‘Hamlet’ is a crash-course in depression. Existential nausea has never been summed up so well as by Hamlet’s yearning repetition of too too solid flesh. His frustration at not being able to act, at being paralysed and then frantically doing the wrong thing just to do something, is a look at the sort of ugly, sort of dull side of mental illness. He talks about bad dreams. He repeats to die, to sleep like a lullaby. We follow his reasoning through, watching where it veers down wrong or illogical paths, but always understanding.
What does Ophelia do? She exits one scene stable and enters another as what Margaret Atwood, in her lecture Ophelia Has A Lot to Answer For, calls ‘winsomely bonkers’. She sings rude songs. She hands out flowers. And then she drowns, beautifully: her clothes spread wide and mermaid-like, surrounded by crow-flowers, nettle, daisies and long purples. Her sweet, lyrical madness is followed by death. Continue reading “From Ophelia to Rae Earl, via Blanche DuBois: Mentally Ill Women in the Media”