I thought thy bride-bed to have deck’d sweet maid, And not have strew’d thy grave.

Is this bride-bed be-decking an English tradition? Or a Danish one?
I don’t feel like I’ve seen a lot of this in European films – at least among the more Germanic, Scandinavian, English folks.

It’s hard to imagine a queen – like – a very English queen, strewing flowers on her daughter-in-law’s bed.
Like, if the current Queen Elizabeth had gone into her son’s bedroom to decorate it for Lady Diana. It’s just…unlikely.

But in cultures with a more expressive attitude toward sex, I don’t find it quite as hard to imagine. I can imagine a Queen that Isabelle Allende dreamed up doing some bridal bed flower strewing.
Earlier periods were sometimes freer about such things in some ways – and Gertrude and Hamlet are both fairly frank about sex in unexpected moments. Like this one.

I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife.

I have questions about this. Lots and lots of questions. Because Polonius makes it pretty clear that Ophelia is a prince out of Ophelia’s stars – that he had her return his letters because of this difference in their stations – and when Polonius says all this to Gertrude and Claudius, she does not say, “Now, Polonius, if they’re happy – why can’t we let them do their thing?”

She’s just, like, “Yeah, I don’t think that’s it.”

But WAS she supportive of this relationship at the time?
OR does she retroactively hope this? Like, now that Ophelia’s dead she can hope for it safely – without any danger of them actually getting married. Surely she would have preferred a princess from Austria or something. But maybe she did really hope this.
I’m not sure though.


This is one of those moments wherein the literal meaning of the word does not jive with the circumstances. In order for someone to fare well, to do well, to eat well, to go along just fine, that person would have to be alive. And Ophelia is dead. Now – her spirit, I suppose, in their world view might well continue and one might hope for her to fare well at St. Peter’s Gate or something but she won’t ever eat well again. It is one of the principle bummers of dying.

Sweets to the sweet.

This is a line my grandmother said when she gave me something sweet to eat – like candy or dessert. The first time I heard this line in context, I was pretty surprised that it wasn’t about chocolate for a nice person but flowers for a nice dead person.

I don’t think I was disturbed so much as impressed at how language travels from plays to people, permeating their lives.

Drown’d, drown’d.

We really do need to be told a few times when something like this happens. We’re most of us, not really equipped for this kind of terrible surprise.
We have to say, “What? – I’m sorry. What happened?”
I’ve gotten several calls over the years – the kind letting me know that someone I’d cared about was gone, usually a suicide – and the brain just does not compute. It can’t grasp the reality of the information. Even a stranger – I was glued to social media on August 12th when the car killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. I’d been watching and sharing and trying to be of help from a distance all day and when the news broke that a guy in a grey car had just driven into a crowd, it was incredibly hard to process. I saw the videos of people immediately after. I saw the chaos. I soon heard that someone was dead. For a while, the word was that it was a 12 year old kid. It is a terrible feeling to feel a little relieved that it was an adult woman instead. But then awful again. Because we watched it in progress, really. And even if you were following – you needed to be told twice. She’s dead. She was hit by a car. She was murdered by an angry white supremacist trying to inflict as much damage as possible and now she’s dead. Murdered. Dead. Murdered.

but long it could not be Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay To muddy death.

Killed by clothing.

It’s not that she killed herself, it’s that her clothes drank themselves silly and pulled her from the water into the mud.
Murderous dress? Not exactly.
Just careless cloth that soaked up too much and let itself get so sopping it pulled a poor innocent singing woman into the muck.
This is a good reason to watch what you wear. You don’t want your outfit turning on you at the inopportune moment and killing you by accident.

As one incapable of her own distress, Or like a creature native and indued Unto that element:

The Ophelia-fish is a curious native to the local ponds. It floats on the surface for a while as if it were sunbathing and then appears to become heavy and sinks below the surface like a stone.
Just when you think the Ophelia fish has gone forever, it floats back up to the surface face down in a classic dead man’s float. It is likely then to swim away and repeat this cycle somewhere else.

Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;

This is actually not a terrible way to go – at least, as described here. I hope however I go, I can go down singing.

Once, on a boat, in a terrible storm, one that might comfortably be called a tempest, I clung to the side and I sang. No one could hear me – because the storm was loud – but I sang for myself. I thought I might die out there. So I sang.

My friend, clinging to another rail on the boat, recited poems to herself. She is a poet, of course.

Music and poetry are there for us when we need them most, up to and including our deaths. May my death come when I have a few moments to sing as it arrives.

Her clothes spread wide; And mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up.

In my fantasy version of Hamlet, Ophelia’s mermaid–like clothes swirl into a tail and she is, as she sings, transformed into a mermaid. She grows gills and her lungs expand and as she lies there, she finds her tail moving her first one way then other. She finds herself moved by her own tail and in a sudden burst of inspiration and knowledge, she dives deeper into the water and then emerges again, laughing. She takes one last look at the land and swims away toward the sea.

When down her weedy trophies and herself Fell in the weeping brook.

The brook started crying as soon as he saw her coming. There was something about her face and her manner that reminded him of a girl who’d fallen into him years ago. Her song was so sad. Her arms full of flower crowns. She did not seem as though she might be coming to crown him king. She looked likely to lose her footing on one of those slippery rocks in his bank. She was wearing clothes that suggested she had not spent much time in nature. She was lost in her own world. He thought, “If she falls, I’ll do my best to toss her back on to the bank. I’ll bring her to a rock. I’ll catch her in the weeds.” He had a million plans but he knew none would really work.

By the time that tree branch broke and unceremoniously dumped her into the water, the brook was crying was so hard he could barely feel her land.