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Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
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In the nineteenth century the character of Ophelia transformed from a minor role in Hamlet into one of the great muses of the Romantic period. Ophelia’s rise to an archetype of feminine madness was not a result of Shakespeare’s pen alone, but of the accumulation of interpretations of her character from actresses, artists, critics, writers, musicians, and social attitudes toward women. This paper focuses on nineteenth-century interpretations of her death, specifically art song.
A brief survey of the nineteenth-century European cultural and social climate pertaining to Ophelia is included in the paper:
*Shakespeare in France and Germany
*Nineteenth-Century Actresses in the Role of Ophelia
*The Death of Ophelia
*Ophelia in Art
*Ophelia as the Feminine Ideal
*Ophelia: A Pathetic or Tragic Character
The bulk of the paper focuses on four nineteenth-century art songs (three French and one German) that portray Ophelia’s death: “La mort d'Ophélie,” by Hector Berlioz; “Herzeleid,” by Robert Schumann; “La mort d'Ophélie,” by Camille Saint-Saëns; and “Ophélia” from Poèmes d’automne by Gabriel Dupont. In addition to poetic and musical analysis, correlations are drawn between these songs and paintings depicting her passing: Sir John Everett Millais’s Ophelia, 1852; Arthur Hughes’s Ophelia, 1852; and Eugène Delacroix’s La mort d’Ophélia, 1853.
This paper serves as a cultural and interdisciplinary musical character study of Ophelia, exploring the various interpretations of her death as a heroic transcendence, final act of rebellion, unfortunate accident, or conscious surrender to sadness and death. The reader will take away a better understanding of Ophelia and the various interpretations of the enigmatic character, which will aid artists taking on the role.
2014, Jennifer Leigh Tipton
Tipton, Jennifer Leigh, "A Document in Death and Madness: A Cultural and Interdisciplinary Study of Nineteenth-Century Art Song Settings on the Death of Opelia" (2014). Dissertations. 273.
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