Asteroid Files: Ophelia

Helios on Ophelia– Tragedy! Ennui! Drama! This week’s Asteroid has it all!

The Astronomy– 171 Ophelia is a large, dark Themistian asteroid that was discovered by French astronomer Alphonse Borrelly on January 13, 1877. This asteroid is a member of the Themis family of asteroids that share similar orbital elements. It probably has a primitive composition, similar to that of the carbonaceous chondrite meteorites.

A 1979 study of the Algol-like light curve produced by this asteroid concluded that it was possible to model the brightness variation by assuming a binary system with a circular orbit, a period of 13.146 hours, and an inclination of 15° to the line of sight from the Earth. Photometric observations of this asteroid at the Leura Observatory in Leura, Australia during 2006 gave a rotation period of 6.6666 ± 0.0002 hours and a brightness variation of 0.50 ± 0.02 in magnitude. This is in agreement with previous studies. Ophelia is also the name of a moon of Uranus.

The Story– Ophelia is a character in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. She is a young noblewoman of Denmark, the daughter of Polonius, sister of Laertes, and potential wife of Prince Hamlet. She is one of only two female characters in the play. Of all the pivotal characters in Hamlet, Ophelia is the most static and one-dimensional. She has the potential to become a tragic heroine (to overcome the adversities inflicted upon her) but she instead crumbles into insanity, becoming merely tragic. It appears that Ophelia herself is not as important as her representation of the dual nature of women in the play. The extent to which Hamlet feels betrayed by Gertrude is far more apparent because of Ophelia’s presence. Hamlet’s feelings of rage against his mother can be directed toward Ophelia, who is, in his estimation, hiding her base nature behind a guise of impeccability.

Through Ophelia we witness Hamlet’s evolution, or de-evolution into a man convinced that all women are whores; that the women who seem most pure are inside black with corruption and sexual desire- And if women are harlots, then they must have their procurers. Gertrude has been made a whore by Claudius, and Ophelia has been made a whore by her father. In Act II, Polonius makes arrangements to use the alluring Ophelia to discover why Hamlet is behaving so curiously. Hamlet is not in the room but it seems obvious from the following lines that he has overheard Polonius trying to use his daughter’s charms to suit his underhanded purposes. In Hamlet’s distraught mind, there is no gray area: Polonius prostitutes his daughter. And Hamlet tells Polonius so to his face, labeling him a “fishmonger” (despite the fact that Polonius cannot decipher the meaning behind Hamlet’s words).

To the rest of us, Ophelia represents something very different. To outside observers, Ophelia is the epitome of goodness. Like Gertrude, young Ophelia is childlike and naive. But unlike Queen Gertrude, Ophelia has good reason to be unaware of the harsh realities of life. She is very young and has lost her mother, possibly at birth. Her father, Polonius, and brother, Laertes, love Ophelia tremendously and have taken great pains to shelter her. She is not involved with matters of state; she spends her days engaged in needlepoint and flower gathering. She returns the love shown to her by Polonius and Laertes tenfold, and couples it with complete and unwavering loyalty. Even though her love for Hamlet is strong, she obeys her father when he tells her not to see Hamlet again or accept any letters that Hamlet writes. Her heart is pure, and when she does do something dishonest, such as tell Hamlet that her father has gone home when he is really behind the curtain, it is out of genuine fear. Ophelia clings to the memory of Hamlet treating her with respect and tenderness, and she defends him and loves him to the very end despite his brutality. She is incapable of defending herself, but through her timid responses we see clearly her intense suffering:

Hamlet: …I did love you once.
Ophelia: Indeed, my, lord, you made me believe so.
Hamlet: You should not have believed me…I loved you not.
Ophelia: I was the more deceived.

Her frailty and innocence work against her as she cannot cope with the unfolding of one traumatic event after another. Ophelia’s darling Hamlet causes all her emotional pain throughout the play, and when his hate is responsible for her father’s death, she has endured all that she is capable of enduring and goes insane. But even in her insanity, she symbolizes, to everyone but Hamlet, incorruption, and virtue. “In her wanderings, we hear from time to time an undertone of the deepest sorrow, but never the agonized cry of fear or horror which makes madness dreadful or shocking. And the picture of her death, if our eyes grow dim in watching it, is still purely beautiful”. (Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy 132-3). The bawdy songs that she sings in front of Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius are somber reminders that the corrupt world has taken its toll on the pure Ophelia. They show us that only in her insanity does she live up to Hamlet’s false perception of her as a lascivious woman.

Why She Matters– Okay, so Ophelia is complex in her simplicity. First off, she lacks a strong female figure to look out for her and keep her safe, so she is left to the devices of her father and brother. They are men of their time, and while I think that they did truly love Ophelia, they see her as a means to an end (to manipulate Hamlet) and as less than them as she is only a woman. Keep in mind, this is of a different age than us entirely, so don’t @ me in the comments saying that I’m a misogynist cuck and hate women or something- I’m only saying that you view this in that perspective.

Ophelia is naive, and she gets used by everyone she loves because of it. She lives and extremely isolated and lonely life, and falls in love with essentially the first man that she meets outside of her family. She is not wise to the way the world works, and that other people don’t always act from a place of altruism. She then reads too much into the erratic behavior of an emotionally unavailable man who is sliding headfirst into insanity due to circumstances outside of his control. She goes all in on him and tries to save him from himself, but it is just too much for her to handle. She loses herself and is not experienced or mature enough to save herself and come back from that cliff edge. Her final fate is tragic, but at the end of the day we need to view her as a cautionary tale and not a love story.

Ophelia in the chart represents a point of extreme drama, where you tend to see what you want in a relationship partner; overlooking their flaws (and possibly their direct rejection of you) while seeing only the positive and the potential for a true partnership with the person. It can also be an attraction to the damaged type of person, thinking that you can save them with your love. This undoubtedly ends poorly for all involved, as those people usually are not ready or in a position to be saved. Ophelia can also manifest as an area of your life (defined by house placement) that is dominated by patriarchal concerns and leaving you with limited or no options or choice. Ophelia is far more active in transit than in the natal, as you get swept up in chaotic attractions that shake up your life rather than in the natal where it is a sensitivity or predilection.

The type of person that this asteroid tends to attract is the narcissistic, manipulative sociopath, regardless of gender. You will try to help them and try to love them, but it is a toxic love for the Ophelia native. No matter the intentions of those involved, it always degrades. What happens is the Ophelia native feels manipulated and used, and tries to find a way to plot and work around their manipulation, ending up doing just as much manipulation as the narcissist- but maintaining the victim role. The issue is that neither person sees how their actions are hurting the other, and the blindness (willful or otherwise) can just be so damaging. The worst part is, it can be so easy to just stay in this pattern, and not move on from it- living with it instead of breaking out. You steep in that negativity, and it taints your soul. You end up becoming numb to yourself, your emotions, and the world at large.

To find out where she shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and click on “extended options” on the next page. All the way at the bottom, there will be a menu of additional objects. Under that is a blank space where you can enter the number 171 for Ophelia. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Ophelia affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!

Analysis of Ophelia courtesy of Mabillard, Amanda. OpheliaShakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. <http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamlet/opheliacharacter.html>.