In Shakespeare's Hamlet, please analyze Queen Gertrude's explaination of Ophelia's death in act IV, scene 7.

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Queen Gertrude starts announcing Ophelia's death to her brother Laertes on line 134 by saying that "One woe doth tread upon another's heel."  This introduction prepares her listeners that she is amazed that so many horrible things are happening one right after another. After announcing Ophelia's death by drowning, Laertes asks where it happened.  Gertrude reveals that it was near a willow that grows "aslant a brook," which means "next to." Then she says that the tree "shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream" (138). This means that the under-sides of the leaves are reflected by the stream. This description not only paints the tragic picture of the setting, but the willow tree also symbolizes mourning and forsaken love that makes the scene of Ophelia's death more appropriate. Then Gertrude describes the different flowers that surround the area which also reminds us of the flowers that Ophelia played with during her madness. Gertrude goes on to beautify the scene of death as appropriate to the beautiful young girl who suffered it. She explains that at first, Ophelia's dress flowered out in the water like a mermaid, but once the clothing was saturated and heavy, it pulled her down to a "muddy death." Whether she was trying to break the news in a beautiful way or soften the blow, she certainly glorifies the death as well.


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