reporting on Hamlet’s actions and cutting off all communication between herself and the object of her affections. She is a perfect medieval daughter; young and beautiful, but subservient and loyal.
Another way that Ophelia is similar between the play “Hamlet” and the novel “Sweet Prince” is that she loves Hamlet (Amuleth). In Act I scene 3 she say, “ ‘He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders of his affection to me. …he hath importun’d me with love in honourable fashion. …And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord, with almost all the holy vows of heaven.’” It is clear that Prince Hamlet tried to put the moves on Ophelia, but from the way she stands up to her father like she does, it’s safe to say she encouraged Hamlet and holds a special place in her heart for him. During Ophelia’s funeral, the Queen exclaims, “ ‘I hop’d thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife; I though thy bride-bed to have deck’d, sweet maid, and not have strew’d thy grave.’” So it was common knowledge that Ophelia loved him. In “Sweet Prince” she feels the same way. She treasures everything Hamlet gives her, from a small painting of him to a gold ring she never takes off. “Studying the delicate band of gold displayed there, the slender girl smiled at the possibilities this ring suggested to a young mind at once romantic and ambitious.” When Polonius asks if the ring means something between the two, “ With all her heart, Ophelia longed to cry out ‘Yes!’” When Amuleth and Horatio arrive home from university, she rushes to greet her two friends. “Less owing to status than the honest calling of her heart, she approached Amuleth first.” At the very end of the novel, Ophelia pledges a sister’s love and says, “ ‘Women will love her, that she is a women of more worth than any man; men, that she is the rarest of all women.’” So even after she lost the hope of Hamlet as a husband, she still loves her long time friend.
One way in which the character Ophelia is markedly different between Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Brode’s “Sweet Prince” is in her ambition. In the play, she appears to lack any sort of real drive to succeed. She obeys her father and the King and Queen but even though she is near royalty, she never expresses any desire to be royalty. Ophelia in “Sweet Prince” is a totally different character. From the beginning, we know, “Ophelia harbored long-term aspirations to achieve something greater than her current lot in life… An ordinary, average, mundane marriage to some eager local boy… did not interest her.” (pg. 74) Like most young maidens at that time, Ophelia was obsessed with the idea of being Mrs. Prince Charming. This would provide her with all the luxuries her high taste desired as we can see from Queen Gertrude’s example. Her husband the King had to raise taxes because she bought things like imported felt hats with exotic plumes. (pg. 119) When Ophelia’s father tells her that the Prince is a star in the sky, out of her reach, she says, “Look on me as a meteor, burning bright by night! …I will be joined with nobility.” (pg.90-91) This is a much different attitude than the “yes Father, no Father” Ophelia in “Hamlet”
This excerpt illustrates this point perfectly:
Ophelia was the new woman incarnate, an unconscious pioneer of an emerging breed—able to think for herself, decide what she wanted, then go out and seize it, with little concern for old-fashioned notions of image or protocol. Should this cause some pain, so be it. If men must be toyed with in the service of her unwavering commitment to burning personal ambition, then they would suffer the consequences. Ophelia meant no harm to anyone. Still, she clung to an agenda that would not be denied.
This is brought into sharp focus as Ophelia continues with her plan of social ascension. In order to gain the Prince’s affection, she is perfectly willing to pit friend against friend and too use unheard of means to do it. She actually walks down to the practice field alone to approach Horatio for a romantic encounter. A medieval social no-no. For Ophelia, love, even if it is genuine love, is not the desired end result. It is just a vehicle to the nobility that she desperately craves, and the status that comes with it. Towards the end of the novel, she blunders on to Hamlet (now revealed to be a woman) and Horatio making love. (pg. 231) Just after losing her Father, she is driven over the edge and into madness by the sight of her “only hope” at nobility engaged in what she believes to be unnatural sex. I think that more than the loss of Hamlet’s love; it’s the loss of her dream of nobility that drives her to suicide. When she comes upon the river she had always seen as bright and sparkling from a distance, she finds it, “brown, tepid, and utterly unpleasant up close.” This reflects the death of her dream and it seems fitting that they should join in death together. Miraculously she is saved by Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway, and, using the tools available to her, they get together and her dream becomes a reality.
Another way in which the character Ophelia differs between the play and the novel is in her sexuality. There are other characters in the play “Hamlet” (like her own brother) that are very sexual, but Ophelia remains as chaste and pure as a maiden of those times could hope to be (during the play). In “Sweet Prince,” ambition and a new sense of “woman,” push Ophelia to force herself on whoever can advance her standing. “…the girl closed her eyes, leaned forward, and patiently waited to be kissed long and hard and, following that, willing to surrender herself up to the prince. If Amuleth would not initiate their full-romance, she certainly would!” (pg 76) In a similar scene, a year or so later, Ophelia again approaches Hamlet. “ ‘Marry: If I were your mistress! Or I should think my honesty ranker than wit?’ Hamlet’s lips parted, ready to proffer further repartee. Before a word was out, Ophelia—without warning—cocked her head sideways. Lunging forward suddenly, she kissed Hamlet, lips slightly parted.” And again, “Ophelia firmly embraced Hamlet again, kissing the prince hard, with wide open mouth, in the naughty Norman manner.” She wants to be royalty, and the best way for her to do that is to get with royalty. It’s fair to say she’s giving it the old college try. By college try, I mean: have as much sex as you can. She even goes so far as to grind herself on Hamlet and talk about being pricked.