I don’t know about you all, but probably the most pitiful part in all of Hamlet comes when Ophelia enters to pass out the flowers to her family and we get to see what’s happened to the poor girl:
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts,” said Ophelia to her brother Laertes. “There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.”
Anyway, the San Francisco Chronicle has up a lengthy article detailing what each individual herb meant. It’s quite a detailed article, explaining what each one means, how Shakespeare referenced it, and a guess at why Ophelia speaks of it. But I’m not sure of all the leaps it makes. For instance rosemary is for remembrance, repelling witches, and chasing away bad dreams. But for Ophelia, “distraught and depressed over her father’s death and Hamlet’s odd behavior, the mention..indicates…her brittle self-image and lack of confidence.” What? Huh? I suppose maybe there’s some sort of “This is all a bad dream I’m having, and I want the rosemary to protect me from it”, but that’s a stretch.
More About Ophelia…