Comparing Ophelia and Lady Macbeth

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Shakespeare's portrayal of women in Hamlet is unlike his portrayal of them in Macbeth; nevertheless, they have similarities that are seen later in each play. Ophelia, who is Laertes's sister, Polonius's daughter, and Hamlet's lover, is seen as submissive and innocent while Macbeth's wife, Lady Macbeth, is displayed as ruthless and corrupting. Ophelia and Lady Macbeth are different in their characters because of Ophelia's weakness, her obedience to Laertes, Polonius, and Hamlet, Lady Macbeth's perseverance for power and her manipulative nature towards her husband. However, Ophelia and Lady Macbeth both have a need for the men in their lives in order to keep sane and die after these men leave them.

Ophelia's weakness and easily influenced personality opposes Lady Macbeth's outward show of strength and independence. Ophelia needs her brother and her father to think and act for her since she cannot make her own thoughts without their help. They give their advice to her, knowing that she will obey them. An example is in Act 1, Scene 3, lines 6-48, in which Laertes, advises Ophelia not to fall for Hamlet's displays of affection. This is also seen in Act 1, Scene 3, lines 112-114 when Polonius questions how Hamlet treats Ophelia, “Do you believe his “tenders,” as you call them?” to which Ophelia responds, “I do not know, my lord, what I should think.” In contrast, Lady Macbeth is able to form her own thoughts and ambitions without aid. She is the first person to think of the plan to kill King Duncan in order to follow the witches' prophesy and for Macbeth to ascend to the throne faster. She fears that Macbeth does not have the courage to seize the crown, although it is predicted that he will eventually be king as in Act 1...

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...e would have been a time for such a word” (V.v.20-21).

Ophelia in Hamlet and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth initially seem like two opposite characters, with Ophelia as a passive daughter and Lady Macbeth as an authoritative wife over her husband. However, they both exhibit similarities in that they rely on males, and without this reliance, they are brought to their destructions. Ophelia's over-dependence on Laertes, Polonius, and Hamlet steers her into madness when they are not present. Likewise, Lady Macbeth's attack on Macbeth's manhood goes too far, which directs to his abandonment of her, causing her ultimate suicide.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York: Washington Square, 1992. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. New York: Washington Square, 1992. Print.

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