Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Ophelia & Padme & Jane

That connection I brought up a couple weeks ago between Ophelia and Padme has been brewing up some additional thoughts.

Ophelia, so in love with her Hamlet that she died a watery grave for him. Padme, so in love with her Anakin that she died at his very hand. Jane, so in love with her Rochester that . . . wait a second, Jane didn't die for Rochester, did she? Nope, Bertha did that for her.

Bertha is, of course, Jane: she is Jane if Jane had stayed. Yes, Jane and Rochester get the happy ending that both Ophelia/Hamlet and Padme/Anakin miss out on--but not right away. Sometimes things take time.

One of the things I loved about Southwest Shakespeare's production of Hamlet a couple years back was that it set Ophelia up as someone who also felt and thought deeply the way that Hamlet did--and that was why she was a good match for him, someone who loved him and was loved by him. So Ophelia shares in Hamlet's tragedy--because they're part of each other.

I also love that look Padme has at the end of Episode II when she's just married Anakin. It isn't that "I'm so happy" look; it's like she knows that this isn't going as she had pictured but she doesn't mind because she's chosen it, anyway. Sure, Padme was getting to that point in her life where she wanted a relationship and family--but she didn't picture that this would involve sneaking around with a secret, forbidden marriage. Yet she chooses the double life, anyway, because she decides that she wants it.

And Jane? Jane chose Rochester--and then she beheld Bertha and she high-tailed it out of Thornfield. Jane's story is a story about independence, so Jane could not, in terms of the story, value her relationship with Rochester over herself. She only returns to him when she can be with him on equal terms. So Jane does not have the tragic end of Ophelia and Padme. But does this mean that Ophelia and Padme failed where Jane did not? Well, maybe not quite so simple as that.

Okay, maybe Hamlet was ignoring Ophelia. But for how long? Not that long--and he was, well, quite distracted by the death of his father and deciding whether or not to kill his uncle for revenge or justice. So in theory, if Ophelia hadn't died and Hamlet hadn't died, then Hamlet probably would have been able to return to Ophelia after he was done killing his uncle. And Padme, well, Padme's an odd one. I mean, what if Padme hadn't died? What if she had gone into hiding? What if, years later, she heard about Anakin's redemption? I think that would have made her glad. And I don't think, if she had survived, she would have regretted being with him. You can't regret the choices that another person makes because you have no control over that. When she chose Anakin, he was a good person--and when he changed, she told him that she could no longer follow the path he had chosen. So Padme did choose, like Jane, to leave--except that it was already too late for Padme.

Is there a name for the heroines that accompany Byronic heroes? (No one describes Hamlet as a Byronic hero, right? But you can kind of put him in that light, at least in the context of what I'm here describing.) Nah, people are too concerned about Ophelia going mad and suicidal or Padme seeming weak or superficial (even though she isn't if you actually look at her character) or even with Jane's mistake being her going back to Rochester. But where is the focus on their positive characteristics in terms of these relationships? Just because something ends tragically, does that mean everything about it was tragic?

Ah, well, you know, I did write my thesis on Jane Eyre. Too bad I didn't have this character trio in mind at the time--I could write a paper on this concept, too. In fact, I'm partly tempted to: I just keep wanting to start all these different writing projects right now. And I miss Jane, my buddy I keep wanting to return to. Maybe if I'm not finding the time to reread Jane Eyre right now, I should at least find a spare four hours to watch the film version (2006 is the best).

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