Ophelia Death Ophelia's death by msonia
Ophelias before Death Soliloquy
Shakespeare's Hamlet is a text replete with surveillance; nearly every character plays the roles of watcher and watched at some point in the play. To cite a partial list of examples: in 1.1, Horatio and die guards watch for the appearance of the Ghost and in 1.4 are joined by Hamlet; Polonius instructs Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in 2.1; Claudius and Gertrude send for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet in 2.2; Hamlet stages the play in order to "catch the conscience of the King" (2.2.582) with the aid of the watching Horatio in 3.2; Polonius and Claudius eavesdrop on Hamlet and Ophelia in 3.1; Hamlet covertly observes Claudius at prayer in 3.3; Polonius's eavesdropping on Gertrude and Hamlet in 3.4 results in his death; Claudius orders Horatio to "give [Ophelia] good watch" (4.5.71), as her madness poses a potential threat; Gertrudes description of Ophelias death (4.7.136-54) implies that she (or someone) watched Ophelia drown; and Hamlet and Horatio "couch ... a while, and mark" the funeral procession (5.1.204). The play therefore diematizes surveillance, raising questions about its nature and purpose. The opening line, "Who's there?" immediately foregrounds the ambiguity inherent in watching and being watched. Barnardo (and Francisco, who repeats the line at 1.1.11) knows he is being observed, but is unsure by whom or what. Francisco's reply emphasizes both the power relations inherent in die observer/observed relationship and the conviction that observation can reveal die truth about identity: "Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself" (1.1.2). Francisco refuses to answer the question, instead forcing Barnardo to identify himself. The play continually returns to the idea that this kind of surveillance - in which the watched subject will presumably "unfold" his true identity - is justifiable. Polonius, in particular, appears convinced that surveillance can lead to absolute and final knowledge: he tells die King and Queen that he "will find / Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed / Within the centre" (2.2.158-60). He acknowledges the paradox inherent in his methodology in telling Reynaldo that he must lie to discover the truth: "By indirections find directions out" (2.1.65). Claudius likewise feels their eavesdropping is justifiable; he refers to himself and Polonius as "lawful espials" (3.1.34) and concludes his observation of Hamlet and Ophelia by noting, "Madness in great ones must not unwatched go" (3.1.187). While it is perhaps unsurprising that politicians might justify their uses of surveillance, the play complicates the issue by revealing Hamlet's own investment in similar techniques. His use of The Mousetrap to find "grounds / More relative" (2.2.580-81) on which to base his revenge culminates in his instructions to Horatio on how to watch Claudius during the play: "Even with the very comment of thy soul / Observe mine uncle ... Give him heedful note, / For I mine eyes will rivet to his face" (3.2.72-73, 77-78).