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Symbols in Hamlet

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by

Evelyn Taylor

on 22 January 2013

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Transcript of Symbols in Hamlet

by Isaac and Evelyn Symbols in Hamlet Flowers in Hamlet

In Ophelia using different flowers to represent different emotions, relationships, and ideas, she is able to articulate all that she feels up until the point of her suicide. Because of Ophelia's character specifically, but also women in general, she didn't have the authority to express directly how she feels about the events that have occurred. As Laertes has just returned back to Denmark, he is talking to the King and Queen, and trying to find out his father's murderer. Ophelia comes into the scene, and begins alluding to flowers. 175-176 "There's rosemary,
that's for remembrance;
pray, love, remember."

Rosemary is a symbol for
remembrance and faithfulness.
Ophelia could be speaking directly to Laertes, possibly helping him to find Polonius' killer. 176-177 "...And there is
pansies; that's for thoughts."

The pansy is a symbol for
faithfulness. When she speaks of pansies, it's of the Viola tricolor flower, again reminding Laertes. 180 [To King.] "There's
fennel for you, and
columbines."

Fennel represents flattery.
Ophelia gets to show her
wittiness here. Claudius' personality is the kind that
loves flattering, but as you pick fennel from the ground, it wilts and rots very fast. Columbine is the symbol for foolishness and faithlessness. She hands Claudius both these herbs at the same time, literally giving him the opinion that most people hold over him. In offending the King, she could lose her life, showing how little value for her life she has left. 181-83 [To Queen.] There's rue for you; and here's some
for me: we may call it herb of grace a' Sundays.
You may wear your rue with a difference.


This is the most important herb in the monologue. Rue symbolizes adultery, regret, and everlasting suffering.
To give the Queen rue insults both Gertrude and Claudius. More importantly: Because of how much Ophelia knew about herbs, if she wanted to commit suicide by poison she could have
chosen another herb that
is a less painful death
(like Hemlock?).
Instead, she chooses a very
bitter death, unless it is in
fact for an abortion.
She drowns herself not long
after all this takes place,
most likely to preserve her
honor. Important: Ophelia gives herself rue. Rue was used for abortions. Too little and it wouldn't abort the baby. Too much, she would die. Her taking the rue implies that she is pregnant with Hamlet's child. 183-184 "...There's a daisy."

Daisies symbolize innocence. She doesn't elaborate on this at all. She acknowledges the innocence, but no one around her is worthy of it, not even herself. 184-86 "I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. They say he made a good end—"

Violets represent faithfulness and integrity. Now that her father was killed, no one is deserving of being handed any integrity. It adds depth to Ophelia's character,
revealing her creativity. Speaking in symbols,
she continues her character's inability to
speak clearly and powerfully. Displays how intelligent she really is, despite how concealed she is. Ophelia is sensitive, and in her last
moments of living, her obligation to
speak what is true to her is
important. For Ophelia to be
able to be so blunt took
a great amount of courage
out of such an underrated
character. "In death, Alexander of Macedon's end differed no whit from his stable-boy's. Either both were received into the same generative principle of the universe, or both alike were dispersed into atoms." "To what base uses we may return Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole?"
-Hamlet (5.1.207-210) amlet is not a play that offers many large symbols throughout the play. But of the symbols written, they have an important part in the dark plot line. Yorick's Skull "Alas, poor Yorick!
I knew him, Horatio. A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times. And now how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kiss'd I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? Quite chap- fall'n? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come. Make her laugh at that."
-Hamlet (5.1.187-200) as a symbol. Found during the peak of Hamlet's pessimistic thoughts, the symbol of Yorick's skull, in true vanitas art style, represents death as well as the turning point in Hamlet's view of death and his change in character within the scene. Although it is a grizzly image, it also connects to Hamlet's less tragic childhood, and a time where his life was not ruled by sorrow. "Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy veiled lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that live must die,
Passing through nature to eternity."
-Gertrude (1.2.68-72) Overall the skull acts as a catalyst for the change in Hamlet's character, while simultaneously connecting to the play's theme of death and illustrating the Momento Mori motif. "[A] fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times[.]"
-Hamlet (5.1.189-190)
Full transcript