Pretty Ophelia: The Destructive Nature of Objectification through Music and Prose

Open Access
Mueller, Leah Wright
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Music Education
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Edward Barse Christopher, Thesis Supervisor
  • Joanne Rutkowski, Honors Advisor
  • Ophelia
  • Shakespeare
  • Music
Shakespeare’s Ophelia has long fascinated composers, painters, poets, and scholars alike. She is at first beautiful and pure, but descends into utter madness filled with dark coded phrases that leave plenty of room for mystery and interpretation. In this thesis I investigated the lack of personal identity and tragic circumstances that lead to Ophelia’s demise. All who surround her, Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, and even Shakespeare himself, constantly objectify her. The successive composers who have interpreted Ophelia diminish this objectification by giving her, her own voice. As part of this thesis project, a recital featuring the Brahms’ and Strauss Ophelia lieder as well as a performance of the original Shakespeare text was given on November 15th, 2011. The recital program, program notes, script, and video are included in this thesis.