Vest, James M. “Reflections of Ophelia in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.”The Journal of
the Midwest Modern Language Association 1989, 1-9. JSTOR. University of Pennsylvania
Library, Philadelphia. 4 Apr. 2008. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1315269>.
Focusing on the use of water as a pivotal plot device, James M. Vest attempts to draw a connection between Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Hitchcock’s Vertigo. He states that in Vertigo “water couples with the idea of the suicide of a beautiful young woman in ways that precisely reflect images of Ophelia” (1). Shakespeare’s work is said to have been very influential to Hitchcock, who grew up reading his plays. Vest believes that Vertigo is Hitchcock’s attempt at creating a modern Hamlet. After Madeleine falls we see her floating in the water in a posture that draws striking parallels to Ophelia’s suicide. Hitchcock insisted on surrounding the dead body with flowers, a depiction seen in John Everett Millais’s painting of Ophelia in the stream. The connection is further emphasized throughout the film when Madeleine talks about her previous falls into water. Scottie serves as the “Hamlet-like hero” who develops an unexpected relationship with her. Vest also notes that after Madeleine is fished out of the bay, she speaks incoherently and assumes a “somnambulistic” appearance which rivals that of Ophelia’s madness. Other links include the multiple roles each character fills. In Hamlet, Ophelia is the “playful sister,” the “dutiful daughter,” and the “disenchanted lover, while Kim Novak’s character is associated with Madeleine, Judy, and Carlotta. According to Vest, “both stories conclude with an expression of love intimately linked to death.” He also notes that both Vertigo and Hamlet follow a main character who not only is mentally unstable, but also appears to see ghosts.
James M. Vest provides us with some very interesting insight onto the inspiration for Hitchcock’s story. Hitchcock had always dreamed of directing a film version of Hamlet, and even went so far as to begin production on such a film in 1946. Although the project never came to be, it is clear that his intentions have lived on through Vertigo.