|Painting of Ophelia by John Everett Millais|
the character of Ophelia in Hamlet
has always annoyed me. Not because I think the character is unrealistic--sadly, I've known a few too many Ophelias in my life--but because she's such a ninny. She lets her father and brother boss her around; she lets Hamlet mistreat her and then she kills herself. She'd have lasted about a day and a half n Westeros. But what if...Ophelia wasn't the pliant little maid we all know, weaving circlets of rosemary and singing nonsense songs? What if she were an altogether different person?
The Sister's Story
by Katherine Tomlnison
Hamlet had been away at university for almost a year when his father died.
he was on the road home to Elsinore when news of his father’s illness reached
It was far too
late for him to send his companion away, so when the prince arrived to find the
court in mourning, his friend was thrown into the midst of the maelstrom along
It was a peculiar
The old king
had died of a stomach ailment and even though the prince was of age, the title
had passed to the king’s brother, Claudius instead of him.
the prince’s newly widowed mother had already married her former
friend Horatio remarked upon the somewhat unseemly haste of the nuptials,
Hamlet rebuked him saying that he admired the economy of the measure, which
allowed the kitchen to serve the funeral’s baked meats sliced cold at the
In truth, Hamlet
cared little for the crown itself—he was a scholar, not a fighter, and Prince
Fortinbras of Norway had often been known to mock him as “the student prince.”
Claudius was rooted from more martial stock, and eager to send the Norwegian
prince threatening our borders back to his own kingdom without tribute or
had favored diplomacy in dealing with the Norse-men, a policy Claudius had
As soon as
he was king, Claudius ordered the Danish army to prepare for war. My brother
Laertes was ordered back from Paris to lead the troops that would protect the
land between the border and Elsinore. If Hamlet felt the slight of his uncle’s
favor passing him by, he did not show it.
In fact, if
he had any feelings at all, he did not express them—not to me, not to Horatio,
and certainly not to the two fools who were his best friends at court,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
surprised that Hamlet did not turn to me; surprised and somewhat hurt.
We had been
lovers since I turned 15 and it was commonly assumed that one day we would
marry. My brother opposed this idea, mostly because he did not like the prince
(Rosencrantz once joked that Laertes opposed the match and I had overheard Rosencrantz
say that his objections were not because he disliked the prince, but that he
liked him a little too much.
Guildenstern had countered this witticism with an observation of his own suggesting
that perhaps Laertes wanted to keep me for himself.
had enraged my brother and vastly amused the court, fueling speculation that
was not kind to Laertes.
was giddy with the possibility of my marrying the prince, despite his public protestations
to the contrary. My father was a noble by birth, but a minor noble and despite
his title of “Lord Chamberlain,” his function at court was as only slightly
more important than that of the king’s Master of Hounds. Being father-in-law to
the future king was a prospect that thrilled him.
was no doubt that Claudius would name Hamlet his heir. The king had no children
of his own and Queen Gertrude was well past child-bearing age.
assumed Hamlet’s parents found me…adequate…as a potential mate for their son. I
am a pretty woman from a noble family and really, all the only thing they
really required of a princess bride was a brood mare of sufficiently impressive
bloodstock that the royal spawn would not be born with a crooked back or a