Essay Analysis Of Ophelia 's ' Hamlet '

Essay Analysis Of Ophelia 's ' Hamlet '

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In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia has a limited social role because she is a woman in a man’s world. In other words, she is a powerless young woman whose actions are determined by the men around her. Ophelia has no female alliances to protect her when these men subjugate her chastity. This presents a problem because the men around her are driven by the misguided assumption that her chastity will allow them to reap benefits for themselves. Her lack of individual decision-making and selfhood thus provide the foundation for her emotional unraveling. By underestimating Ophelia’s capability to make decisions for herself, the characters in the play place emotional strains on her, causing her to contemplate where her loyalties lie—to her family or to her lover, Hamlet. Eventually, this limbo becomes too much for Ophelia to handle and she commits suicide in an effort to reclaim control over her life.
There is a lot of pressure placed upon Ophelia by the male figures in her life—Laertes and Polonius. Their expectations and dictations of how she should carry herself, leave her with the inability to make personal choices. Ophelia is treated as though she is too naïve, allowing her to believe anyone else’s judgment is better than her own. The subject of virginity, in particular, is what exposes Ophelia to collective judgment:
(Laertes): “Then if he says he loves you, it fits your wisdom so far to believe it as he in his particular act and place may give his saying deed, which is no further than the main voice of Denmark goes withal. Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain if with too credent ear you list his songs, or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open to his unmastered importunity. Fear it, Ophelia. Fear it, my dear sister, and...


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...character in Hamlet, nevertheless, there is a parallel between herself and Hamlet, the main character of the play. Both Ophelia and Hamlet face madness due to grief after the death of their fathers. Downfall as a result of madness is handled differently by the two lovers. Ophelia handles her instability completely because of her suicide, whereas Hamlet’s instability comes and goes. When Hamlet says, “To be, or not to be: that is the question,” he wonders whether he should commit suicide or not—there is a lack of action here. Additionally, Ophelia copes with her self-destruction privately, while Hamlet acts out and leads everyone to suspect he is crazy. Ophelia also has no coping mechanism to turn to while Hamlet uses revenge to deter his suicidal thoughts. These differentiations allow for Ophelia’s sanity to be impaired and for Hamlet’s to remain somewhat unscathed.

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