What was really the cause of Ophelia's insanity?
Note: You don't need to read Ophelia to understand this one-shot.
Disclaimer: I do not own Hamlet by William Shakespeare or Ophelia by Lisa Klein.
Rosemary is for Remembrance
By Lady Elena Dawson
Fan-made Excerpt from Lisa Klein's Ophelia
Please, take a seat. I would like to welcome you to seventeenth century Denmark, a small region in northern Europe. It is known for being the setting of one of Shakespeare's many plays, one known as Hamlet. Today, I am going to tell you a story of a young girl who finds herself falling in love with the prince of Denmark, young Hamlet himself. This girl's name happens to be Ophelia, the daughter of the king's supervisor, Polonius. But you probably already know that.
In this wonderful novel by Lisa Klein, we go into Ophelia's mind to see what she was thinking of during her state of sanity and then madness. Your many questions, such as why she had gone insane after her father's death - even though he showed her such little affection - and why she had drowned will be answered.
I will not bore you with the summary of the book, but I will give you what I disliked. I was displeased by the author's lack of detail on Ophelia and Laertes' relationship. In the movies and play itself, the two had a close, affectionate bond as brother and sister. He risked his life to fight Hamlet for his family, after all! He even threw his body in her grave and wished to be buried with her! It was barely described in the book, and I think it needs more depth before saying that Laertes has slain Hamlet because of her and her father's deaths.
However, I don't think Laertes and Ophelia always had that loving bond. After re-reading this one-shot I wrote a couple years ago, I started to think that Laertes not only wanted to be buried with his sister because he loved her, but also because he was guilty, and he never had the time to apologize for the struggle he caused her as he sought out to find who was – thinking of Ophelia as a nuisance in his teenage life. Their relationship couldn't always be dripping with brotherly affection. This is what I would've added to the novel, which goes more into depth what their relationship could've been like. It fits somewhere in the beginning when Klein is describing Ophelia's childhood.
When I was of ten-years old, Laertes and I had a rough edge to our brother-sister relationship. Unlike when we were young and playful, Laertes was now fourteen and wanting his own freedom. I was always, and obviously, disappointed when he left the castle during the middle of the day to accompany Hamlet and Horatio with endless tests of knowledge and immature sword fights with sticks. It made me almost beg to go with him, not only because of Hamlet's appearance, but also because my loneliness was now too much to muster.
Every day, when Laertes was out of castle walls and my father at work, I would go down to the riverside in the woods and poke at the water with a stick. Some days I swam, but most of the time I was drowned with memories. I thought of my childhood without a mother but with a careless father. I was mesmerized by my past with Laertes, and my encounter with Hamlet. Most of the time I got confused, wondering what I had done in life to lose a mother I never knew and the relationship of a brother I never did wrong to, besides entertaining him with playful games and my company. It wasn't until now that I realized just how tough adolescence was on the young.
Laertes and I had always been the best of friends, until he wanted some space and started hanging out with others of his own gender. We used to play endless games of hide-and-seek in the woods, wrestling on the soft grass and daisy patches, and test each other's knowledge of mythology, foreign languages, and gossip spreading throughout Elsinore. I remember clearly when he picked up a white, blooming flower from the ground near the river, and said it was a Narcissus.
He said that Echo was a wood nymph who always talked people out of things, showing them their gullible side. She fell in love with a handsome, young man by the name of Narcissus, but the problem was, he was very fond of himself and wouldn't take notice to a lowly nymph. One day, a woman she had deceived cast a spell on her that made her repeat the last words anyone said. When meeting Narcissus in the forest, they talked, but he rejected her love in disgust. Echo, full of grief, diminished away until only a pile of stones and her voice was left. Later on, Narcissus, tired of his hunting job and the heat, went to get a drink from the river and was captivated by his reflection. To be with himself, he drowned, and in his place were petals from a white flower, which were named Narcissus flowers.
I laughed when Laertes finished the story. "Ha! I've never heard of such a conceited man! He deserves drowning after what he did."
Laertes just picked at the petals. "Don't think too hard on death, ma petite soeur, unless you lust for evil."
I immediately shut my mouth and regretted what I said.
It wasn't only our storytelling I remembered. I also reminisced older times when we laid on our backs out in the fields near the mountains, and looked up at the clouds during the day. When our father didn't get home until later on, we had some time to go out to the exact same spot and look up at the stars.
"If you look very closely, you can see the Andromeda galaxy," Laertes pointed out to me one day.
"Yes, it is named after a beautiful princess who was chained near the ocean to be devoured by the Kraken, a ferocious, underwater beast. Perseus, a Greek hero, turned the Kraken into stone using Medusa's head, and saved the princess. If you look over there," he pointed to a section in the starry sky, "you can see the constellation Perseus."
I loved it when Laertes told me stories from Greek mythology. By the time we stopped visiting the open field, he had shown me many constellations, such as Orion, Taurus, Pegasus, and Gemini.
Though it may seem like we had a strong, eternal relationship, it wasn't to last that long.
Later on, when Laertes became friends with Hamlet and Horatio, he was kind enough to invite me to one of their stick fights in the woods. I agreed with no hesitation, and followed him timidly.
We stopped walking when we came upon a large patch of grass next to the river. Laertes put his fingers in his mouth and blew. A whistle that was new to me rang out and echoed off the trees. My mind thought of Echo, and how we were hearing her voice right now. I swear I could see white petals bobbing on the river current. I gulped, thinking we were being watched, but I pushed that thought aside. It was simply absurd.
There was a rustle of a bush, and I jumped from being startled; my face paled. My breathing quickened as the sound of two familiar voices drifted past my ear, and I calmed when Horatio and Hamlet appeared from behind a lush, flowering bush. They snickered like all young boys would at my sudden reaction, and my face flushed red from embarrassment.
Hamlet bent down and picked up a stick, waving it in my brother's face. "Ready to see who's the champion of today's brawl?"
They both quarreled, and I watched intently their movements and how they maneuvered the stick. Horatio stood next to me, equally in fascination at their swift lunges and blows. Eventually, Hamlet lightly touched my brother on the chest with his "sword," and, with a smile of triumph on his face, gave a little shove that made Laertes fall back. Horatio and I cheered for the prince's victory. Meanwhile, Laertes' face was cherry-red from humiliation and anger. He quickly got to his feet and handed me his stick, saying, "Lasses learn from watching. You go try this game, ma soeur."
"Ah," Hamlet remarked. "We have some French speakers in our midst?"
"Oui, nous parlons francais," I replied. "We speak French."
Hamlet nodded, and put his hand to his face chin, eyeing me suspiciously. "Is it unladylike for a woman to fight someone of the opposite gender?"
"I do not know, my lord. But I am willing to try."
"So be it." A handsome smirk appeared on his face, and my legs felt weak.
Suddenly, Hamlet's stick connected with mine, and I was almost thrown off my feet at the surprise lunge. Regaining my balance, I hit back with an even stronger force. We fought for a few minutes before I realized I had to be gentle, since this was the future king of Denmark I was quarreling with. This realization left me in a daze, and I barely noticed Hamlet coming at me with the stick firmly in his hand, right above his head. My reflexes were faster, however, and I knocked the tree branch out of his hands before he even knew I had moved. It flew into the air and landed a few feet away with a wooden thump. We were both stunned.
Hamlet then scoffed and smiled at me. "Well done," he praised, clapping. "I was clearly shown wrong."
I beamed at Hamlet's comment. I still held my stick with much tension, for I was shocked by my swift, winning blow. My knuckles were white, I was gripping it so hard, and it wasn't until I let go that I noticed my whole body was trembling.
Weak-legged, I stumbled back to Laertes to see his reaction. He had his arms crossed over his chest, and he was trying not to pout. Obviously, he was mad at how I was able to win against the experienced prince, jealous perhaps. When he did say something, it came out as, "You stubborn brat! Can't you just learn to give up before your chances get too high? Why didn't you just give up?"
"Now, now, Laertes." Hamlet's hand came down on my shoulder, and I blushed. "Some people are just more natural at certain things than others."
From what I could tell, Laertes was pained. I tried to apologize, but I gave up in the end. He was trying to be a man, but then I had interfered, and I won the game just out of chance. And yet, all I could keep thinking about was my triumph and how I was finally better than him at something. Or maybe it really was pure luck, and I just wounded his pride out of chance.
Laertes ignored him and decided to sulk. On our way back to the castle, I asked him, "Laertes, why do you loathe me so? We used to be the best of friends."
He stopped in his trail and sighed. "And what is that supposed to mean, Ophelia?"
Tears started pricking at my eyes. "What ever happened to our caring relationship? Don't you remember anything I did for you?"
Laertes glanced into my eyes, but instantly looked away, my tears making him uncomfortable. "Of course I remember," he mumbled. "But people change, Ophelia. No one's ever suspected to stay the same."
"Are you saying things can change? Or go back to how it used to be? Just me and you, brother and sister, playing out in the forest fields?"
Laertes rubbed his neck, and that's when I noticed there were tears in his eyes as he looked up into the sun. "Once things change, they may never go back." He then stepped in front of me and walked out of sight, leaving me, heartbroken, near the trickling river.
It was then that I realized that we were growing up, and that meant growing apart. I was a nuisance to him now, trying to interfere in his manly life and restore our bond. Maybe I should leave him alone, I thought as I took off my shoes and dipped my foot in the river. Then maybe he'll come back one day a different person.
Maybe all it took was time.
Author's Note: Loved it? Hated it? Questions? Concerns? Feel free to leave it all in a review!