Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!

I’ve read so much about Hamlet over the years that I often can’t remember the source of my knowledge. This line, for example, reminds me of a point made, in some book or other, that lists like this suggest a kind of build – that the character is trying one thing and then the next and then the next because the first words don’t work. For example, – Laertes starts by calling Ophelia “fair maid” but she doesn’t respond to him. He tries “kind sister” – no dice. He finally uses her name and calls her “sweet Ophelia!” Which is his last hope.
She clearly does not respond to this one either and this is what convinces Laertes of her loss of wits.
I’ve seen a lot of Laertes speed through this line – as if the three titles were all her name – as if she were Dear Maid Kind Sister Sweet Ophelia Jones. There’s no punch that way, though. It’s just a list. But if each part of it is meant to do something – it’s so much more.

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