Walking into Crystal Essence a few weeks ago, I was suddenly reminded of a passage from Hamlet, the one in which just before drowning, Ophelia give flowers (or possibly just twigs) to those whom she will be leaving behind. I thought about it for a little while, and then discarded the idea altogether. But the lines kept running through my head:
There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts. . . . 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 (IV.v.174-84).
I stumbled to find their meaning, feeling that the slightly disturbed Ophelia had given one of the best analyses of the characters in Hamlet. I am convinced that Ophelia's final gesture is not only a way to be remembered but also serves to symbolize Shakespeare's characters.
I'm not really into all of that witchcraft stuff on which Crystal Essence seems to capitalize, but I do like their collection of rocks. When I was younger, I had collected rocks, buying those which struck me as pretty, but I was unaware that those stones had conventional meanings. At Crystal Essence I looked for various stones that were not only beautiful but also appropriate for myself and for others. And then I wondered which rocks I would give to Shakespeare's characters, how I would classify them and what advice I would try to impart.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern:
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not deserve two separate rocks. I'd let them share one stone, partially because I'm cheap, and partially because they wouldn't even know what to do with two stones. They are both the same character, always together and so indistinguishable that in the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Hamlet is unable to tell them apart. I feel sorry for them having no identity whatsoever and being of little importance. Their deaths, caused indirectly by their disloyalty and directly by Hamlet's plan to escape being put to death, go almost entirely unnoticed. They were not people but merely puppets to the King, executing his orders unquestioningly. I would take pity on their predicament and give them their much-needed barite, a mineral which "facilitates independence and personal freedom."1 They are desperately lacking the luxury of having their own lives as different people. Not only do they collectively make up one person, but even together they do not have personal freedom. Their lives are dictated by the King, by Hamlet, and by fate. What they need is, well, to just get a life.
If Hamlet were to give Ophelia a ring, it would probably be a mother of pearl, the mother part being an obvious Freudian slip or at least his comparisons between the two "frail" women in his life, and the pearl echoing the sentiments expressed in his "Get thee to a nunnery!" speech. Pearls are often symbolic of "purity, faith, and chastity,"2 three qualities which Hamlet would like to find in a woman. A more appropriate ring might have been made of onyx, which not only will "render its wearer chaste" but also helps to prevent suicidal tendencies. On second thought, maybe Hamlet should save that ring for himself. . . .
If I were choosing the ring for Ophelia, I would choose rhodonite, "a stone of love." Ophelia's life is thoroughly confused by Hamlet, the prince who says that he loved her and then that he never did in the very same breath. His words are enough to set anyone on an emotional roller coaster trying to interpret his meaning and motives. A stone of love would help her to decipher his complexities and determine her own feelings for him. Did Hamlet like her once but does not any longer? Was he toying with her affections? Was he trying to save her from the disappointment of realizing his madness? Surely these are questions that she would like to have resolved. Rhodonite is also "a great rescue remedy, grounding the emotions." Ophelia could use some stability in her life and emotions. While she has reason to be upset about the murder of her father by her lover, if she had better control over her emotions, she would not have felt it necessary to take such rash and irreversible actions.
Hamlet would undoubtedly be investing his fortunate in stones from Crystal Essence, probably buying two stones for his mother. He would choose calcite, which is known for "releasing sexual abuse patterns," in the hopes that she would feel guilty about marrying Claudius so soon after her husband's death. Calcite is supposed to "promote thought before action," a maxim by which Hamlet seems to live. Hamlet is not one to make hasty decisions (perhaps he is even too slow to act), nor would he want his mother to make quick decisions; in fact, he curses her for her "most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets" (I,ii,156-7). He wants her to think about herself and about others before rushing into large commitments like marriage.
On those occasions where he is feeling more than just a bit nasty, he would probably also choose rainbow obsidian. Although Gertrude does not need its powers in "stabaliz[ing] fear and panic attacks," Hamlet would give her obsidian because it "provides a powerful mirror of one's self." This sounds reminiscent of Act III, scene ii, in which he tells his mother: "You go not till I set you up a glass / Where you may see the inmost part of you!" (20-1) Rainbow obsidian, which should guide the eye to all the colors in the spectrum, is especially useful in providing "insight into love and relationships." Gertrude needs to get a clue. While she seems to be a good judge of character when it comes to her son and Ophelia, she is completely unaware of Claudius' role in her late husband's death. Their relationship is based on greed and power, not on truth and love. She does not know who Claudius is and what he is capable of any more than she realizes her own sins of incest and adultery. Such a gift from her son would be truly haunting, inviting her to delve into the depths of her soul. The advice for one dealing with obsidian could not be more fitting. "Be prepared;" the truth is often unpleasant.
Choosing a rock for Hamlet would most appropriately take me the longest amount of time. I would have to consider each rock carefully, examining all of its meaning before making a purchase. Given Hamlet's mental status, meteorite, lepidolite, and topaz all seem to be appropriate. Meteorite is a stone that "balances [and is] good for melancholia," the ailment from which the somewhat suicidal Hamlet seems to suffer. Lepidolite is very similar, aiding the "release of anger," in addition to "balancing mood wings, manic depression, and reliev[ing] pain and suffering." Hamlet obvious has antipodal moods, his disposition changing in only a matter of seconds. He needs to find an outlet for the pain caused by the loss of his father (and of his succession to the throne). Certainly Gertrude would have wished that she had lepidolite for her son when he verbally attacks her and kills Polonius.
Topaz would also be a useful stone for Hamlet to carry with him, as it "is said to dispel sadness or melancholy and to confer riches and honor."3 Such a stone would help to avoid depression and suicidal thoughts while helping Hamlet to dispose of his uncle, perhaps to take his rightly position of King. Topaz is also associated with "justice, true love, divine love, friendship, clemency, and temperance."4 Showing a bit of clemency towards his uncle and having a more even temper would have made things a bit more pleasant in Elsinore. More importantly, topaz would offer a Hamlet a better understanding of justice. Hamlet takes the law into his own hands, adopting a rather Machiavellian policy towards disposing of Claudius. Throughout the exposition of the play, Hamlet makes his mother feel uncomfortable, calls for the death of two old but now disloyal friends, kills Polonius, and contributes to Ophelia's misery and suicide; all of this is just to kill his uncle. Do the ends justify the means? Was Hamlet right to obey the ghost's wishes? These questions do not have definitive answers, but are individual and moral decisions that can be aided only by conceptualizing justice.
All of these aforementioned stones pertain to mental imbalances. Much debate, however, has ensued over the verity of Hamlet's mental instabilities. While it is often concluded that he was only pretending to be mad to justify his actions, I am not so certain. Shakespeare was most definitely interested in the four humors and an imbalance of the humors could result in depression. Regardless of if Hamlet is certifiably crazy, he is lacking a sense of balance and stability in his life, which perhaps helps to explain his problems separating reason and passion.
Even more appropriate for Hamlet would be jet and aqua aura. Jet "offers protection from violence, and prevents depression as it aids grieving." Hamlet's depression sets in after his father's death. He is criticized for his excessive display of grief and his sense of attachment to his father. While depression is an illness present from birth, it can be triggered by stress in certain situations. Aqua aura is also known for "alleviating depression," but a more potent power is that it "increases awareness of one's inner truth." As Polonius cautioned: "This above all, to thine own self be true. / And it must follow, as the night the day" (I.iii.78-9). Hamlet needs to gain an understanding of himself before he can evaluate others. He finally comes to the conclusion that "to know a man well were / to know himself" (V,ii,139-41).
Perhaps this is why I would want to give symbolic stones to the characters in Hamlet. I would want to enlighten Hamlet, Gertrude, Ophelia, and the other characters by showing them who they are, pointing out their strengths and shortcomings in a way that would offer assistance.
"The chief enemy is within ourselves and if we do not understand him we cannot be victorious."5 Victory means different things for each of Shakespeare's characters, but these meanings all stem from an understanding of one's soul and the greater world around them.
Zolar. Magick of Color. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.
The Healing Properties of Crystals, Gemstones, and Minerals. Great Barrington: Crystal Essence.
Tillyard, E.M.W. The Elizabethan World Picture. Rpt. in First Year Seminar Anthology II. Great Barrington: Simon's Rock, 1996.