Who was Ophelia?

WO1Ophelia was a young woman in the play Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare. We know little about the women in her life, but there are three men who play important roles: her father, brother, and boyfriend.

Ophelia’s father gives her little credit for having a mind of her own:

Polonius: Affection! Pooh! You speak like a green girl, unsifted in such perilous circumstance. Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?

Ophelia seems to belive he’s right:

Ophelia: I do not know, my lord, what I should think.

Later, Polonius tells Ophelia to think of herself as a baby and follow his instruction.

The Other Men in Ophelia’s Life

  • Hamlet, Ophelia’s boyfriend, and Laertes, her brother, treat her much the same as her father.
  • The other woman in the play is Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. Even she is controlled by men.
  • In the end, Ophelia goes mad and kills herself because of the pressure she feels from others.

A Bad End for Ophelia

Ophelia either drowns herself or trips and falls in the river. There is some debate as to whether she is pregnant with Hamlet’s baby when this happens.

What Was Missing in Ophelia’s Life?

  • Women: No mother; no girlfriends.
  • Belief in herself.
  • Opportunities.

WO2Turning Ophelia Upside-Down

Our goal in Club and Camp Ophelia is to “turn Ophelia upside-down.” Girls learn the power of connection with other girls, and see the value of being true to themselves.

Rewriting Ophelia

To help girls explore how Ophelia’s life might have been changed for the better, in 2004, we piloted a theater program to “rewrite” her story.

You can read more about the theater project in the January/February 2008 issue of New Moon Magazine.