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Faceless Shakespeare: Ophelia

hamlet

When I first got the idea for these faceless Shakespeare pictures, I thought I’d do the iconic hand-holding-skull image for Hamlet. And maybe I still will. But it was Ophelia’s scene with the flowers that really captured my imagination, and as I looked into historical interpretations of Ophelia, I was … surprised. I hadn’t imagined her smiling and dressed in white, lingering casually by the stream or lying in it peacefully as if simply taking a nap. In my mind, she was somber, distracted, and desperate. And since she just lost her father, it never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t be wearing black in those scenes. So, here’s my Ophelia. It’s not how the character is usually drawn, but the beauty of literature – and especially plays – is that each person can bring their own perspective and interpret the story in their own way.

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Troilus & Cressida: Act II

Isn’t it amazing how a different adaptation can completely change the story? So far, all the basic, easily-recognizable elements of the Trojan War are there: Agamemnon leads the Greeks, Ulysses comes up with clever schemes, Hector defends Troy, Achilles sits in his tent refusing to fight, and Cassandra wails out prophecies of doom. But in the details, it couldn’t be more different from the version portrayed in The Iliad.

Homer’s Achilles had very specific reasons for refusing to fight, which Shakespeare never mentions, making him come across as lazy and perhaps cowardly. The Greeks in general are painted as an unpleasant group, especially Ajax, who is more-or-less a mindless brute. In contrast, the Trojans are civilized and rational, but they too seem more human than their classical counterparts. For example, Hector seems to be losing his patience with the war, and is willing to give Helen back to the Greeks; it was also mentioned in Act I that he was angry with his wife and “struck his armourer”. Rather than idealized heroes, Shakespeare’s characters are flawed men, tainted by years of war.

I’m hardly the first person to point that out. Troilus and Cressida has even been described as a satire of classical, idealized heroes. That makes a lot of sense, but I think it’s also worth pointing out that flawed heroes are typical of Shakespeare, especially in the tragedies. Romeo and Juliet are foolish teenagers in love, Othello is gullible and prone to jealousy, King Lear falls for his daughters’ false flattery, and so on. The difference is that here, the source material portrayed these men as infallible heroes, while Shakespeare emphasizes their shortcomings.

On a different note, the title characters have yet to share a scene together.

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A Bookworm’s Adventures in Bookland

… yes, that’s a reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It seems fitting to me. After all, there’s nothing that can pull you down a rabbit-hole into a world where anything is possible faster than picking up a book. Metaphorically, at least.

Hi, I’m Sarah. I’m a recent college graduate in my early 20’s, and if you know me, you’ll probably know that I love reading. If you don’t, you probably guessed that from the title of my blog. So, what can you expect to find here? Everything from book reviews, to theories about my favorite series, to random thoughts I just couldn’t help sharing. I read everything from classics to historical fiction to science fiction and fantasy, but I’ll probably talk a lot about YA and middle grade books. I may be “all grown up” now and definitely look at them from a different perspective than I did when I was ten or fifteen, but in my opinion, books for older kids can be much deeper and more worthwhile than most adults give them credit for.

Anyway, that’s all for now, but be sure to check back soon for more.