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Shakespeare's Letters$
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Alan Stewart

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199549276

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549276.001.0001

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Lovers' Lines: Letters to Ophelia

Lovers' Lines: Letters to Ophelia

(p.231) 6 Lovers' Lines: Letters to Ophelia
Shakespeare's Letters

Stewart Alan

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that William Shakespeare's play Hamlet does carry answers to puzzling questions, through signals that one has lost the skills to read, not all of which are clearly ‘in the text’. Instead, the nature of the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is conveyed through a complex interplay of spatial and transactional markers, represented through architecture and gift-giving, that would have been vividly evident to the play's early audiences. These markers are drawn from powerful contemporary ideologies, and bear some relation to legal evidence, but they find their full power only on stage. And those signals coalesce on Hamlet's letter to Ophelia. The chapter suggests that, in important ways, Hamlet and Ophelia were already contracted to be married.

Keywords:   William Shakespeare, play, Hamlet, Ophelia, markers, ideologies, letter

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