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Many similarities exist between Hamlet and Twelve Ophelias, but they have many differences. Essentially, the storylines are consistent, but each focuses on a different character, at a different period in the complete story. Twelve Ophelias is a play with broken song written by Caridad Svich. In this essay I will describe the differences between the two stories, and base that discussion around the idea about the focus on each of the characters. The most challenging part for Svich was to find a way to focus in on Ophelia, despite her being killed in Hamlet. After he accomplishes this the story unfolds, and reveals the ways that it is different from Hamlet.

12 Ophelias has many of the same elements that Hamlet has, but the key difference is the main character. In 12 Ophelias, Ophelia is resurrected from the water after she died in Hamlet. When she rises out of the water, she is on a mission to do away with her past and to try to create a new destiny for her life. She is in an Appalachian Elsinore, in Denmark. In this place, Gertrude runs a brother, and Hamlet and Horatio slum it. All that she is experiencing is not what it seems. This is much more different than Hamlet where everything around him is essentially what its physical appearance would make the audience think.

The play is much more American than Hamlet, even though it still takes place in Denmark, which Hamlet also does. It is essentially an interpretation of Hamlet’s myth. The central question is about how it is possible to be able to break the old cycles and to start a fresh new cycle when the past history controls your life.

After reading each of these plays, it is clear to see why the authors of each chose each of the names. It is only appropriate that Ophelia is given her own story. This is best because it is a focus on her, and it shows more about what she is like. In Hamlet, there is not really the type of emphasis given to Ophelia like she deserves. Hamlet shows many of the similarities between the two characters, but it does not show many of the differences. Due to the central character in each of the plays, each author needed to create a different name.

Hamlet shows Ophelia as having much of the same madness that she has. Ophelia is very crazy. The two seem to be responsible for the other’s madness. There are so many of the mechanical regularities in both of the plays. Each author makes it so that the audience sympathizes for each of the lead characters in the respective plays. In Hamlet, the audience responds to the emotional maladies. This happens in many of the same ways that they respond to the emotional maladies in Twelve Ophelias. “The mechanical regularities of such emotional maladies as they are presented within Hamlet, not only allow his audience to sympathize with the tragic prince Hamlet, but to provide the very complexities necessary in understanding the tragedy of his, ironically similar, lady Ophelia as well” (Shakespear’s, n.d.).

It is interesting to see Ophelia’s perspective about Hamlet. While he is depicted as being somewhat of an intellectual in Hamlet, Ophelia refers to him as “Rude Boy.” The journey that Ophelia takes in this play indicates that she is not crazy. Instead, she is finally able to find herself again at the end of the play. She is broken by love, and then she finds herself again. Hamlet and Ophelia are very in love. But Hamlet has sworn to avenge his father’s death by killing his uncle. Hamlet only appears to go crazy so that his uncle will admit he killed his father.It is because Hamlet rejects her that she drowns herself. She truly went mad, but Hamlet only pretended to go mad.

It is interesting to see that this play takes place 400 years after Hamlet. Ophelia has a cold and empty memory of the past, but she is full of desire. Hamlet is in this play also, and he lives with his mom. Ophelia wants to find him, and this is her turn to lead the story.

In each of these plays, it is interesting to see the different perspectives. Both of the plays are centered on madness. One of them actually goes mad, Ophelia, and the other does not go mad, Hamlet. Each of the authors names the title in the way that they do because the title character changes. It is only appropriate the Twelve Ophelias is named after Ophelia, because it is about her. The same thing goes for Hamlet, which is about Hamlet, so it makes sense and that is obviously why each is titled in the way that they are.

Works Cited

“’12 Ophelias’ Presented March 6-10 and 12-14 at CSU, Chico.” (2013). California State 

Hamlet Conundrums.” (2013). University of California, Santa Cruz. Retrieved from

Shakespeare, W. (1999). Hamlet. New York. Cambridge University Press

Simon, S. (2008). “12 Ophelias” Brings “Hamlet” Heroine Back to Life. NY1.

Svich, C. (2004). Twelve Ophelias. New York. Bernhard DeBoer.

Twelve Ophelias (A play with broken songs).” (2013).

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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