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The “Rebellious” Ophelia: An Analysis of Film Adaptations of Hamlet Open Access

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Ophelia, an iconic figure of a madness-afflicted woman, has been commonly regarded as a signifier bearing cultural and social significance within changes of cultural context over the duration of the play’s performance history. Building upon David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder’s “narrative prosthesis” theory, which views disability as a pervasive metaphorical narrative device signifying social and personal crisis, this thesis argues that Ophelia’s madness serves as a metaphor for moral degeneration, patriarchal oppression, anxiety about alienation in modern society, and self-identity crisis. Furthermore, this thesis argues that madness offers a channel for Ophelia to express her thoughts.In Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000), Ophelia is self-conscious of her objectified position as an erotic spectacle among men. In Sherwood Hu’s Prince of the Himalayas, Odsaluyang (Ophelia) is able to utilize madness as a disguise to help her escape from patriarchal moral judgment and violence. In Feng Xiaogang’s The Banquet, Qing Nü (Ophelia) notably does not go mad. Her pure and passionate love for the prince frees her from the relentless patriarchal system. However, this love and passion, as the only iconic identity of Qing Nü, perpetuates the dangerous stereotype that woman can only be the subject of romanticized love, subservient to masculinist cultural imagination. Finally, Ophelia’s death indicates that the patriarchal system cannot allow an individual to break free of its myriad restrictions and move about unfettered; therefore, it eradicates the freed body within the system for the purpose of maintaining the established order.

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