Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

John Warrick

Advisor Department



Ophelia is a character that has captivated and moved audiences since her first appearance onstage in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark around the year 1600. Unfortunately, she represents a negative and slim representation of femininity that reflects a long-standing trend that has established a specific and limited iconic understanding of her character. As a feminist theatre maker I have undertaken a multi-phase approach to reconstructing Ophelia based on four separate approaches. First, I will examine how it is that Ophelia’s representation is harmful in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Second I will show how feminist readers and critics have approached the Hamlet Ophelia through a new lens. Third I will analyze how five different adaptations of Hamlet approach redefining Ophelia in relation to the original and feminist Ophelias. And finally, I will implement my own creative process as a feminist costume designer in order to create a costume design for each of the separate plays’ Ophelia that supports feminist readings as well as the playwrights’ intentions.

It is vital to subvert the iconic Ophelia because of the power Shakespeare has over theatre and literature, and how that power has the ability to do real harm. In recreating Ophelia as a feminist I can address and remedy the harm that has been done to her and to women exposed to the limited representations of Ophelia. The case studies culminate with rough sketches, including an appendix of final renderings.