Ophelia Songs

In this cycle of four songs I have tried to show the change which takes place in Ophelia: From a normal healthy young woman at the beginning of the play into the tragic and pitiable figure who takes her own life at the end.

There are four movements:

Ophelia 1 (Hamlet, act 2, scene 1), Ophelia 2 (Hamlet, act 3, scene 1), Ophelia 3 (see below), Ophelia 4 (Hamlet, act 4, scene 5)


Ophelia 3 - commentary

Ophelia is no more the noble lady of the first song. She is not however completely insane, there is still “method in her madness”.

The singer should show a difference between the anger and bitterness of this song, and the complete withdrawal from the world in the fourth song.

One has the feeling in this third song, that she knows very well what she is saying and how it affects the listener (the Queen, Hamlet’s mother) but she uses a language and a delivery which is the very opposite of that of the noble lady of the first song.

Her anger with Hamlet for having given her to believe he loved her and now, for no apparent reason, for having rejected her, seems to have robbed her of her own reason.

She believes that Hamlet has used her like a whore and deserted her, and so she now acts the role of a whore. Because she is already slightly mad she is oblivious to the pain that her behaviour and uncouth language has on those around her.

Ophelia 3 - Fiona Powell (soprano), Annette Burkhard (piano)
Ophelia 3

How should I your true love know
From another one?—
By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon.

He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone.
At his head a grass-green turf,
At his heels a stone.

White his shroud as the mountain snow—
Larded with sweet flowers,
Which bewept to the grave did–not–go
With true-love showers.

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window
To be your Valentine

Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
And dupped the chamber door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.

By Gis, and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do’t if they come to’t,
By Cock, they are to blame.

Quoth she ‘Before you tumbled me
You promised me to wed.’
So would I ‘a’ done, by yonder sun,
And thou hadst not come to my bed.

William Shakespeare
Ophelia Songs