The scene is set in a castle seething with the ghosts of those murdered within its walls. One of the ghosts is intent on vengeance, but it is not Hamlet’s father!
A girl is taken from the only life she has known (that of a peasant) and expected to live as a great lady in the castle of the king alongside a prince who cannot play the macho role expected of him.
This is a follow-on from The Third Witch. Not a sequel, but another novel written in the same vein. Take a Shakespeare play and rewrite it from the viewpoint of a teenage girl.
It worked well in The Third Witch. At first, I didn’t think it was working so well here. Like Gilly (in The Third Witch), Ophelia is of gentle birth but when the story opens is being brought up in poverty by strangers. Like Gilly, she is full of romantic dreams and crazy schemes. Like Gilly, she is wild, she is totally ruthless, and she will use anyone to gain her ends.
They are both obsessed. Gilly was obsessed with revenge. Ophelia is obsessed with her love for the beautiful, mad prince who spoke to her one day in an idle moment as he passed through the village, and does not even recognise her when, years later, she has been reinstated at the castle as Polonius’ daughter.
Her friend and mentor at the castle, the one who transforms her from village hoyden to young lady, is the queen, Gertrude, a rather pathetic figure who is abused by her brutal first husband, King Hamlet.
Yorick shook his head. ‘She doesn’t say him nay, even when he beats her. What can she do now?’
‘She can run away,’
‘And go where?’
‘She has no family, no money. What can she live on?’
I was sick of his objections. ‘She can learn a trade and take to weaving.’
Amusement flickered in Yorick’s eyes. ‘I don’t think a queen can give over being a queen and take to a trade.’
‘Better that than to stay here and let one of the king’s loyal soldiers toss her over a parapet to her death in the sea.’
‘In the eyes of the law and the church, she’s the king’s property, like his hounds or his boots. She cannot leave him.’
True, but to Ophelia, unacceptable. And it is this that leads to her first murder. For yes, it is Ophelia who puts the poison in Claudius’ hand and thus rids the court of its murderous king and saves the queen’s life.
But one thing leads to another. One death, one murder …
Although I have no reservations at all about the novel, I have to admit I am not sure about the title. The one motive Ophelia never has is revenge – though others around her are indeed intent on just that.
Well written, though, and if you enjoyed Rebecca Reisert’s first novel based on a Shakespeare girl, you will enjoy this one.
Will the next be Juliet, I wonder? And will Juliet. Like Ophelia, only seem to die?