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2004 English Abstracts

2004 Research Fair Archive - English Abstracts

Gender and Identity in Hamlet: A Modern Interpretation of Ophelia
by Heather Brown

This essay utilizes Virginia Woolf's modern reading of history in A Room of One's Own to frame an understanding of Hamlet's Ophelia. Contrary to some critics, Brown argues that Ophelia epitomizes a source of sympathy due to her loss of identity after the removal of patriarchal dominance. She refutes claims that Ophelia admirably asserts her identity through suicide and, instead, interprets Ophelia in terms of Woolf's "mirror" concept: she serves as a foil to male characters and a catalyst to their "heroic action." Male characters in Hamlet act as puppeteers, manipulating Ophelia to the extent that her identity exists explicitly as a function of their needs. Once their influence is removed, Ophelia's subsequent madness reveals not a release from patriarchy but a fixation upon the patriarchs--an inability to define herself apart from her relation to men. By examining Ophelia's characterization through the lens of Woolf, Brown shows we can understand Ophelia as lacking precisely the strong, autonomous feminist tradition that contemporary critics have since attempted to fashion upon her.

Happiness and Social Acceptance in Aristotle and Shakespeare
by Raymond Bradford

This paper compares Aristotle's views on the attainment of happiness in Nichomachaen Ethics to Shakespeare's implicit examination of the subject in Othello. Bradford contends that despite admitting the need for some external fortune and social interaction, Aristotle's hierarchical views on happiness ultimately depend upon individual excellence and mental self-sufficiency.In contrast, Othello presents characters that, despite the distinct nature of their lives, require social acceptance and security before they can acquire happiness. In drawing this distinction, Bradford notes Shakespeare's tendency to assign a more crucial role to social interaction and infighting in providing or preventing happiness--a fundamental difference he attributes to the increasing social mobility of Renaissance England.