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Triangulating genre, gender, and performance, this paper expands Hamlet criticism by examining Ophelia's mad ballads through the lens of popular culture. While ballads perpetuated the vigorous performance practices that Hamlet disparages as vulgar, this paper argues that Shakespeare exploits precisely these "low" aspects of the ballad to produce the tragedy of Ophelia's madness. Shakespeare uses ballads to establish a privileged relationship between Ophelia and the audience and to stage a gender-based critique of Elsinore. In conversation with Hamlet's elitism, Ophelia's ballads demonstrate that Shakespeare simultaneously delegitimizes popular performance and embraces its theatrical possibilities.