Word of the Day: Baker

February 27, 2010 in Texts, Word of the Day

One of the raving Ophelia’s most mysterious lines goes:

Well, God dild you! They say the owl was a baker’s daughter. (4.v)

Ever wonder what she’s talking about?

This is a reference to popular the medieval legend of Jesus asking for a loaf at a baker’s. The folk story tells us that the mistress then dutifully put one in the oven for him, but the daughter said it was too large and halved it. However, it swelled to an enormous size, and the daughter was transformed into an owl as a punishment. Reference to the legend here is possibly also related to discussion of gratitude and ingratitude; in addition, the metamorphosis, which in Ovid often happens to a woman after some kind of sexual trauma, is linked to Ophelia’s unsure position and degeneration into madness.

And now you know! (courtesy of Jude and Colette)

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