In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses many symbols to refer to characters. He mentions flowers and herbs to indirectly refer to Ophelia. This can be seen in Act 5, Scene 5, where Ophelia is giving out flowers to Laertes, the King and the Queen. Each flower has an implied symbolic meaning to its receiver and also reveals Ophelia’s emotions. .
Rosemary is the first flower Ophelia gives to her brother Laertes. Rosemary was used at funerals and weddings to symbolize remembrance. This flower can be seen as a symbol of Ophelia’s impending death. She also gives pansies, which symbolize thought. These flowers might symbolize Ophelia’s mind and the ability to reason, which she had lost. It can also symbolize the fact that Ophelia listened to her brother and his caution against getting involved with Hamlet. Laertes tells her not to believe his expressions of love saying ” if he says he loves you, it fits your wisdom so far to believe it as he in his particular act and place may give his saying deed- Laertes also refers to Ophelia as a ” violet in the youth of primy nature.” .
Ophelia gives fennel, which represent flattery, to the King. This flower represents the flattery that her father received from Claudius as well as the flattery she received from Hamlet.
Perhaps the flowers that best represent Ophelia’s emotions were given to Gertrude. Columbines, which Ophelia gives to Gertrude, symbolize thanklessness and ungratefulness. Perhaps they represent the ungratefulness that is given to Ophelia. She also gives her rue, which symbolize Ophelia’s sorrow for her father’s death as well as sorrow for the loss of her relationship with Hamlet. Ophelia also gives Gertrude a daisy. .
This flower represents a warning to women who are fast to fall in love. .
Violets are the flowers Ophelia says she cannot give explaining ” they withered all when my father died- Violets represent faithfulness. She is not only speaking of the faithful service her father provided for the King and Queen, but also about the faithfulness in her.